1. THE RACE TO HOST A STAGE
In contrast to many other major sporting events, Le Tour – as it is affectionately known – while primarily in France, is not exclusively linked to one host city or area meaning that the event, and the associated social activities built around it, benefit many different regions as well as countries other than France.
There is prestige to hosting a stage of the Tour. This is one of the reasons why there is such fervent competition among cities and towns who bid to host a stage of the Tour de France. Prestige aside, it is the beneficial impact to the economy and tourism and the intense global media attention that are main drivers in the bid.
This year, Yorkshire in the UK paid around £4m (R72.5m) to race organisers ASO to host two stages in their county. By all accounts, it was money well spent.
Described by Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme as the grandest of Grand Départs (the start) in the 111-year history of the race, Le Tour afforded spectators and TV viewers alike unparalleled views of famous sights and landmarks while the world’s top cyclists in the world’s premier cycling race sped through the lanes and dales of the York- shire county. The county of Yorkshire’s annual tourism value of £7bn (R126bn) will be significantly increased after this month where during the two opening stages of the 101st edition of the Tour, 2.6m people lined the route around Yorkshire. Crowds such as these have been unrivalled except on legendary mountain stages such as the Tour’s signature climb, Alpe d’Huez.
Leading the bid to host a stage in Yorkshire was Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity. “I wanted to bring the biggest, best, free-to-watch sporting event to the county to show Yorkshire to the world. The Tour de France is the greatest advert anyone could wish for. In addition to the millions who came to watch the race, staying in local campsites, hotels, B&Bs, eating in local restaurants, the TV images of our stunning scenery were beamed across the world. The feedback on race weekend was immediate and extremely positive,” he tells Finweek.
“Hosting the Grand Départ is a great honour and something highly fought over. For us, it has always been about the long-term benefits – not just the millions of people who came from all over the world to watch in person, but the billions who watch the race on TV and think, ‘ Wow, I had no idea Yorkshire was so beautiful, and then come to visit.’ We’ve already heard of Yorkshire hotels taking bookings for next year from as far afield as Japan, so it’s clearly worked,” says Verity.
A small army of mostly Yorkshire residents and suppliers was needed to welcome the millions of visitors on race day, says Verity. These included not only the team employed within Welcome to Yorkshire, but also 12 000 volunteers and local authorities. Reportedly, an additional £2.5m (R45m) was needed by county Yorkshire for the day-to-day costs of hosting the stages, bringing the total spend to around £6.5m (R11.7m).
It sounds exorbitant but there’s a very good reason why Gary Verity was so determined to win the bid. The last time Britain hosted a stage of the Tour de France was in 2007, and the South East of the country received a £88m (R1.5bn) boost to their economy as a result.
This year, that figure is higher for the area of Yorkshire. “Figures are still coming in but we expect the immediate economic benefit to be in excess of £100m (R1.8bn) for our two days. So, the costs involved with hosting such an event are dwarfed by the long-term economic benefits,” says Verity.