Yorkshire seeks Tour de France windfall in 2014

Yorkshire professional cyclist Dean Downing, Councillor Keith Wakefield, Welcome to Yorkshire chief Gary Verity and former cyclist Brian Robinson gather with local school children on the start line on the Headrow in Leeds marking one year to go until the start of the Tour De France 2014 Image copyright PA

The roads of Yorkshire will host the Grand Depart when the Tour de France gets under way in 2014 hoping to emulate the success of its last UK visit in 2007, when the race rolled down the ramp in London.

Gary Verity, chief executive of organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, says that with the growing profile of cycling in the UK and the success of British riders, the economic impact will be "much greater" than when the Tour last visited.

He envisages that hosting the world's most famous cycling race will bring in excess of £100m in economic benefit to the region.

He says: "It could be double or treble that, who knows?

"It's a great boost to the economy. At this stage in the economic cycle, it will be very welcome indeed.

"I am in no doubt they will come to Yorkshire in their millions, lining the length and breadth of the route to cheer on the champions of world cycling and our home-grown British heroes."

With an estimated cost of £6.5m to Yorkshire councils, including a £4m "staging fee" and £10m in assistance made available by the Treasury, there is significant capital involved in ensuring success.

The English Tourist Board highlights the race as the star attraction of a busy year of cycling events in England in 2014, promising an electric atmosphere on the route and encouraging would-be visitors to arrange their holidays to coincide with it.

One of those hoping to benefit from the predicted influx of visitors is Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms. Better known outside Yorkshire for its Taylors tea brand, it has branches on the route in three locations and stands to benefit from an increase in visitors to the region both in the short and long term.

Image copyright Betty's & Taylor's
Image caption Bettys hopes to offer tourists "real Yorkshire hospitality"

"For us the Tour is a fantastic opportunity to showcase Yorkshire and Bettys to an international audience with two to three million visitors expected, many visiting Yorkshire for the first time," says catering and retail operations director Paula Kaye.

"Longer term, regardless of footfall during the event, it's about putting Yorkshire on the map and encouraging return visits."

At this stage, Bettys has yet to decide specifically how it will engage with and profit from visitors, but Ms Kaye was willing to outline one ambition the company has for the race's visit.

She says: "We can't let teams and tourists leave Yorkshire without experiencing a Bettys afternoon tea and real Yorkshire hospitality," adding that she believes the race's presence in Yorkshire can only be positive and help to deliver a feel-good factor to the region, akin to that generated by the Olympics and the Jubilee.

Bigger than London 2007

But, just as there have been questions about some riders' performances, there will be those who question the economic performance of the race.

The forecast windfall of £100m from the two days the race spends in the region would represent a boost of 0.1% to the annual economy of Yorkshire and the Humber, valued at £91bn according to one economic measure.

That benefit will not spread equally across the whole region or even the whole area encompassed by the race route. Some communities in Yorkshire will enjoy a far greater boost than others.

This was also the case in 2007, when the Grand Depart weekend generated an estimated £73m for London but only £15m for Kent, according to Transport for London's research.

Cardiff University also examined the economic impact and found that spending had been driven by accommodation and transport to the event as well as food and drink.

Those figures were achieved with a buoyant economy in a capital city with a vast, internationally known range of other tourist attractions and facilities able to cope with the sudden increase in visitors and a race entourage of 4,500 people.

'Economic shock'

The predicted revenues for Yorkshire might well inspire envy in French towns, in much the same way that recent performances by British riders have done.

Gap has hosted 21 stages in the last 99 Tours and both a stage start and finish in 2013. The capital of the Hautes-Alpes region - with roughly half the population of Harrogate - has a 2.5m euro windfall in its sights for local businesses, according to a report in French newspaper Le Figaro.

"The limiting factor for the economic impact on a town is the number of hotels and restaurants available," says Prof Simon Shibli, of Sheffield Hallam University's Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC), which studies the economic impact of major sporting events.

"What tends to happen - because few places can cope with the economic shock of the Tour - is that you get overspill into the surrounding area.

"For the most part with cycling events there's a blinding flash of Lycra and the infrastructure isn't there at roadside to cope, except in the big cities."

Prof Shibli believes the locations that will see the greatest short-term economic impact in 2014 will be those where the race is likely to spend the night.

This could mean that Leeds and the Cambridge area - where the third stage begins - stand to be the biggest winners from the Tour circus coming to town.

He also warns that some of the figures being promised need to be seen as top-end predictions, given the use of estimated spectator numbers and what is included within the scope of "economic impact."

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