The past couple of days have seen the UK host the start of the Tour de France, starting in Yorkshire and finishing in central London. The three stages have brought major economic contributions to local areas and the UK as a whole. Starting the race at stages 1 and 2 in Yorkshire, and finishing at Stage 3 from Cambridge to London.
The event’s profile is higher than ever. Thanks to two consecutive British winners of the yellow jersey, organisers have said that the Grand Depart, returning to England for the first time since 2007, attracted between 4 million and 5 million spectators over three days. It is the fourth time that the Tour de France has visited Britain. Plymouth hosted one stage in 1974; there were two from Dover to Brighton and around Portsmouth in 1994; and London and Canterbury hosted the start in 2007.
A government report estimates that based on the experience of previous Tours, it would be reasonable to place the overall economic impact at more than £100 million for the UK. The Tour, the world’s biggest annual sporting event, has an estimated global audience of 3 billion in 188 countries. It has been a fantastic opportunity that was brilliantly secured by Welcome to Yorkshire in order to maximise the benefits for Yorkshire people and Yorkshire businesses. In addition to this London will have around £16 million in revenue from staging the third stage of the event. For Yorkshire in particular, it is a unique opportunity to market Yorkshire’s tourist attraction offer to a global audience. The race has put Yorkshire on the global map, providing a fantastic shop window for the county; injecting millions of pounds into the economy and attracting thousands of visitors.
David Cameron said this weekend’s staging of the Tour de France was one of a series of sporting events showcasing the UK at its best. He said: “I think our reputation for hosting sporting events is very strong and frankly getting stronger. I think what the Olympics taught us is, if you get these events right, they are the most amazing showcase for your country and they encourage a lot of investment and tourism: and if you look at the tourism numbers since the Olympics, they have really gone up.”
“This is a fantastic spotlight on Yorkshire specifically. You are going to have 3.5 billion people watching the start of the Tour de France and you can’t think of a better way, really, to promote and advertise the wonders of Yorkshire.”
The impact has also been huge in retailing, with pre-tax profits at Halfords rising by 1.1 per cent to £72.8 million last year, as interest in the sport boosted the bike chain’s bottom line. According to figures from the London School of Economics, cycling contributes about £3 billion to the UK each year in social and economic benefits. Recently, released figures showed that cycling has overtaken football as the third most popular participation sport in Britain: with more than 2 million adults now riding regularly.
London’s Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said “We’ve had a fantastic day celebrating cycling in London, with excited spectators out on the roadsides seeing some of the greatest names in cycling fight it out for the famous Yellow Jersey. The months of planning we’ve done has meant the whole day has run smoothly and demonstrates our ability to hold world-class events. We join in with all cycling fans to wish the riders the best of luck as they take on the rest of the Tour and we look forward to welcoming it back again with another unforgettable Grand Depart as soon as we can.”
As the Tour de France departs the UK, the positive impact and legacy of the increased city visitor numbers and business activity will continue to gather momentum. With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Invictus Games in London still to come this year, British business has a hat trick of opportunities to capitalise on sport’s potential to stimulate growth across the economy.
What other sporting events could the UK look to play a bigger role in, which could provide better economic opportunities to local areas?