The Tour de France gets underway in Yorkshire this week. Yes, that’s right, Yorkshire as in England. The world’s biggest annual sporting event will roll out of Leeds and wind its way through small villages and idyllic countryside. The event is expected to generate over £100 million ($170 mill.).
While there are the obvious short term economic benefits, the real objective behind the strategy to host this most French of events is publicity.
But despite the great beauty and history of Yorkshire, the invitation has not getting across to foreign tourists. Only 3% of visitors to the UK last year came to the area the area. With an anticipated audience of billions watching, this could be Yorkshire’s opportunity to shine?
“People make the mistake of just thinking about the cycling legacy but it will be much broader than that,” says Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. Verity convinced the French organizers that the first two stages of The Tour should be held in Yorkshire. “This isn’t just about the bike. This will showcase Yorkshire to the world, showing it to be a confident, dynamic, and outgoing place”.
Of course, despite the amazing coup of securing the first stages of the Tour and the unrivalled publicity, there are plenty of local knockers, or “curmudgeons” as the locals call them. I think one of the other benefits will be the positioning of Yorkshire as a “must do” destination for cycling enthusiasts wanting to pound the same pavement as Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and the rest of the Tour de France field.