Yorkshire Bank’s chief economist Tom Vosa said the Tour, the world’s largest annual sporting event which will roll through the county on July 5 and 6, was a means of renewing the focus on the county’s “underperforming” tourism industry during a one-day forum as part of the company’s business week programme.
Speaking to a crowd of 80 guests at the one-off business event at Aspire, in Leeds city centre, on Friday, Mr Vosa urged firms to back the arrival of an event that is expected to bring with it a £100m boost to the region’s economy.
The world’s leading cyclists will ride 190km from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5, before the 200km Grand Départ stage two from York to Sheffield the following day.
“Tourism in Yorkshire is an area which has been underperforming in recent years but a renewed focus on this area would be good for employment and would raise awareness of what the region has to offer,” Mr Vosa said.
“The economic impact of the Tour should not be seen as an isolated event but rather the start of a longer term process to plan a series of similar events to attract people back to the region and help drive growth for the local economy.”
The forum was one of more than 250 events held for companies at business and private banking centres across the UK, including Leeds, York, Doncaster, Sheffield and Bradford.
Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of TDFHUB2014 Ltd, the Government company tasked with organising the Grand Depart, assured commentators that with continued regional support the event can deliver vast economic benefits.
“With people travelling from across the UK to watch the Tour, as well as huge local support, Le Grand Départ is expected to bring in many tens of millions of pounds to the local economy,” he said.
“The cooperation we’ve received from the business community and from local government has been vital in helping to make this happen and we’re confident everything is now in place to ensure the Tour receives the best possible send off.”
The first ever visit of the Tour de France to Yorkshire is hoped to boost both the economy and long-term health of people in Yorkshire.
Organisers are backing Cycle Yorkshire, a two-wheeled legacy programme put together with 21 regional local authorities, aimed at giving everyone in the county access to a bicycle by 2023.
Led by York Council, the project, which is a first nationally, is already bearing fruit and launched its Tour de France educational packs in December.
The regional director of the scheme, Graham Titchener, said: “We don’t aspire to become a cycling paradise by any means but we do aspire to become something better for cyclists.”
The growing popularity of the sport has seen numbers of British Cycling-affiliated cycling clubs steadily rise from around 1,570 in 2011 to nearly 1,800.
Leading employers in the region are encouraging staff to ride to work and award-winning cycling safety campaigns are raising awareness of riders on the county’s roads.
New infrastructure such as the £29m cycle superhighway between Bradford and east Leeds and the £1.1m outdoor velodrome at York Sport Village, are further evidence of that growing interest.
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