Early signs of tourism boom as Tour fans cycle back

As a final farewell to Yorkshire’s own Tour de France, Welcome to Yorkshire’s Gary Verity handed over the Grand Départ trophy to his Dutch counterparts from Utrecht on Sunday.

Russel Olliver, landlord at the Tennants Arms in Kilnsey, has seen a big increase in trade before and since the Tour de France in Yorkshire.  Picture by Bruce Rollinson
Russel Olliver, landlord at the Tennants Arms in Kilnsey, has seen a big increase in trade before and since the Tour de France in Yorkshire. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

And though the Netherlands has a tough act to follow when it hosts Le Tour’s opening stages in 2015, God’s Own Country looks set to remain in the cycling limelight having already seen early signs of a cycle tourism boom through a surge in post-Tour hotel bookings from guests on two wheels.

The Premier Inn chain, which has hotels all over Yorkshire, has seen a 67 per cent increase in bookings by people wanting to bring a bike, with its Leeds city centre premises receiving over 150 bike-related enquiries within three days of the stage one start.

Hotels and bed and breakfasts across the region have set about becoming more bike friendly by installing cycle racks and offering bespoke cycling packages for a new breed of Yorkshire tourist.

In Leeds the likes of The Headrow’s Radisson Blu hotel, City Square’s Queens Hotel and the suburban Weetwood Hall Hotel are offering everything from storage and packed lunches to cycling maps for fans in a move being mirrored county-wide.

Peter Chubb, development director at Weetwood Hall, has seen as many as 80 cyclists gather in its courtyard every weekend and recently set up packages for fans wanting to view the Tour routes by bike or by car.

Mr Chubb, who is also on the executive board at the 35-hotel Leeds Hotels and Venues Association, told The YP: “I sincerely believe, with the exposure coordinated with Welcome to Yorkshire, there will be a continuation of people for some time wanting to come and visit Yorkshire.”

The Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel has also moved quickly by installing a cycle rack at its main reception, printing laminated cycling maps and establishing close links with firms in the picturesque Peak District.

Stating that the Metropolitan is one of many looking to make the most of cycling, general manager Ian Slater, who is chair of the 22-hotel Hospitality Sheffield, said: “I think it’s only going to get bigger and bigger. It’s about how we keep this going, it’s about new cycling events that become part of the region – it’s not impossible that we wont get the Tour de France again.”

He said the impact of the Tour in the summer months could boost the area’s Saturday hotel business by 10 to 15 per cent.

Tony Furlong, general manager of the Royal York Hotel, York, said it is set to experience its busiest August in its history, while city hoteliers including the Hilton chain are offering cycling packages as are those in Harrogate. Cedar Court Hotel has seen bike store requests increase, while Nunu Cesar de Sa, general manager at the Rudding Park Hotel, believes it might have seen more cycle-related bookings had it not been so busy already. He said: “A lot of people came with bikes during the Tour but since then there’s not been a lot probably due to the fact we have been so busy in July and August that there’s not been space.”

Out in the Dales, the roads are still “manic” with cyclists according to Lizzie Sowden who runs the four-room Pennycroft Guest House in Kettlewell.

She said: “It’s been busy all the time, we’ve had a 60 to 70 per cent increase in the numbers of cyclists staying. The Tour just opened it up, people discovered there’s so much more to do here.”

Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire set about giving cycle training, including bike maintenance, to hoteliers 18 months ago. A spokesman said: “Yorkshire is now firmly on the international cycling map.”