Probably not. Yet several Yorkshire councils have already agreed to offer funding to support the Tour de Yorkshire, which is put on by the Amaury Sports Organisation with the help of Welcome to Yorkshire. The main reason given is to ‘support the tourism industry’.
It does showcase Yorkshire and repeat visits may ensue, but there are many other cheaper ways to do this. The Tour de Yorkshire takes place over the May bank holiday, a time when most tourism businesses are already full.
According to at least one councillor not in favour of the expenditure, “As far as I can see there is no tangible proof of any economic benefit being derived from the TDY. They have always claimed the value of all the beds booked over the bank holiday weekend without differentiating between non-cycling tourists (who’d come anyway) and those booking because of the event.”
A Welcome to Yorkshire insider told me that they think it costs around £1.6 million to run the event and that they believed that ASO (the Amaury Sports Organisation, the French business behind the Tour de Yorkshire) are pushing for sponsorship to cover £2.2 million to ensure it makes a profit.
Councils have been asked to help underwrite the event in case sufficient sponsorship is not forthcoming.
Several essential questions remain unanswered:
1. The tourism industry has been massively affected by Coronavirus. Sectors such as events, indoor attractions, food and drink and hospitality have been particularly affected. What consideration has been given to funding initiatives to benefit these sectors instead of the Tour de Yorkshire? If councils believe that these sectors will gain significant benefit from the Tour de Yorkshire, how have those benefits been assessed? What other ways to support these sectors have been considered? Would a number of smaller scale events taking place through-out the year in a variety of locations be equally effective?
2. It has been suggested that a benefit of the Tour de Yorkshire is the media coverage, especially on TV. Screen Yorkshire has been very effective at generating long-lasting, high-profile screen coverage of Yorkshire, some of which appeals to a broader audience, with the longevity of repeats. Do NYCC and other councils provide Screen Yorkshire with public funding in line with that allocated to Welcome to Yorkshire and the Tour de Yorkshire?
3. Which tourism industry bodies and organisations has NYCC and other councils consulted with to determine whether the Tour de France offers good value for public money and will provide appropriate benefits for the tourism industry? Some attractions say the event actually reduces their business.
4. It has been suggested that the Tour de Yorkshire can be instrumental in attracting international visitors. What work has been undertaken to understand this benefit?
5. One of the reasons put forward for funding the Tour de Yorkshire is the legacy benefit. More businesses are now welcoming cyclists and there is greater interest in cycling. At what stage will NYCC and other councils determine that there is no additionality to putting on another race? At what stage will the legacy benefit be achieved?
The Tour de Yorkshire requires a huge investment of time and expertise to make it successful. Previous staff at Welcome to Yorkshire had developed the contacts and skills necessary but few of the staff with an intimate knowledge of the operational needs of the race remain.
Welcome to Yorkshire has a much smaller team than previously, less industry support and ongoing funding challenges.
How will it manage to successfully run the Tour de Yorkshire, at the same time as achieving its extended remit of promoting Yorkshire as a place to live, work, study and visit?
The Tour de Yorkshire brings pleasure to many people, and does have some benefits for the tourism industry. But it’s also a potentially profitable activity for a private company and many Yorkshire rate payers will wonder why ‘investment’ is being made into that company instead of much-needed public services.
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