Belfast Telegraph

The wheel of fortune: How staging the Giro brought us £13m in tourism

By John Mulgrew

The Giro d'Italia raked in almost £13m in added tourism spending when the pink-led peloton sped through the streets of Northern Ireland, it can be revealed.

The final report released from Tourism Northern Ireland highlights the overall financial impact the international cycling event had on the region.

And that figure takes out the costs incurred in staging what is one of the world's biggest cycling events.

Some 227,000 people turned out to watch the event - with more than 17,000 of those coming from outside Northern Ireland.

"That figure was taking away what leaked out of the economy - it included anything that tourists, visitors, organisers coming to Northern Ireland spent," Susie McCullough of Tourism Northern Ireland said.

"Businesses would have actually taken in a bigger amount than that, when you take out the cost of bringing it here.

"The one key objective was to get Northern Ireland out there internationally - getting additional spending into the economy was second."

The Giro spent three days weaving its way from Belfast, through Armagh and on to Dublin in May - shining a global spotlight on Belfast and the north coast.

And some 88% of businesses questioned said they supported major events such as the Giro coming to Belfast.

Just over two-thirds of businesses across Northern Ireland also supported the Giro by hosting in-store events, dressing up their windows and bringing in special offers, the report said.

It added the coverage it received - primarily within national newspapers - was worth almost £12m in advertising for Northern Ireland.

Viewing figures for coverage right across the world reached a combined total of 56 million throughout the course of the event. Travel writer and broadcaster Simon Calder told the Belfast Telegraph that aside from the cash flow boost for Northern Ireland, its benefits will also be felt in the long term with tourists visiting here in the years to come.

"There is some direct financial value to big events - but what's more important is the long-term impact," he said.

"This will have attracted a lot of people for whom Northern Ireland would not have been on their radar.

"It is plainly apparent that when people go to Northern Ireland, they tend to return - which is right and proper."

But while it was the hotel, bar and restaurant trade that witnessed a sizeable spike in business, retailers suffered a fall.

"Businesses have said it was very successful - city centre retailers were down slightly, and that always happens with a big event," Ms McCullough added.

"But they bought in to it, and know it is for the good in the long term."

The Giro's race director Mauro Vegni said Northern Ireland's hosting of the event set "a benchmark" for all other future starts.

"Our experience was without doubt very, very good. So with the right timing, we wouldn't exclude repeating it," he said.

Companies getting behind the Giro d'Italia 'big start' included some of Belfast's best known restaurants, such as the Il Pirata and Coppi - both named after cycling greats.

Belfast Telegraph