Tour of California a benefit to Tahoe for international marketing
The fans cheered. The riders raced, and most importantly, it didn’t snow. While the show moves on to its conclusion in Sacramento Sunday, May 22, the Lake Tahoe Basin’s portion of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California is in the books. And by all accounts it was another wild success.
“It was great for South Lake Tahoe and the whole basin,” city councilman and mayor pro tem Austin Sass said. “We hope it keeps coming back.”
Describing the atmosphere at the finish line, he added, “Everyone was five or six deep.”
Just what it means from an economic standpoint, however, is a little harder to define.
At the very least close to 250 men’s and women’s riders and their sizable support crews took advantage of lodging for a minimum of one night during an otherwise quiet shoulder season.
Additionally it is believed that a number of spectators may have come to town specifically for the race, just how many is unclear.
“It should be a good economic boost,” Sass said. “They all have to eat. They all have to stay somewhere.”
For the tour as a whole, organizers estimate the race has an over $100 million annual impact to local economies. Larger metropolitan destinations like Sacramento estimate spectators in the hundred of thousands.
The bigger benefit appears to be on the marketing end however.
“The economic impact is the smaller part of it,” said Carl Ribaudo, tourism destination consultant and president of Strategic Marketing Group. “I think the real impact is the coverage you get.”
“For us the Tour has been a part of our strategic plan to raise the awareness of Tahoe as a destination for cycling,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director Carol Chaplin added. “It ties into the idea of cycling as part of a lifestyle.”
According to The Nielson Company NBC and NBCSN, broadcasts of each stage of the 2015 race alone averaged close to 200,000 viewers. Additionally the race is broadcast internationally to around 200 countries. Tour owner AEG estimates it creates over 4.25 billion impressions worldwide through television print, radio and online coverage.
With coverage showing sweeping aerial shots of scenic California landscapes, Visit California tourism officials call the annual event an “international postcard.”
“We think there’s a tremendous value,” Chaplin said. “It’s a great platform for us to talk about Tahoe as an outdoor destination.”
While regional visitors may associate Tahoe with cycling and summer activities, international visitors are a bit of an untapped market, and a group that the Tour of California has a potential to attract.
“It helps lend significant brand credibility,” Ribaudo said of the tour. “Any time you get exposure in the national and international markets, that’s a positive.”
As to the broader picture, Timothy Schneider, publisher of the sports business magazine SportsTravel, said events such as the tour have become big business for destination locations in the U.S.
Colorado, for example, now also hosts a similar race, the USA Pro Challenge, in August, and a number of the state’s host cities annually report significant lodging spikes.
“It’s become a huge industry,” he explained.
Schneider credited Visit California’s sponsorship as a strategic move for the state as a whole.
“[They] recognized the potential very early on,” he said. “I think they were smart to do so. This event receives so much international coverage.”
Echoing the benefit, Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce president B Gorman said, “Our community simply couldn’t afford to pay for that kind of advertising. The tour reinforces our destination as a world-class recreation destination and inspires many to make reservations to visit here and embark upon their own cycling experiences.”
In a statement during women’s team introductions Wednesday night, race president Kristin Klein said she hopes to bring the race back to the region year after year. Whether it becomes an annual stop or part of a multi-year rotation has yet to be determined.
Tour organizers annually announce selected host cities within the year prior to each race.