As Fort William gears up for hosting the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on June 4th to 5th 2016, organisers Rare Management have revealed that the event has brought a £30m boost to Highland tourism since 2002.
Fort William isn't the only headline cycle event proving their economic worth to local regions, with the Tour de Yorkshire recently announcing that spectators spent millions at the race.
Rare Management said that over quarter of a million fans have descended on Fort William since the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup came to the Highlands 14 years ago.
‘Early Bird’ tickets have just gone on sale for next year’s event, available through December, at 2015 prices.
"Fort William has legendary status amongst the global mountain bike community, thanks to the incredibly enthusiastic crowds," said Mike Jardine from Rare Management. "They make the event and give it such a fantastic, nerve-tingling atmosphere.
Over the 2015 weekend, more than 19,000 fans witnessed Great Britain’s Rachel Atherton claim her second Fort William title and South African, Greg Minnaar, a record-breaking fifth win.
Sponsored by BUFF and Silverline for the third year and with support from Event Scotland and Highland Council, the Fort William stage of the 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup takes place at the Nevis Range ski area, 9km from Fort William. There are plans to add new features to the 2.8km downhill course, the organiser said.
Jardine added: “The Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup and BUFF 4X Pro Tour weekend has grown into a must-see fixture on the Scottish sporting calendar for families and die-hard fans alike and the impact on the local economy is huge. It’s also broadcast to millions of people around the world, helping to raise the profile of Scotland and the Highlands as the ultimate bike-friendly destination.
“2016 is going to be a real celebration of the legends of the sport – especially some of the home heroes who are always the crowd’s favourites. It’s time to salute these greats, so we’d advise fans to get their tickets early to make sure they are part of what could be an incredible weekend.”
Councillor Thomas Maclennan, Leader of the Lochaber Area Committee for Highland Council, added: “Our figures show that the World Cup was worth £2.8 million to the area in 2015. However, having such a prestigious competition on our doorstep provides world-wide publicity which money can’t buy.
“Continuing to host this event helps to showcase the scenery, terrain and local enthusiasm that cements Fort William’s reputation as a haven for outdoor activities.”
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “This is a fantastic figure and a gives a tremendous boost to the Highland economy. It really is testament to the great organisation of this incredibly popular annual event and the multitude of spectators it attracts from all corners of the globe.
“The visitor economy causes a ripple effect that touches every industry, business and community in the country – from laundry to life sciences. This news perfectly illustrates how important events such as the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William are to tourism in our regions. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides a shop window for business activity.”
Further reading: BikeBiz interviewed Mark Jardine of Fort William organiser Rare Management earlier this year.