Tour de France boosts alpine economy
20th July 2009
The race was in The Alps this week for the decisive mountain stages. PlanetSKI looks at what it means for the ski resorts it passes through.
Last year Tignes benefited and this year Verbier claims to have hit the jackpot.
The climb up to Alpe D’Huez has brought the ski resort great publicity over the years and Andorra benefitted again as it passed through the ski resort of Arcalis this time round.
Switzerland has been very fortunate this year as it was in the Valais region for 3 days this week, with one of them a rest day.
“You could say we hit the jackpot,” says Gaston Barben, President of the Swiss stages organising committee. “One week before the Tour reaches Paris, Verbier hosted the first alpine stage and then Martigny was the start for the next stage. The biggest crowds possible were guaranteed for Verbier because it was a Sunday. Then the day off allowed the pack and all the supporters to visit our region.”The weather was fantastic and the pictures beamed around the world last weekend from the Swiss Alps were truly impressive.
“I live in the resort and know how beautiful Verbier is but as I looked at the pictures being shot from the helicopter I couldn’t believe how good Verbier looked,” one local resident told PlanetSKI. “There was even a bit of snow on the mountain tops to remind people of winter.”
As a sporting event, only the World Cup and The Olympics get more media coverage.
Almost 2,000 journalists from 630 media outlets cover the race and the TV coverage is broadcast in 186 countries.
“The impact was substantial, because there were 4,000 people who are directly linked to the Tour de France staying in our region for two nights,” said Patrick Messeiller, the director of the Verbier tourist office.
All of them spent some money on something so the Tour is big business.
One bar in Verbier, the T-bar, told us that it was one of it’s busiest days ever with takings breaking records.
Pretty much every shop, bar and restaurant that has the Tour pass by does something special to woo customers and tries to claim some of the reflected glory of the Tour de France.
After the triumph of the Verbier stage, where the race took a decisive turn as Contador came out on top, Le Tour has moved on to Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps with some ferocious climbs en route.
It crossed the Grand St Bernard pass into Italy thus visiting 3 different countries in a single day. The pass is the highest part of the course at 2,473m.Bourg has had a finish stage of the Tour only twice,1939 and 1996. On the later occasion it then went up to the ski resort of Les Arcs.
Even the small villages it passes through in the blink of an eye benefit as people enjoy the economic rewards of their day in the sporting spotlight.
The Tour de France generates huge media coverage and brings economic benefits for a long time to come.
“We had the Tour come to Tignes last year and it was a huge success. We used it to market the resort heavily and it appeals to the sporting outdoor type that we try to encourage here,” says Stephanie Aillet from the resort’s tourist office.
Since 1947, 28 stages of the race have played out partially or fully on Swiss roads, most recently in 2000 in Lausanne, but the last time the Tour de France visited a Swiss ski resort was 24 years ago when it made the climb up to Crans Montana. They are still talking about it.
For some stunning images from the Alps this week as PlanetSKI followed The Tour’s progress see the photos on the week on the home page.
Don’t forget to check out the latest blog from our content editor, James Cove, on his new found fascination with The Tour de France.
For details of route it takes as it passes through the Alps take a look at the maps below. See how many ski areas you can see that benefit.
Sunday, July 19th. Pontalier to Verbier
Tuesday, July 21st Martigny to Bourg St Maurice.
Wednesday, July 22nd. Bourg St Maurice to Le Grand Bornard.