€27.4 Million Boost to Economy after the 2021 UCI Road World Championships in Flanders

Thursday 17 February 2022

Host cities Knokke-Heist, Bruges, Antwerp and Leuven welcomed 1 million unique visitors during the UCI Road World Championships week, including over 100,000 foreign visitors. The UCI Road World Championships fans stayed in Flanders for an average of 4.5 days and the event delivered a total boost of 27.4 million Euros to the Flemish economy. However, in addition to the economic return, there was also the UCI World Championships’ huge impact on visibility, reputation and society. A number of new studies and reports into the impact of the UCI Road World Championships shed some light on that.

Packed streets and hills, spectators lining the course and an inimitable ambiance: in September 2021, the international media were impressed over that week of the UCI Road World Championships centenary in Flanders. The road race was coming home, enticing lots of people out of their homes and many visitors to Flanders and the four host cities. A handful of studies and substantiated reports now confirm that the 2021 UCI Road World Championships were indeed the epicentre of the cycling world during that period, both for the Flemish and for visitors from neighbouring countries and beyond.

Economic Return

UCI assessment of the Events Economic Impact Report conducted by professional services firm EY revealed that the four host cities Knokke-Heist, Bruges, Antwerp and Louvain registered 1.5 million visitors during the week of the event. EY’s study shows that if we take into account those that went to see it in several cities, the event had over 1 million unique visitors.

10% came from abroad, mainly from our neighbouring countries the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. 30% of them had never visited Flanders and were pleasantly surprised by what the region has to offer as a destination. 83% are also considering returning to Flanders. 90% of the international visitors say that they will recommend Flanders as a holiday destination to family, friends and acquaintances.

On average, visitors stayed 4.5 nights there, which is above average for Flanders accommodation figures. The event’s visitors spent a combined total of just under 36 million Euros during their stay in Flanders. The majority of the spending went on accommodation, food and drink, and transport. In total, the UCI Road World Championships delivered a gross added value of €27.4 million to the Flemish economy.

Reputational Impact

The effect on the image of Flanders as a tourist destination is many times greater thanks to the enormous worldwide media attention that the 2021 UCI Road World Championships attracted. 208 million TV viewers in 113 countries, and tens of millions of viewers via the social media platforms did not just get to watch the cycling footage but also the stunning images of the historic art cities and the Flemish coast. Furthermore, the Flandrien loop in Flemish Brabant shed light on a relatively unknown but wonderful cycling area, namely the Druivenstreek.

Societal Impact

Domestic and international visitors, as well as the inhabitants of the four host cities themselves, appreciated the event, giving it an average score of 7.3 out of 10. This is shown by the impact study performed by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in cooperation with the University of Utrecht. Inhabitants who attended the event or one or more preliminary stage activities or the side programme, gave it an 8.4 average score. Approximately 15% of the interviewed inhabitants said that they felt inspired to do more cycling or exercising themselves.

A study by sustainability partner Deloitte already emphasised the results of the robust efforts to reduce the impact on the environment. Direct and indirect (Scope 1 and 2 of the study) CO2 emissions were reduced by 52%, thanks to its use of electric vehicles, biodiesel and green energy. The use of vacuum toilets alone saved about 350,000 litres of water. 24.7 tons of waste was collected during the event, 29% of which was recycled. The extensive promotion of public transport led to more than 62,000 extra train journeys.

In addition, the accessibility and inclusivity of the event was a special point of attention, by offering facilities for people with a disability and by organising a para-cycling competition, by involving vulnerable and underrepresented groups as volunteers at the event or by setting up campaigns for a more inclusive sporting environment for all. And last but not least, these were the first ‘smoke free’ UCI World Championships, in cooperation with Kom op tegen Kanker (Belgian cancer charity).

Legacy

The organisation of a major international sporting event such as the World Championships also contributes to the promotion of cycling in the broadest sense. At the initiative of Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters, ‘De Grote Versnelling’ (The Great Gear) was founded in partnership between the Flemish Government, Flemish Provinces and Association of Cities and Municipalities. Together with a large number of stakeholders from different groups, it encourages an exchange of knowledge and cooperation in order to achieve a quantum leap for cycling.

For David Lappartient, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) President “These studies confirm the fantastic racing and wonderful event that the UCI Road World Championships proved to be. It also confirms that this annual UCI event creates an economic and positive reputational impact for the region and also contributes to more inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability in society during and after the event. Flanders 2021 created a fantastic atmosphere to mark the 100th anniversary of the UCI Road World Championships! I would like to sincerely thank and congratulate Flanders, the volunteers and the organising committee for their warm welcome and hard work to make this event a memorable moment for the entire cycling community and one that left its mark on the cycling world.”

Co-Chairs of the local organising committee WK2021, Wim Tack and Christophe Impens: “The UCI Road World Championships is the first event in Flanders on this scale that in addition to the main activity – organising a road race – also fully commits to various other, often long term, goals like sustainability and broader cycling development... However, it also allows us to showcase a great many innovations that we have introduced (in competition organisation, crowd management, fan zones, volunteering, activations, etc), which also lay a strong foundation for future events.”

“The 100th anniversary of the UCI Road World Championships was a brilliant promotion for Flanders as an international destination for cyclists, the cradle of cycling. As well as our athletic prowess, we can also demonstrate our organisational strength to the world,” says Flemish Minister of Sports Ben Weyts. “The acquired knowledge will contribute to the development of future (top) events in Flanders.”

"The UCI Road World Championships was the perfect occasion to give the world a taste of Flanders. And it is clear that it was savoured! This impact study proves what we already knew: these championships were above and beyond expectations. Flanders is and continues to be the home of road racing, but we also introduced the world to its unique nature and inimitable art cities. Even those people who are not fans of cycling, were able to get to know our attractions. The foundations have been laid for putting Flanders on the national and international map as an absolute bucket-list destination for the coming years," says Flemish Minister of Tourism Zuhal Demir.

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