Harrogate business owners were this week challenged to use the opportunity the Tour de France provides to raise the profile of North Yorkshire as a destination for trade and commerce.
They have been invited by Welcome to Yorkshire to shine when the district hosts the opening stages of the 2014 edition of the world’s largest annual sporting event.
Chief executive Gary Verity addressed hundreds of leaders at an open meeting of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce at Rudding Park on Monday.
Urging owners to act now to ride the wave of Le Tour, Mr Verity said: “This is the biggest event that has ever happened in our county and the biggest event that will ever happen in our county.
“Businesses should dare to dream.
“We have never had an opportunity like this before.
“We are in the hospitality business, and life will never be the same after Le Tour.”
He said businesses can benefit long after the race leaves the district.
A global television audience of 3.5bn watch the race.
He explained: “After the race, people will be able to point to Yorkshire on a map.”
Owner of cycling shop Boneshakers Bill Cunningham is already prepared to ensure his business benefits from the legacy of Le Tour.
He said: “The key will be to get to meet as many people as possible over the weekend.
“There is a great opportunity here for all businesses, especially those involved in cycling.
“We will hope to remain in contact with people we meet after the Tour has left the district.”
WTY is keen to see a greater physical Tour presence on Harrogate streets.
He said: “If this event was happening in Barcelona, we would know it was happening next year.
“Don’t put the banners up two weeks before the race.
“We need to be shouting about it now.”
Many hotels are already fully booked for the weekend, and Mr Verity is urging fans wishing to watch the event to plan ahead with the average viewing time for a Tour spectator in one spot standing at six hours.
He said: “The message we are putting out to people is to come early to watch the Tour.
“It is not a football match.
“It does not involve large-scale drinking and loutish behaviour!”
Angela Harris, Project Director of developing website Visit Harrogate said: “The Tour is a gift, and we can rise to that.
“By the time the Tour is here, we will have Harrogate on the map.”