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Publicity race brings to Gainesville is priceless

POSTED: May 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
It’s the kind of publicity money can’t buy.

Each night this week, SportSouth cable network (Charter Cable channel 36) will televise a 30-minute recap of the Tour de Georgia.

On May 4, the Versus cable network (Charter channel 39) will have a two-hour nationally televised program on the tour and its many stops, including Gainesville.

"It’s hard to put a dollar figure on it because of the media impact," said Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau. "There are international publications and many news outlets here. How could we put a dollar figure on that?"

In real dollars, Dickson said most of the convention hotels in Gainesville are filled with the entourage of 300 people who travel with the Tour de Georgia.

"A lot of the race officials and teams and people who travel from town-to-town are staying here tonight," she said.

Dickson, who has visited a California cycling event, said that the reputation of the tour is growing.

"When we were out there, people in California knew about the race. They had heard about King of the Mountain on Brasstown Bald and they had heard of Lake Lanier," she said, adding that the bureau’s limited budget does not allow them to advertise in the West.

"It would be very hard for them to learn about places in Georgia if there wasn’t an event like the Tour de Georgia," she said.

Cheryl Smith, regional representative for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which promotes Georgia as a tourism destination, said the tour is good for Georgia and Hall County."It gives potential visitors something about Gainesville and Hall County that they didn’t know about before. We become known as a place where you can come and ride your bike," Smith said.

She said serious bike enthusiasts are often upscale people who are educated and travel often.

Unlike many communities on the tour, Hall County derives a two-day economic impact with today’s time trials at Road Atlanta, which is located in South Hall County.

The tour will pass through many communities as it makes its way through Georgia, but those who host a stop or starting place get the most impact. In recent years Gainesville has served as both a starting point and a pass through destination for the tour, which has been wildly popular but has struggled to have solid financial sponsorship.

For a second year, telecommunications giant AT&T is sponsoring the race. Previous title sponsors have included automakers Ford and Dodge, who both eventually bowed out.



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