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Tour de Georgia a boon to state tourism
Tour de Georgia cyclists race down Prior Street as the race visits Gainesville last month.

A survey by North Georgia College and State University shows that the 2008 Tour de Georgia bicycle race had a direct economic impact of $38.6 million in Georgia, up from $27 million in 2007, a 40 percent increase.

The 2008 Tour featured two stops in Hall County, including a daylong time trial at Road Atlanta near Braselton.

"For a first-time event, and on a Thursday, we were extremely pleased with the spectator turnout and the event overall," said Road Atlanta President Geoff Lee, regarding an estimated attendance of 20,000 fans at Stage 4. "A majority of these very enthusiastic cycling fans were making their first visit to Road Atlanta and obviously had a good time. From a marketing standpoint, the tour was very successful for us. We hope these new fans will come back for our major events like the annual Petit Le Mans (Oct. 1-4)."

Economic impact was determined using data collected by crowd intercept surveys at all start and finish venue locations.

North Georgia College and University managed the survey development and data collection. Georgia Southern University was responsible for data input and analysis. A total of 1,196 completed surveys were collected between April 21 and 27 at the 12 host communities which staged either a tour start or a tour finish venue.

Economic indicators included assessment of dollars spent by visitors (residents of the area not included) for meals, lodging, transportation, retail and miscellaneous recreation. Analysis of crowd sizes was determined by Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement estimates.

While the attendance figures for 2008 were down 20 percent from last year -- more than 400,000 this year as compared to 515,000 in 2007 and 500,000 in 2006 -- spending was up significantly during the event.

"We can't tell how much of the change is due to methodology, but we believe that one of the reasons for the large increase (in economic impact) over last year is inflation, particularly in gasoline," said Phyllis Isley, director of the Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development at Georgia Southern University. "Some of the increase is also due to the significant increase in the number of international visitors.

"The increase in international visitors is probably due to the devaluation of the dollar making a U.S. trip more affordable."

The tour was founded in 2003 as a tourism vehicle to showcase Georgia and its communities by the marketing arm of the state, now known as the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

"The Tour de Georgia is an international sporting event that brings thousands of spectators and cyclists to our great state," said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who serves as the Chairman of the Tour de Georgia Foundation. "We also worked very hard to promote healthy living and lifestyles among our citizens and guests. This year's Health & Wellness Expos were a hit at every stop, from Savannah to Atlanta. We were able to a raise a record amount of money and awareness for our beneficiary as well, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta."

The Tour de Georgia gained international stature in 2004 when Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong won the event.

The 2008 race was won by Team High Road's Kanstantin Sivtsov of Belarus.

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