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Spotlight on: building business around cultural events

When some of the world’s most popular events are right on your doorstep, how do you make the most of this short-lived boost throughout the rest of the year? Click. explores how events tourism can pay dividends

Carnivals, festivals, major sporting events – they all spell boom time for the destinations that are lucky enough to host them. For a relatively brief period, the local economy gets a massive cash injection and everyone wishes the party could go on forever. Then the circus leaves town and things get back to normal. The challenge is to keep some sense of momentum for the rest of the year.

Year-round attractions

For fans of motorsports, Le Mans means one thing: the 24-hour endurance race that takes place every June and has been running since 1923. “The race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a very important business week for us,” says Aline Coiffard, Owner of Hotel de la Pommeraie in Le Mans. “The atmosphere in the city is extraordinary. Every day, there is a different activity for the race. We are fully booked during the whole event, but this week represents only 8% of our activity over the year.”

Coiffard explains that there are other races on the circuit in Le Mans, which also bring an influx of clients. “This all represents between 15% and 20% of our activity over a year,” she adds. “But we have a very different clientele throughout the year. We have business people during the week, and then families and other tourists on weekends and during holidays.” 

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Photo: Quentin Kemmel, Unsplash

Photo: Quentin Kemmel, Unsplash

Patricia Chevalier from the Pays du Mans tourist board estimates that the 24 Hours of Le Mans race brings in an additional 270,000 tourists every year, but this city in France’s Pays de la Loire region has a history stretching back to Roman times as well as a beautifully preserved medieval old town. “We are lucky to have this fabulous event,” she says. “We are also in the process of classifying our Gallo-Roman wall as a Unesco World Heritage. It’s important for the tourism economy during the whole year and not only during the race.”

She also points to the popular La Nuit des Chimères, an illuminations show that lights up the city every night from early July to early September. The tourist board emphasises the city’s heritage as the “Plantagenet City”, home to the family of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart, which appeals to history buffs.

Extending the calendar

In Rio de Janeiro, one of the biggest parties on the planet pitches up on Copacabana Beach just before Lent – conveniently in front of the Belmond Copacabana Palace. This stately hotel is in the thick of the Rio Carnival, which runs for a week until Ash Wednesday and fills the Brazilian city with parades, parties and floats. About 2 million people join the festivities throughout the week.

The hotel itself is the setting for the only black-tie ball during the carnival, which attracts 1,800 guests. But it doesn’t let up at other times of the year, helped by a year-long warm climate. Cassiano Vitorino, Belmond Hotels’ Area Communications Manager for Brazil, says: “Our calendar of events include a few parties like the New Year’s Eve ball, the Bloco do Copa party held before the Carnival, the Arraiá do Copa, which is a traditional Brazilian party we hold in June or July, as well as Halloween. In between these events, we have a big mix of families and couples, and we have some attractions like samba classes and a fabulous Sunday brunch.”

Food is another crowd-puller, especially in parts of Italy where food festivals are a major draw. One of the largest is the International Alba White Truffle Fair, which has been running every weekend in October and November for nearly 90 years. More than 600,000 visitors descend on the historic city of Alba in northern Italy for gastronomic events, parades and family activities.

“We have tourists interested in food and wine, first of all,” says Daniela di Giovanni of the Langhe regional tourism board, which includes Alba. “However, thanks to different promotional activities, tourists now come for other reasons as well. They come to enjoy the landscape, the culture and outdoor activities, mostly biking, hiking and trekking in vineyards, as well as Nordic walking and golf.”

Di Giovanni stresses the need to spread the tourist offering throughout the year, although she admits that this can be difficult from January to March. But Alba’s position in the heart of Piedmont’s Barolo wine region is one of its great strengths, with growing numbers of wine lovers discovering the area.


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Hero image: credit to Maxime Bhm

Takeaway
  • While the city of Le Mans is primarily known for its 24-hour endurance road race, it promotes its legacy as the home of the Plantagenet dynasty to attract history lovers
  • Le Mans also focuses on its illuminations show, La Nuit des Chimères, which runs every night from early July to early September
  • In addition to hosting Rio Carnival’s black-tie ball, Belmond Copacabana Palace spreads major events throughout the year, including traditional Brazilian parties in early summer, a Halloween celebration and samba classes
  • The International Alba White Truffle Fair attracts not only food lovers but also active types who come to northern Italy for hiking, biking and visiting the Barolo wine estates

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