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Suffolk and Ipswich tourism economy set for boost from Great East run

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 February 2017

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run 2017, in Ipswich

Team GB Olympian and middle distance runner Andy Vernon at the official launch of the Great East Run 2017, in Ipswich

The Great East Run could add millions of pounds to the Ipswich and Suffolk economy every year, it has been predicted.

The Great East Run route will take in Ipswich waterfrontThe Great East Run route will take in Ipswich waterfront

Businesses such as hotels and restaurants have been told to create “deals” when the new half marathon, headed up by the organisers behind the Great North Run, attracts thousands of expected visitors and world-class athletes to the county on September 24.

The major event replaces the Ipswich Half Marathon and aims to rival within 10 or 20 years the Great South Run, which has been held in Portsmouth since 1990 and now has over 25,000 runners.

It started with between 2,000-3,000 runners, a similar number expected for the inaugural Great East Run. Sir Mo Farah won the race before his Olympic heroics in 2009.

The 13.1 mile largely flat and fast Great East Run route starts and finishes in Ipswich’s town centre. It also takes in the town’s flagship waterfront and the Shotley Peninsula.

The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Image: The Great Run Company.The course map of the Great East Run Ipswich 2017. Image: The Great Run Company.

Professor David Gill, of the Suffolk Business School at the University of Suffolk, said: “Events and cultural tourism are already worth £15 million to the local economy in Ipswich.

“The development of the Great East Run will see a major impact on the local economy and introduce visitors to the heritage of the town and its waterfront.

“Local businesses could expect to see an additional income of £4.5 million as people visit Ipswich.”

A Great South Run Economic Impact Study in 2013, produced by Portsmouth City Council, found the event gave Portsmouth a £3.3m boost. The event cost the city council £122,540.

The Shotley peninsula will be travelled by participants in the Great East RunThe Shotley peninsula will be travelled by participants in the Great East Run

Four in five runners came from other parts of the country – over 15,000 – and one third of these stayed overnight in the city.

Over 32,000 people visited in total from outside the area, with one quarter staying overnight.

The event was aired live on Channel 5, earning a peak audience of 216,000. Sky Sports showed highlights.

It also generated international media interest, being shown on ESPN Star in the likes of Asia and India, Setanta Sports in Canada and Australia, and Setanta Africa.

The official launch of the Great East Run at Endeavour House, IpswichThe official launch of the Great East Run at Endeavour House, Ipswich

The race also featured in international magazines.

A survey in the report also found that 30% of runners were beginners, 85% would take part in the following year, and 93% considered the event “excellent” or “good”.

Runners provided £1.3m of cash to the Portsmouth area, while spectators provided £1.1m.

Linda Symes, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport at Portsmouth City Council, said: “The Great South Run is a huge event for Portsmouth. As well as bringing in visitors, it showcases our tourist attractions brilliantly. It’s been very successful for us.”

Alex Paul, chairman of the Ipswich Destination Management OrganisationAlex Paul, chairman of the Ipswich Destination Management Organisation

Organisers urge hotels and restaurants in the Ipswich area to take advantage of the weekend by offering “deals” to visitors.

Catherine Johnson, chair of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Greater Ipswich, said: “The initiative promises to re-position the town and its surrounding villages on the national stage as a modern, successful and accessible location for businesses and residents alike.

“More specifically, the Great East Run has the potential to be an annual event that drives up the numbers of visitors staying in our hotels, shoppers boosting our retailers and more generally people spreading the word as to what a great place this town is.”

Alex Paul, chairman of the Ipswich Destination Management Organisation (DMO), formed in 2015 to promote Ipswich to tourists, said: “The DMO will be encouraging businesses to maximise the opportunities that this creates so that it can grow year on year and become a key event in the region’s calendar.”

The Great North Run, meanwhile, is worth over £15 million to the local economy in Newcastle, but is the world’s biggest half marathon with over 57,000 runners.

Laura Locke, also of the Suffolk Business School at the University of Suffolk, said large-scale events bring “enormous economic and social benefits” to a region.

She said: “An extremely high profile flagship event, with its route through the Ipswich Waterfront, will serve to further raise external awareness of Ipswich as an attractive and vibrant destination.

“The economic impact of events and sports tourism through increased footfall and spend is well documented and sports tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of sport, according to the World Tourism Organisation.”

To enter the race, see here

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