By Daniel Hunter
The arrival of the prestigious FIA World Rally Championship in North Wales later this year is already delivering significant benefits to a wide range of different key sectors within the Welsh economy.
Following the announcement of an extended partnership with the Welsh Government, a revitalised Wales Rally GB (14-17 November) will now be based in North Wales.
The final round of this year's WRC will have its Headquarters and central Service Park based at a new site located alongside the Toyota Engine Plant at Deeside with a ceremonial start in Conwy and finish in Llandudno. The move not only highlights the automotive industry's importance to the Welsh economy - more than 15,000 people are employed in automotive manufacturing in Wales generating an annual turnover of £3 billion - but it's also benefiting local businesses.
One obvious example is Mold-based civil engineering contractor FG Whitley which has been contracted by event organiser, International Motor Sports (IMS), to carry out major constructions preparing the new site in readiness for the arrival of the world's top rally teams, much of this work is using Welsh stone, too.
A large number of other Welsh companies also are profiting from the event. North Wales based graphic design agency View Creative has been engaged by IMS to provide Wales Rally GB with an exciting new look, which is being used on all communications and web-based materials throughout the world. Another beneficiary is Llandrindod Wells-based company Performance Clothing; it has been licensed to produce all the official Wales Rally GB clothing while the Orchard Media & Events Group in Cardiff has been engaged by IMS to produce TV and digital advertising materials.
The media sector enjoys further benefits, too, with rounds of the WRC being aired on S4C, the Cardiff-based Welsh language TV broadcaster and IMS investing a considerable proportion of the high profile event's advertising budget with Heart Radio in North Wales.
With thousands of rally fans and team members descending on Deeside as well as the legendary Welsh forest stages where the high-speed action takes place, hotels are also gaining from the World Championship's presence in Wales at what's a time of low occupancy. IMS alone has reserved more than 600 room nights for its organising team.
"It has been calculated Wales Rally GB brings more than £5m to the Welsh economy - I think that figure is now somewhat conservative taking into account both the investment we are making in refreshing the event and the added interest that it is generating in terms of an increase in advanced ticket sales," said Andrew Coe, Chief Executive of IMS.
"There are, of course, many other equally important if less quantifiable benefits. The enormous international television coverage reminds global audiences of the spectacular scenery and landscapes of North Wales while, in the actual region, many local charities benefit from donations generated by spectator car parking."
Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, said: "Our support for Wales Rally GB acts as a key driver in delivering the Welsh Government's key commitment of strengthening the conditions that create jobs, wealth and sustainable growth. The Welsh economy receives an immediate benefit during Wales Rally GB with teams, marshals, businesses and spectators spending considerable amounts on accommodation, food and drink, hospitality - before, during and after the event.
"This world class sporting event is an ideal platform to show a global audience what Wales has to offer. In order to maximise the benefits of hosting the event in Wales, we will also organise events alongside the rally. An industry awareness event for students will be held alongside the new Wales Rally GB Service Park in Deeside and we will also work with Welsh Automotive Forum to plan an automotive conference at Venue Cymru."
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