First published Friday, September 06, 2013
This weekend will bring the attention of the world sporting media firmly to rest on Pembrokeshire, as the Ironman Wales event takes place. For those of you not familiar with this event, competitors of all ages will take part in a thoroughly gruelling endurance event comprising a 2.4 mile swim in the sea, a 112 mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile run across the roads of South Pembrokeshire.
Viewed as being one of the toughest events in the Ironman series, this event, now in its 3rd year here in Pembrokeshire, attracts more and more competitors each year, this year seeing 1,850 participants lining up to give of their best. The event also brings with it an ‘Ironkids’ competition with a variety of swim and run lengths dependent on competitor age.
Pembrokeshire is developing something of a reputation for sporting events. Last weekend the Caldey Swim saw just under 50 competitors brave the chill to swim from the mainland, out to Caldey and back again, a distance of around 2 miles though variable depending on tide and other conditions. Next weekend we will see sporting activity of a different kind in the north of the county as the Red Bull Cliff Diving event returns to the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy. Earlier this year we saw the Tour of Pembrokeshire cycle event in April, and in July the Long Course Weekend.
But what do events such as these mean for the county? Obviously they bring an immediate boost to the visitor economy when competitors are here for the event and requiring places to stay and eat, and with any luck their supporters too. In some cases, we know that competitors are coming down earlier in the year to scope out routes and so on in preparation for the main event, and so of course require accommodation and sustenance then too.
That said however, what can we do to entice these people back outside of the sporting calendar, persuade them to select the county as a holiday destination. What about those who are tuning in watching coverage of the event on TV (the Long Course Weekend footage has aired on digital channels in the last few days). These people, if given good service, a warm welcome, assistance when required with kit and food requests maybe, will think back to the area with more than just a recollection of the event that brought them here.
We hear regularly from competitors in events such as Ironman that the support they are given as they go round the course from complete strangers (our local residents) is superb, and right up there with the best, if not THE best. Having witnessed the crowd support during the Long Course Weekend this year, and at Ironman last year, I know this to be true.
With this in mind, and as we dive into another two weekends of sport, take a moment to think about what opportunities you are being presented with. You could be looking at securing bookings for holidays next year, or getting some additional covers in the restaurant this evening or maybe on Monday. Gather information, email addresses or similar to be able to maximise the contact and follow up opportunties. Most of all, be warm and welcoming, smile and encourage. The little things are sometimes the ones that make the biggest difference.