Ironman has been and gone for another year. There was sadness, great sadness at the death of a participant during the swimming leg. From the Bulletin, we join with the condolences expressed by the Ironman organisers and Alcudia town hall.
The death marred what was otherwise a highly successful event. Getting on for 4,200 people took part. In addition to the participants were family and friends as well as the personnel required for an event of this scale. The success, where the town hall and some businesses are concerned, centres on the economic benefits of the triathlon. For others, there is no success; only inconvenience.
What are the economic benefits exactly? Researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands provided a report into these in December 2015. They studied the impact of the event held in September that year. This was different to the May triathlon (70.3) in that it was the full-distance 140.6 (these distances, by the way, are miles and not kilometres), and so the number of participants was lower - 2,200 (only some 100 were residents of Mallorca). The overall economic value, they concluded, was 9,050,612 euros. Each participant, on average, had 2.49 people accompanying him or her. For each participant, the average spend while in Mallorca was around 1,700 euros, while for companions it was 1,050 euros. These people stayed on the island for an average of 5.5 days. The other activities they most took part in were “enjoying the sun and the beach” (87.4%), discovering local gastronomy (46.8%) and shopping (44.8%).
Of the spend, the highest percentage - 27.3% - went on transport. This was followed by accommodation (23.8%), restaurants and food (18.3%), shopping (12.9%) and rent a car (5.5%). The report isn’t specific about transport, but if this allocation of spend is in line with the regular tourist statistics, it will be the cost of travel to (and from) the destination. If this is the case, the direct benefit is clearly less than the 9.05 million.
Hoteliers were the most enthusiastic supporters of the event, as occupancy levels were very high. Small businesses were of the view that the main beneficiaries were bike shops and restaurants. A majority of retailers said they had benefited, but on the day of the event itself, sales were down. Taxi drivers reported good business, but they - like other transport - suffered because of road closures. The biggest gripe was from public transport and from coach operators. The researchers didn’t survey local residents.
On the cost side, Alcudia town hall spent 74,362 euros; 50,000 of this was on “others”, with police (11,120 euros) having otherwise been the highest cost item. Thirteen other municipalities affected by the event spent a total of 50,051 euros, almost 80% having been on police. Certain municipalities, e.g. Campanet and Santa Margalida, said they didn’t derive any benefit, only some inconvenience.
If the economic impact, in global terms, was 9.05 million euros for the 140.6, it is clearly higher for the 70.3. Getting on for twice as much, one has to conclude. Not to be sniffed at, but the complaints do of course continue, exacerbated by the fact that the Mallorca 312 was the previous weekend.
Since Ironman started, my own view is that the organisation has improved. I am not greatly inconvenienced, if at all, but I am only one. I know there are many who feel differently. It is said that look, it is just the one day, which is true, but there is also the lead-up and the afters. Disruption of some sort lasts a week, an aspect of this being partial closure of the main road into the port.
One comment I saw suggested that the focus should be moved to the town. This would allow the main access roads to and from Palma to always be open. Perhaps so, but the triathletes can’t swim in the town. It wasn’t much of a suggestion. The location is as it is for an event which, while it does raise some hackles, has a benefit beyond the financial. It adds to the reputation of Alcudia and Mallorca as a sports tourism destination.