BUSINESS leaders believe the opening two days of the 2014 Tour de France could boost the region’s economy by more than £300 million and attract more than a million visitors.

Staging the opening of the race is particularly lucrative as the hosts welcome and entertain the Tour's huge entourage for a week as they prepare before the cyclists start racing.

Tourism in the county has bucked national trends this year largely thanks to marketing and promotions by Welcome to Yorkshire – this year tourism was up by 16.3 per cent on last year, tourist spending was up by 13.5 per cent and overnight stays were up by 11.5 per cent.

But it is thought the successful bid will see a massive rise in takings across a wide variety of businesses for a number of years.

Susie Cawood head of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "For Yorkshire to host the biggest annual sporting event in the world is hugely positive news for the region and the economy.

"Importantly, it illustrates confidence in Yorkshire. It will showcase Yorkshire both to the race spectators and millions of people watching it around the world."

David Doorbar from Richmond Business and Tourism Association said: “The Tour de France is a hypnotic event on television and people follow it from start to finish.

“Yorkshire will look fantastic on TV, especially from helicopters following riders overhead capturing the magnificent landscape – it will be a fantastic advert to the rest of the world and I am sure it will have a massive impact on business and push Yorkshire up on people’s list of places to visit.”

Stuart Price, owner of the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, near Richmond, said: “We were jumping for joy when we heard the news.

“It is the biggest sporting event in the world and it will bring all its followers – I am sure we will get more tourists from Europe who want to complete the route taken by the Tour cyclists. It is fantastic news for cycling in Yorkshire.”

After the disappointing tourism figures during this summer’s Olympic Games in London, many business owners feel this will be a great opportunity to cash in on the influx of visitors to the area.

Leader of Richmondshire District Council and Hawes business owner John Blackie said: “I think it will bring more people to Yorkshire than even the Olympic Torch – that did not bring in the numbers of tourists it was expected.

“The district council has offered its support financially to Welcome to Yorkshire and North Yorkshire County Council – I am absolutely delighted that Yorkshire has secured this opportunity.”

Ian Ashton, chairman of Herriot Country Tourism Group which operates in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales where the Tour is likely to visit, added: “This will leave a lasting legacy on Yorkshire and I’m sure it will generate a huge increase of people visiting us.”