By André Santos
Places all over the world have several characteristics that make them unique, and these characteristics, when combined, build the perception that we have about them. Lifestyle, culture, arts or sports are part of the identity of a place. Cross-country skiing in general, and long distance races in particular, are very important tools that places can use to improve awareness about themselves.
The Visma Ski Classics events, such as Marcialonga or any other races, are an important tool to promote the places where the action happens, and therefore they help their social and economic development. When you watch the beautiful sport of cross-country skiing on TV, showing a beautiful landscape in the background that introduces the culture of that place, your interest in that place will increase. Maybe in the future, you will think of visiting it. This is how sports help to build the reputation of nations, cities and regions. Take me as an example, I am a cross-country skier from Portugal, a country where this sport does not exist, but regardless I save my money to go to Rena to participate in Birkebeinerrennet, or to Sälen to go for Vasaloppet, places that I only know thanks to cross-country skiing and Visma Ski Classics.
Mega-events such as the Olympics present an unique opportunity for nations, cities and regions to get global recognition. If done strategically, it can be a tool to promote the identity of a place through its landscapes, culture, brands and even its people. This way, this place will improve its reputation and will attract more tourists, more investment, more people to live there and enjoy its uniqueness. But long distance ski events, like any of the Visma Ski Classics races, can be a less expensive way to improve the reputation of a place. And sometimes with a bigger return on investment, due to the thousands of people that travel to that place to participate in the race, or to support friends and family who are going for the races.
For example, Marcialonga generates millions at the local level. It helps to put Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa in the minds of snow and ski lovers who travel there to ski during the winter and to train and relax during the summer. Around 45,000 people move around the region thanks to this event. Another example, Vasaloppet attracts more than 70,000 people during one week, and they spend almost 20 million euros during that time. A big part of this amount is spent by international cross-country skiers who only visit the region due to the prestigious race.
So, the Visma Ski Classics events can be a great tool to increase awareness and improve the reputation of the race locations. But if place leaders and race organizers want it to work, they need to think strategically. They need to promote not only the race itself, but the culture of the place where the action takes place.