THE newest event to be introduced to the Isle of Wight sporting calendar — the Sandown Sprint — provided an unexpected, but welcome boost to Sandown's economy, proving big events can swell tourism out of season.

This is the belief of someone who understands the value of tourism on the Island more than most — the event's promoter and co-organiser, Tim Addison, a former tourism chief with the local authority.

The Sandown Sprint attracted crowds of around a thousand people per day along Culver Parade last weekend, together with the families and entourages of the many competitors who travelled to the Island.

Tim said he discovered businesses and attractions geographically 'locked in' by the road closures, such as Browns, the Yaverland Cafe and The Bandstand did a roaring trade, with some local hoteliers and businesses in the town benefiting from the unusual pre-Easter influx of visitors.

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"Events can make a massive contribution to the Isle of Wight’s appeal as a destination — and I hope the Sandown Sprint might open up new opportunities," said Tim.

"In this first year, we didn't try to market the Sandown Sprint off the Island, but more than half of the competitors were from the mainland, as were many of the officials.

"That’s hundreds more people visiting the Island two weeks before Easter.

"Our spectators were mostly from the Island, but perhaps they hadn’t been to Sandown lately. I’m sure they will agree the town made a spectacular backdrop to the racing.

"They will come back to visit Sandham Gardens, Dinosaur Isle, Browns or the Wildheart Trust Sanctuary as a family day out.

"We've also had some great reports from businesses in the town who enjoyed a good weekend of trading as a result of the event taking place. Some places closest to the event ran out of everything.

"Motorsport is particularly valuable as it has dedicated fans who will travel, and it also doesn’t rely on good weather or the summer months.

"Hopefully, the Sandown Sprint may allow the Island to see the potential of motorsport as a way to attract new revenue out of season. It’s also great fun."

Steve Wells, a competitor, Isle of Wight Club member and Shanklin hotelier, said the event was brilliant, set against the "outstanding backdrop of Sandown seafront."

From a tourism point of view, he said it was vital to bring events such as the Sandown Sprint to the Island.

"It's 100 per cent necessary. If we want to extend the season on the Island, other than that core holiday period over the summer, then we need to be putting things on to bring people here," said Steve.

"We need to encourage people to come to the Isle of Wight. It's so easy for someone to choose going to Bournemouth, or somewhere like that on the south coast, Dorset, or Devon for a holiday. 

"The ferries are expensive. We all know that. But events like the Sandown Sprint makes it more of an experience. You need something to bring people to the Isle of Wight — to make people realise the Island is an awesome place to come on holiday.

"Anything that extends the season is brilliant for hoteliers, the gift shops and anything tourism related.

"Although I can't ever see this event ever happening at the height of the summer — it would be too disruptive to Sandown — we want more events like this.

"If we can get hotels in Sandown busier, a week earlier than they would normally be, they are already going to be happy about it."