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“Tough to keep up with the demands”: The impact the Cheltenham Festival has on businesses in the town

Every year the Cheltenham festival sets the town alight in a unique week filled with every emotion from outright heartache to unbridled joy, but what we don’t see away from the emotional rollercoaster of the racecourse itself, is the seismic impact on the businesses in the town.

Thousands of horse racing fans journey to Cheltenham to witness the biggest racing event of the year.

In 2022, a total of 280,627 people attended over the four days of the festival, with a sell-out crowd of 73,875 for the Gold Cup on the final day of racing.

Ahead of the racing, which gets underway on Tuesday, shops, restaurants and hotels have been preparing for the huge influx of visitors.

University of Gloucestershire student and McDonald’s employee, Dylan Sykes, has worked in Cheltenham for over two years and has experienced the pandemonium the races cause first hand.

While the store is on the outside of town, they are still impacted, he said: “In the evenings it does not get quite as busy as the one in the centre of town, but in the mornings, as everyone is coming into Cheltenham, you notice a massive difference in the amount of people there.

“McDonald’s find it tough to keep up with the demands from the people they need to supply, it can get extremely hectic.”

The third-year student also compared the rush of the races to the waves of people that come in after a Cheltenham Town game, stating: “Everyone regrets working when Cheltenham Town play, it’s a thing between the workers that when a game finishes, around 5:30-6pm you’re going to have to deal with the rush.

While the Cheltenham races do provide a huge source of revenue for businesses, it is evident they cause a lot of drama.

In 2021 however, there was no such problems for the local retailers, as the racing event was held behind closed doors due to Covid-19.

Sykes commented on this, saying: “McDonald’s lost out on a lot of predicted revenue, whereas if the races had been on they could have made a lot of money with the hundreds of thousands of people that would have been coming to Cheltenham.”

The Festival was found to bring in an estimated £274 million to the local economy last year, making it vitally important to the town.

As well as restaurants, hotels are filled throughout the week with such a large amount of people travelling to Cheltenham.

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Employee at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Caitlin Walsh, touched upon how the festival affects her job, she said: “While It is on the outskirts of town and there are other hotels that are even more busy, the Hilton does noticeably get a lot busier than normal.

This means there are a lot more rooms to clean and longer stays for people who are there for the whole festival, but it is good because you do get some nice tips from the people who have stayed.

Cheltenham this year is sure to provide plenty of excitement but it will be a challenging week for those working in businesses around the town.

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