THE official sponsor of the the second stage of the Aviva Tour of Britain cycling race has announced a ‘significant’ increase in demand for holidays in East Lancashire.

Welcome Cottages, which is based in Earby, has seen searches for accommodation in the area double this summer, coinciding with the staging of the UK’s biggest professional cycle race.

The self-catering holiday specialist said that the race was a ‘fantastic event’ to be involved with, and was a great chance to showcase the region.

The company has said the presence of a number of top cyclists, including Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins and world and UK champion Mark Cavendish, has provided a welcome boost to tourism in the area.

It has also helped to support the local economy and to raise awareness of the Lancashire area.

As well as a 50 per cent rise in direct searches for holidays in Lancashire year on year, Welcome Cottages has also seen a notable rise in searches for the Clitheroe and Ribble Valley area, specifically during the current season.

On Monday, Stage Two of the tour started in Clitheroe, passed through beautiful Forest of Bowland area before finishing in Colne.

Nick Rudge, managing director at Welcome Cottages said: “We were all really excited to welcome the Tour of Britain to Earby and proud to be supporting such a prestigious cycling event.

“As a local company we joined residents in celebrating the arrival of the riders as they sped past the office on Monday.

“Hosting this fantastic event is also a great opportunity to showcase the stunning landscape here in Lancashire to a much wider audience.

“As a result we are now welcoming increasing numbers of holidaymakers looking to enjoy the spectacular scenery and friendly people. Our latest search figures testify to the positive effect the event is having on tourism.”

About 20,000 people were in Clitheroe to see the race start on Monday with a further 30,000 in Colne to see the dramatic climax to the race.

It is thought that hundreds of thousands in the UK and around the world watched footage of the race.