The world’s biggest individually timed cycling event not only brings tens of thousands of cyclists to the city, but also boosts the local economy by half a billion rand.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour takes place on Sunday, when more than 35 000 cyclists – amateurs and professionals – will tackle the gruelling 109km around the Cape Peninsula.

It’s regarded as a “second Christmas” for Cape Town by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry. For starters, the chamber’s airport statistics show that March is the second-most popular month for people coming into Cape Town.

Last year, 747 000 people arrived in Cape Town on domestic flights during March, just 10 000 fewer than the number in December 2015.

The chamber’s chief executive, Sid Peimer, said many more people drove to Cape Town and brought their families.

“The effect of their presence ripples through the whole economy and everybody benefits, from cycle repair shops to car hire companies. There are also long-term benefits that are more difficult to measure. The cycle tour gets worldwide television publicity for Cape Town, and that brings even more visitors.

“Completing the tour becomes something people put on their bucket lists.”

The cycle tour and the Easter holidays prolonged the tourist season, and that made every business in the sector more viable, Peimer said.

Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde said on Friday the Cycle Tour would bring around R500 million into the local economy.