TORBAY is to bid to host the internationally prestigious Geopark Global Conference in 2016.
Mayor Gordon Oliver has declared to councillors that it is a golden opportunity for the Bay to boost visitor numbers and enhance its reputation.
He said: “This will have enormous economic benefits.”
The decision was made at a meeting of the full council on Thursday evening.
But there was a split between councillors with some fearful that Torbay will be left with a huge bill should the event not attract enough financial backing.
“The costs will be covered by the fees and the private sector,” said the Mayor.
He accused those who did not support the bid of not being ambitious enough for the Bay.
“We have got to give people hope for a better time,” he said.
“Events like this bring an awful lot of benefits for retail and business.”
Global Geopark status is awarded to areas with internationally important geology and outstanding heritage where it is used for the benefit of the community.
Torbay is the smallest urban Geopark, having been endorsed by UNESCO in 2007.
The meeting voted by a majority of 19 to nine for the council to bid the host the conference in 2016.
There was concern at the recommendation to ‘underwrite any shortfall in costs of hosting’.
Cllr Mike Morey said he had come to the meeting expecting to back the idea but on closer inspection feared Torquay could be left with a hefty bill.
He tabled a motion to delay the decision until the next meeting pending a stronger business case being compiled.
But Cllr Dave Butt told him that bids to host the event needed to be tabled with the Geopark organisation by the autumn with final bids submitted in spring 2014.
Cllr Alan Tyreman said: “I just do not believe the council can effectively write a blank cheque. It will remove the incentive with the company running it.”
Cllr Darren Cowell said it was ‘tempting’ to support the idea of holding a prestigious conference in the Bay with the associated benefit of promoting the area.
But he would vote against the idea due to the financial risks.
Cllr Matthew James said it was ‘scheme for good times and not for austerity’.
But Cllr Morey’s motion was defeated and the Mayor’s view prevailed.
An amendment saying the council would ‘work with partners’ to underwrite any shortfall was agreed after being proposed by Cllr Alison Hernandez.