Rory McIlroy’s new number one world ranking is “a gift from the gods” when it comes to tapping into Northern Ireland’s tourism potential.
That’s according to the UUP's Mike Nesbitt who raised the achievement as the “matter of the day” at Stormont on Monday and described him as a “global superstar”.
His comments came as Northern Ireland MLAs united to pay tribute to the 22-year-old golf sensation, who clinched victory in the Honda Classic in Florida at the weekend.
But Mr Nesbitt said more should be done to capitalise on the potential to draw tourists on the back of his success, such as having a marketing executive follow Rory round the globe.
“You could have a marketing executive from Tourism Ireland to follow him on tour and they could bring a big suitcase full of flyers and hand these out,” he said.
“There would be a lot of retired business people who would do this for the price of the flight and accommodation, and would be very good spokespeople for us.
“In the great scheme of things, when Invest NI have handed back £40m in the last six months, you’re talking peanuts to really have a go at what is a gift from the gods.”
He added: “This week Rory plays in the Cadillac Championship in Florida. A flight out to Miami is £233 plus tax from Heathrow, so you could have somebody at the Doral golf course on Thursday where Rory tees off as world number one.”
The politician also said there should be three life-sized cut-outs of Rory and his golfing counterparts Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell at airports and ports here.
Advertising agency director Julie-Anne Bailie said now is the time to capitalise on Rory’s victory. “He’s an icon, given his talent, professionalism and the way he represents the country,” she said.
“He’s doing a wonderful job as an ambassador for our country and everything about Rory is right for Northern Ireland at this time.”
Max Clifford, PR guru, said Rory could have a “huge influence” on the local economy by promoting Northern Ireland.
“Nothing succeeds like success and in the years to come he could become a huge asset,” Mr Clifford said.