Belfast Telegraph

Ripple effect of The Open being felt well beyond Portrush

Crowds flock to yesterday’s practice rounds at Royal Portrush
Crowds flock to yesterday’s practice rounds at Royal Portrush
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Longer stays and more international guests are just some of the rewards the hospitality trade has reaped ahead of the 148th Open as hoteliers ask "what's next" on the agenda.

And the ripple effect of the competition is being felt well beyond the confines of Royal Portrush, business owners have told the Belfast Telegraph.

Janice Gault, Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) chief executive, praised the public transport system that has been put in place to ensure everyone gets a slice of The Open cake.

She said: "The benefits of the 148th Open spread throughout Northern Ireland.

"Hotels and other tourism businesses have noted a considerable uplift in visitors. A collaborative approach with a well publicised transport infrastructure has allowed people to stay in hotels in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry and further afield."

Ciaran O'Neill is just one hotelier whose business, Bishop Gate - a 45-minute drive from Royal Portrush within the walls of Derry city - has welcomed the more lucrative golf tourists.

He said: "What we're finding is that we have more international, long-stay guests coming from America and Australia. They're all here for the competition and to play golf and we have been working with operators for two years to get this far. It's been similar to the Ballyliffin Open last year, but only the stays are longer and that's what we want, that's what tourism wants."

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And Mr O'Neill, former president of the NIHF, said he foresees The Open leaving a legacy.

"I think it's a game changer for NI and tourism, particularly in terms of international visitors. What we should now be asking ourselves is what's next? What's the next big event for us to hang our hats on?"

Vicky Green, associate director of business development at Andras House, which has a number of hotels and private apartments in Northern Ireland, agreed.

She said: "It's key for Northern Ireland to focus on capturing these events to reach a global audience. Tourism has an opportunity to grow its reputation and put us out there on a global stage.

"All our hotels across the group, from mid-market to luxury, and our apartments, have benefited. The Open has filled out accommodation in Belfast and this week we are fully booked.

"We're seeing a big increase from the American and Australian market and those travelling from as far as Korea, and Korea is a new market that we haven't had before," she said.

Owner of The Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, around 25 minutes from Portrush, Sean McLaughlin said the success of The Open is testament to "what we can do when we work together to get a job done".

He said: "From my perspective The Open is a fantastic success and continues to showcase Northern Ireland for fantastic views, welcome, and world class food product. We are getting stronger in the eyes of the world and so far we haven't skipped a beat."

Ms Gault added: "The Open is an opportunity to showcase the region and its ability to stage world class events and it is important that we build a legacy within the golfing fraternity and beyond."

Belfast Telegraph