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Big bounce for tourism as golfers set to flock to Irish Open at Royal County Down

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Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster yesterday with Gordon Simpson (left) of the European Tour, Kathryn Thomson of Tourism NI and David Wilson, captain of Royal County Down Golf Club

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster yesterday with Gordon Simpson (left) of the European Tour, Kathryn Thomson of Tourism NI and David Wilson, captain of Royal County Down Golf Club

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster yesterday with Gordon Simpson (left) of the European Tour, Kathryn Thomson of Tourism NI and David Wilson, captain of Royal County Down Golf Club

Tourism Northern Ireland is hoping to use the lure of the Irish Open at Royal County Down to spark a surge in golf tourism.

The event, which begins on May 28, is expected to attract more than 90,000 spectators, with 20% of the tickets sold so far being bought by fans from overseas.

Figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti) found that golf tourism in Northern Ireland had risen to £33m last year up from £27m in 2013. However, Tourism NI has said it wants to grow golf tourism to £50m annually by 2020.

The average golf tourist has a daily spend of £365, compared to a standard tourist's spend of £72 per day.

Tourism NI is looking to build on the success of the Irish Open in 2012 at Royal Portrush, which attracted 120,000 spectators.

Visitors from outside Northern Ireland spent £1.635m during the four-day event, while the total spent when including people resident here was £8.59m.

Kathryn Thomson, chief operating officer at Tourism NI, said businesses in Portrush were still seeing the economic benefit of the Irish Open one year after the event.

She added: "The major sporting events help to positively position Northern Ireland as a good place, not just to visit, but to work, study and invest. They are really about perception changing as much as about economic benefit."

Gordon Simpson, spokesman for the European Tour, said: "The ticket sales are holding up incredibly well. We've already surpassed what we took in the entire pre-event at Fota Island last year, so based on these figures we think it's going to grow the Irish Open even further than 2012."

Irish Open latest, page 49


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