Belfast Telegraph

Golf tourism part of charm offensive

By David Elliott

If it weren't for the high rise buildings and warmer weather, Rory McIlroy might think he's teeing off in the North Coast this weekend when he looks around at the crowd to see the First and Deputy First Minister watching him.

He's not in County Antrim but instead at the UBS Hong Kong Open, a destination which is the final city on a whirlwind six-day trip to China for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

The ministers have been trying to drum up trade and investment for Northern Ireland in Shanghai since arriving on Monday and are due to travel to Hong Kong today before cheering McIlroy on tomorrow and heading home on Sunday.

While watching a few games of golf may seem like a pleasant way to end a trip to Hong Kong, we've been assured that the ministers won't have much time to cheer on Rory et al.

Their plan is to sell Northern Ireland as a tourist destination during the event and try and attract the type of high-spending golfers who travel with large bags and, hopefully, fat wallets.

According to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the average spend per golfer visiting Northern Ireland is between £300 to £450 per trip, a figure well up on the average visitor spend of only £188 per trip and one which reveals why golf has become so important in tourism strategy.

The First and Deputy First Ministers will be left to woo Chinese golfers at the Open themselves because Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster is flying home today after a busy time in Shenyang and its thought Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill is also heading back to Belfast having been talking farming in Beijing. The deal flow so far has been relatively light with a £1m contract for Carrickfergus company Yelo joining today's Glenarm Organic Salmon deal.

But we're assured that any deals announced on the trip are a bonus and that the aim of the visit is to make introductions to potential business partners, buyers or inward investors

who pays?

Invest NI explains...

There are 35 companies visiting China as part of Invest Northern Ireland's trade mission. Companies participating in Invest NI trade missions are able to avail of a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of economy air fare, and up to a maximum of £75 per night towards accommodation. Companies are encouraged to travel as a group to avail of group booking discounts. All claims must be supported by receipts.