Belfast Telegraph

Open Championship boost for firms as Portrush venue confirmed

One of golf's biggest events will be staged here in 2019, and our hotels, pubs and shops are ready to cash in

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's economy is set for a Major boost when the The Open arrives in 2019 with pubs, hotels and shops all hoping to cash in.

One of the world's biggest sports tournaments, The Open Championship will be hosted by Royal Portrush from July 18-21, 2019, marking the first time the prestigious event has been held here in 68 years.

As Acting First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the confirmation of the event, a spokesman for their office said The Open would attract 200,000 spectators.

He said: "With the estimated spend per golfer at £385 per day, or £2,500 per trip, hosting major golf events plays a key role in realising our ambitious plans to grow tourism in Northern Ireland to a £1bn industry by 2020."

And Janice Gault, chief executive of the Hotels Federation, said hotels beyond the north coast would also receive a boost in demand.

She said: "Portrush is no different to locations like Troon, St Andrews and Gleneagles, who draw on accommodation options up to two hours away. We understand that a wide range of accommodation options are being utilised throughout Northern Ireland.

"We are working closely with The Open to ensure that we give visitors an excellent experience and the event will bring benefits to a wide range of businesses including retail, hospitality and transport."

And she said the staging of the event would build a "fantastic legacy" for tourism in future.

She added: "The event will give us promotion and advertising that we simply could not afford to buy and will allow us to consolidate our position as a leading golf destination."

Wilfred Mitchell, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, said the event was a boon to tourism, but added: "There needs to be an activity-based tourism offering which encourages visitors to extend their stay beyond one night, rather than attending with the sole intention of viewing the event and then leaving."

And the Department for Regional Development said it would do its bit for infrastructure. A spokesman said: "The major dual carriageway upgrade between Glarryford and the (A44) Drones Road on the A26, which is due for completion by 2017, will bring wide-ranging benefits for the public transport infrastructure leading to the Portrush area."

Translink added: "We look forward to learning more details about The Open in 2019 and how we can work with the organisers to provide public transport options."

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), welcomed the event. He said: "I hope that the event will be structured in a way to easily facilitate visitors to The Open shopping in local towns such as Portrush, Coleraine and Portstewart."

Paul Kane, manager of The Distillers Arms pub and restaurant in Bushmills, said it was eagerly anticipating the event and the crowds it would bring. "When Royal Portrush hosted the Irish Open in 2012 it was incredibly busy for us. In fact, it was our busiest time ever. We will be hoping for the same crowds this time."

Suzanne Conkey, director of department store The White House in Portrush, said it was also anticipating a big boost to business from the event.

She said the completion of dualling of the A26 would improve the town's readiness for the event. She said: "It will lever significant inward investment in infrastructure and facilities, which of course is not only good for residents, but for the many visitors that come to the north coast each year and for the future legacy of the north coast."

A spokesman for Tourism NI said the arrival of The Open was a "huge vote of confidence" in Royal Portrush.

"The infrastructure around Royal Portrush Golf Club, including road access, was superb in 2012 for the Irish Open and we will be working with all our partners such as the PSNI, local council and transport providers to ensure the same is the case in 2019."

Belfast Telegraph

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