Almost 30 golf tourism providers from around the world have arrived in Co Down to learn more about Northern Ireland's plans to build the sport into a £50m industry.
The 27 international tour operators from markets including the USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the UK spent yesterday golfing at Royal County Down ahead of a Golf Tourism Convention today.
It will include a series of networking opportunities that will cover 540 appointments. The tour operators will also meet some of NI's golf clubs, resorts, accommodation and transport providers as well as visitor experience operators.
Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the event will bring the golf tourism market closer to its 2020 target of £50m.
Speaking at the event in Newcastle's Slieve Donard Hotel, Mr McGrillen said: "Golf has become an increasingly important part of the tourism industry here. Over the past five years its contribution to the local tourism economy has grown by over 50% and in 2018, we welcomed over 124,000 golf visitors, contributing £42.6m to the local economy."
And it is expected that the 148th Open competition in Royal Portrush, which will be held this July, will further boost the number of visitors coming to NI for golf.
The last international golfing event here was the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open held in Portstewart back in 2017.
Mr McGrillen added: "With two of the top golf courses in the world and the arrival of The 148th Open at Royal Portrush in July, Northern Ireland's reputation as a world class golf destination will grow even further. We are well on our way to growing the value of golf tourism in Northern Ireland to £50m by 2020."
Tim Willerton from Premier Golf, which is based in Georgia, US, said: "The Tourism NI Golf Convention is a great opportunity for us to meet the multiple golf suppliers and build relationships with them. The golf familiarisation trip is a wonderful way to experience what a golf tour is like in Northern Ireland so we can sell packages and the NI golf experience to our customers in the USA."
Just last month, Tourism NI exhibited at the Asia Golf Tourism Convention in Cambodia and this month it showcased all NI tourism opportunities to buyers from 22 markets at its annual Meet the Buyer event at the ICC Belfast.