Belfast Telegraph

The Open: Spectacular event expected to leave lasting impact on the local economy

Positive: Esmond Birnie
Positive: Esmond Birnie
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Economists and businesses believe the benefits of staging The Open in Northern Ireland will be reaped for years to come.

Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie said the tournament will have "a sizeable and positive impact" on the local economy. He cited the boost to output, promotion of the region and benefits in the longer term.

Mr Birnie estimated that Northern Ireland will have reaped over £90m through the competition, with some reports citing the figure could be much higher, reaching up to £120m.

He said: "There may be some lasting gains to tourism: repeat visitors or even people who watched the event on TV. Possibly also in terms of helping to promote Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment."

And although Mr Birnie said estimating the economic reward of the event is "an inexact science", economic optimism is rife.

Woodgate Aviation has high hopes in the wake of the tournament.

The company that services incoming and outgoing private jets and accommodates the needs of their passengers and crew said it used over 72,000 litres of oil during its busiest schedule to date at its Aldergrove base.

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Mark Glasgow from the firm said: "The Open was a test for Northern Ireland and that test was well and truly passed but also from our company's point of view, we showed that we're well equipped and well placed to deal with any big event.

"Nobody was delayed and everyone met their schedules.

"On our busiest day, the Sunday, we had 15 movements and on a usual Sunday you might normally get one inbound and outbound."

Among Woodgate's customers were professional golfers and "golfing enthusiasts" from Boston, Memphis, Canada and Paris who were left with a positive impression.

Mr Glasgow added: "Every business here in terms of transportation, catering, hospitality, has benefited from The Open. What's gone on here has pushed Northern Ireland further."

In the food sector many of Northern Ireland's top culinary names also felt a boost.

Keenan Seafood's commercial director Robert Shanks welcomed a contract worth £80,000 while Abernethy Butter's Allison Abernethy worked overtime with her team to provide 250kg rolls of butter.

She said: "If you supply a major event and you do well and supply on time you will find that if they're happy they will use you again."

The north coast's most famous ice-cream producer agreed.

Arnaldo Morelli, who heads up Morelli's - one of the suppliers for The Open - said: "I think the long-term benefits for Portrush and for the whole of Northern Ireland will be evident for years to come.

"Those pictures of our stunning coastline being beamed into 600m homes across the world is the type of advertising that money can't buy. The visitors from around the world who came into our shop were very complimentary of the area and the friendliness of the people.

"Hopefully, they'll tell their friends just how special a place the north coast is. I think we'll enjoy the legacy of The Open coming to Royal Portrush for years to come."

And in the arts sector, Ballycastle-based photographer Kevin McAuley said he saw his work increase dramatically and expects that business from the public and private sectors to stay.

He said: "I was busy all week and in the run up to the event with businesses wanting to promote things like food and sights. If the competition wasn't happening, I wouldn't have generated that work.

"I think there will be a big spin off in terms of tourism from The Open. I foresee that because it was a massive success.

"The atmosphere was electric even when the weather turned. I think The Open will be back much sooner than the 10-year slot people expect."

John McGrillen, Tourism NI chief executive, said the Open had been a huge success.

"Along with everyone else in the tourism industry here, I am very confident that The Open will be back soon and that tourism has a very exciting future ahead thanks to how Portrush, the Causeway Coast and Glens and the whole of Northern Ireland has delivered," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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