Leaders bid to boost golf tourism
Northern Ireland's political leaders have taken to the fairways on the last round of their business mission to China.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the UBS Hong Kong Open in a bid to promote golf tourism back home.
The ministers were guests at the Hong Kong Golf Club, in Fanling, for the European Tour International Schedule tournament.
But they did not get the chance to cheer on Northern Ireland's world number one Rory McIlroy as the Co Down golfer missed the cut.
Mr Robinson said: "The participation and success of local golfers has shone the international spotlight on Northern Ireland, giving us the ideal opportunity to promote local tourism.
"China is a significant emerging market and that is why we are working to build awareness of Northern Ireland as a tourism destination.
"Golf tourism currently generates over £14 million per year for the local economy in Northern Ireland, with the average spend per golf visitor coming in at £300-£450, significantly higher than the average visitor spend."
Mr McGuinness added: "As our golfers continue to play at the highest level of competitive golf around the world, more people will want to come to play the courses that our local golfers enjoy, and this will increase tourism spend in our local economy.
"Tournaments, such as the Hong Kong Open, represent a window to the world to gain further widespread exposure, and we are working to make the most of the opportunities created by our world-class golfers. Promoting our golf offering to an international audience and capitalising on the current global interest in our local golfers will help grow tourism here."
Jamie Birkmyre, championship director of the UBS Hong Kong Open, said: "It was an honour to host the First Minster and the Deputy First Minister at the UBS Hong Kong Open. Their commitment to golf and the European Tour was evident in their support at the Irish Open, and we were delighted that they took time out of their busy schedules to attend another of our prestigious tournaments. We hope that they thoroughly enjoyed their visit, and we look forward to welcoming them to more tournaments in the near future."