Belfast Telegraph

Portrush traders hoping for a long-term lift from Open

Portrush is geared up for business during the Open event
Portrush is geared up for business during the Open event

By Christopher Leebody

Businesses in Portrush are expecting the economic and retail benefits from the 148th Open Championship to be felt for years to come.

Councillor Norman Hillis, who runs the R & J Hillis department store in the town, explained that he is among the retailers focused on the long-term benefits of seeing more overseas visitors in the town.

"It's always busy at this time of the year to start with," he said.

"We are probably replacing our normal domestic retail with a lot of golf business.

"A lot more foreign visitors like Americans have been around. We've been pleased up to now, but obviously these people are mostly staying out of town and being brought in by bus."

He added: "To be quite honest, I'm not really focused on what we do this week. I'm focused on the benefits from here on in - which are going to be big for us for years."

Tourism NI have put the estimated economic benefit from hosting the event at £80m, with 238,000 attending the tournament. The Portrush man hopes to inspire some of the watching audience to come back.

"We have to remember this Open is going to be beamed out to 600 million people around the world," he said.

"We are told over 30% of people visiting the Open come back either to visit the course or come back to stay. We are looking at hopefully the long-term.

"Big efforts have been made to bring the people from the course into the town for a while. I'm happy, I think we're centre-stage at the present time.

"It's not just a Portrush event, it's a Northern Ireland event. I think the impact is province-wide. But any time Portrush gets mentioned is a benefit."

Other local retailers echoed the focus on a longer term expectation of the windfall from increased global attention on the town.

Maggie Sutherland's gift store Memento on Causeway Street is on the main thoroughfare from Royal Portrush Golf Club. She pointed to a notable increase in foreign visitors.

"Definitely the couple of weeks leading up to it, there were certainly more visitors from other countries than I've seen previously," she said.

"I think this spike is different. I've been operating 11 years and we never really have had so many foreign visitors coming into the town."

She added: "I am very hopeful and optimistic post the Open that people will have heard of Portrush. Not the actual week of the Open, but the long-term is what we're focused on."

Andrew Hill runs Troggs Surf Shop in the town. An increase in footfall has seen him extend opening hours in the store to cope with the demand. "We have been staying open late in the evenings. There's an awful lot of foreign tourists. The vibe in the shop has been very good craic," he said.

"We have actually produced bespoke products for the event, they have been selling well. Chatting to a lot of people, they all want to come back."

Glyn Roberts, from Retail NI, said: "This is going to be a very big boost to the retail and hospitality sector. It is a clear boost not just to Portrush but to Northern Ireland as a whole."

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