The 148th Open at Royal Portrush boosted the Northern Ireland economy and attracted close to 250,000 spectators compounding increased efforts in harvesting Northern Ireland’s golf tourism potential.
The 2015 launch of Northern Ireland’s Golf Tourism Strategy set out ambitions to grow the value of golf tourism to £50 million per year by 2020, recognising that golf visitors tend to stay longer and spend on average three times more than the average visitor.
A major boost to this ambition came in the form of The 148th Open hosted at Royal Portrush Golf Club in July, one of two of the world’s top 10 golf courses located within Northern Ireland. The event was the first time in 68 years that Northern Ireland played host to the Open and following its success, it’s expected to return within the next decade.
A total of 237,750 spectators and 156 golfers are estimated to have contributed some £80-£100 million to the local economy throughout the tournament and could see the £50 million target surpassed for 2019.
Research suggests that for every £1 spent on green fees in Northern Ireland, a minimum of £4 is spent elsewhere in the economy and a major boost for Northern Ireland was the fact that over 54 per cent of visitors to The Open cam from outside of Northern Ireland.
In 2018, non-domestic overnight golfers made up 74 per cent of the economic impact in Northern Ireland of golf tourism. Golf tourism to Northern Ireland is holding strong at a time when golf participation continues to fall in established markets, such as in the UK. Key markets visiting Northern Ireland continue to include North America, Great Britain, Republic of Ireland, Nordics and Germany.
Economic impact of golf tourism, non-domestic overnight golfers
As well as the impact of green fees and wider economic spend associated with golf visitors, Northern Ireland has recognised the potential for golf events to drive regional and economic spend. Major events have played a key role in the industry’s growth to date, encouraging regional spread and creating reasons to visit Northern Ireland in the ‘off peak’ season.
Past events such as the Giro d’Italia, the MTV European Music Awards, the hosting of the Irish Open and the Women’s Rugby World Cup have all had a positive impact on the perception of Northern Ireland in key overseas markets and legacy attributes continue to make an economic contribution.
With regards to The Open, legacy projects are being developed by the Department for the Economy in conjunction with the Department for Communities, Sport NI and Causeway Coast and Glens Council with a focus on youth participation in golf, whilst marketing campaigns are planned to drive legacy messaging of golf tourism and highlight accommodation availability.