Following confirmation that Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els will be joining the other elite names confirmed for this year’s Irish Open at Royal County Down, Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster has urged golf fans to get booking for the tournament, which is just 100 days away.
Endorsement from world number one Rory McIlroy, who is hosting this event for the first time through his charity The Rory Foundation, is helping to recruit some of the leading players from both the European and PGA Championships.
More than 90,000 spectators are expected for the event, which presents many opportunities for tourism growth. The prestigious links at Royal County Down is, in itself, a major attraction having appeared in countless lists of the world’s best golf courses.
Arlene Foster said: “Latest figures show that the economic impact of golf tourism has risen to £33million, up from £27million, with a greater number of visitors than ever flying in direct to Belfast to play golf across Northern Ireland.
“The Irish Open provides Tourism Northern Ireland with huge marketing and promotional opportunities, through hosting media and tour operator visits, celebrity participation in the Pro Am and a TV advertising campaign, the ‘Unmissable Irish Open’, scheduled to start airing in early March. Similarly, Tourism Ireland will be using the opportunity to reach out to media and tour operators, particularly in close to home markets such as Great Britain.
“I have no doubt that this year’s event will be just as exciting as the 2012 event, which broke all previous records and became the only tournament to sell-out in advance over the 40-year history of the European Tour. With tens of thousands of tickets already sold, it is well on course to match that success.
“We will pull out all the stops to ensure that Northern Ireland will stage a world-class golfing event that will be long remembered by players and spectators alike. In May this year the eyes of the world will be on us and I have every confidence that this year’s Irish Open will be the best ever.”
TV images of the championship will be beamed to up to a quarter of a billion homes across the world.
The introduction of a re-entry system will enable spectators to exit and enter on the same ticket and allow them to explore more of Newcastle and Northern Ireland in between visits to the competition.