Leaders tee off on final round of trade trip

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ULSTER’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 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 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.”

And 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.”

Jamie Birkmyre, championship director of the UBS Hong Kong Open, said the two leaders’ “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”.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness also congratulated Wrightbus on the news that a Hong Kong-based bus company has ordered 50 new double-decker buses from the Co Antrim firm. The Kowloon Motor Bus Company agreed the multi-million pound contract, for 50 double decker bodywork kits, and the order will sustain jobs set up to manufacture complete knock-down kits. The buses will be assembled in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, for delivery during 2013 and a group of Ballymena-based workers will travel to China to help with assembly.

During their business mission the ministers met with Mark Savelli, transport development director, of the Kowloon Motor Bus Company at the Star Ferry Bus Terminus site to see a Wrightbus on the streets of Hong Kong.