Tourism chiefs have been blown away by the success of The Open championship at Royal Portrush and believe it has opened up unprecedented potential for businesses in Northern Ireland.
The tournament’s return to the Province after 68 years was accompanied by record-breaking crowds, as hundreds of thousands of people from across the world converged on the small seaside town.
The biggest sporting event ever to hit NI attracted some 237,750 visitors, and is estimated to have boosted the local economy by £80m.
For one week, the eyes of the sporting world were firmly fixed on the north coast, as pictures of the stunning golf course and surrounding landscape – including Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge – were beamed out to some 600m households.
And Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen believes the “groundbreaking” opportunities created by The Open will be “fully grasped” by businesses here in the decades ahead.
He added: “Royal Portrush has not only broken records as the first ever Open to completely sell out, and the biggest Open ever to be held outside St Andrews, but also for the poetic story of the championship’s historic return after such a long absence, our stunning scenery and our incredibly warm and welcoming people.”
Mr McGrillen said he believed The Open would soon be back at Portrush.
Martin Slumbers, CEO of tournament organisers R&A, would not be drawn on when the competition may return to these shores, but added: “Big-time sport needs big-time crowds, and I think Royal Portrush has ticked a lot of boxes.”