Northern Ireland bets on McIlroy star power
Northern Ireland policy makers at Stormont hope sports stars such as Rory McIlroy can help boost spending on golf north of the border by more than €23m over the next five years.
Golf tourism currently brings about €45m into the Northern Irish economy annually.
Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster is now aiming to push that figure up to just over €68m by the end of 2020, with part of the plan being to highlight the roots of players such as Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Mrs Foster said: "The vision of the strategy is to grow the value of golf tourism to £50m per annum by 2020, and in doing so to remind golfers worldwide that Northern Ireland is where golf champions are born and play.
"As a sport and as a tourism asset, golf operates on a worldwide scale so there has never been a better time for Northern Ireland to formulate a new strategy to tap into its potential," she added.
The statement coincided with an announcement by Failte Ireland that the organisation is hosting 40 international golf buyers and media in Ireland this week to attend the 2015 Golf Ireland Convention. The tourism body is arranging the forum for overseas golf operators to meet with over 50 Irish golf industry members
A spokesman for Failte Ireland said the announcement is important as the organisation is looking to grow revenue from golf tourism "significantly".
The representative added that he thought that Stormont's plans to grow Northern Ireland's golf sector would not have a negative effect on Ireland.
"I don't think it will hurt Irish golf," he said.
"People who come to the island won't just stop at the border, they'll come and play here as well, and when you look at the value of the euro against the sterling they'll probably get better value here at the moment," he added.
Golf tourism is currently worth over €200m a year to the Irish economy.