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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Golf tourism could boost economy
Rory McIlroy at the Walker Cup
Unfazed by the weather, golfers may be the perfect tourists
Golf tourism has to potential to boost Northern Ireland's economy, tourism minister Nigel Dodds has said.

He was speaking at the Walker Cup, held in Newcastle, County Down, over the weekend.

It is is the biggest event in the amateur golf world's calendar. Players from the USA beat a Great Britain and Ireland team at Royal County Down.

Mr Dodds told American and British journalists that the first Walker Cup held in NI was a showcase for the area.

"Northern Ireland needs to realise the full potential of golf tourism by encouraging some of the 60 million golfers worldwide to holiday here," he said.

"Statistics have shown that every 1 spent by a golfer is worth 15 to the local economy and because golfers care less about the weather than other travellers there is limitless potential to increase the golf tourism market."

Mr Dodds said coverage by the international golfing media offered a global stage to showcase local attractions and activities.

Chairman of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Tom McGrath said the Walker Cup and such events helps establish "a strong competitive advantage" for Northern Ireland.

"Golf tourism is a very important sector for us with golf visits to Northern Ireland rising by 58% between 2003 and 2006," he said.

"Such statistics are an endorsement of our excellent golf products with some of the finest courses in the world on our doorstep."

The NITB brought the American and British journalists to see some of Northern Ireland's tourism highlights on a tour of the Causeway Coastal Route and Belfast city and other top golf courses.

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