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Open Championship 2019

Volume 658: debated on Wednesday 10 April 2019

8. What assessment she has made of the effect on Northern Ireland’s economy of hosting the Open championship 2019. (910253)

As a former tourism Minister, I am delighted that in July the Open championship is making an historic return to Northern Ireland after 68 years. Tourism Northern Ireland expects up to 190,000 spectators will attend the event at the Royal Portrush golf club and estimates that the benefit to the Northern Ireland economy will be £80 million. Tourism in Northern Ireland is going from strength to strength. During the first quarter of 2018, visitors spent an unprecedented £180 million.

What steps is the Minister taking to capitalise on this top international sporting event to promote Northern Irish tourism and showcase business opportunities?

My hon. Friend will know that tourism is a devolved matter, which is yet another reason for the Stormont Executive to reform quickly. I also urge businesses to use the event as a huge marketing opportunity. Portrush will be a target-rich environment for them, full of potential customers, suppliers and contacts for all sectors of Northern Ireland’s economy—not just tourism. I am sure they will grab it with both hands.

If the hon. Gentleman intends favourably to reference Rory McIlroy, I will call him. If he does not, I will not.

He is one of the best golfers in the world. Will the Minister meet Invest Northern Ireland, as I have, to ensure that we maximise every potential investment opportunity on the back of the Open returning to Royal Portrush after an absence of almost 70 years?

I am happy to meet Invest Northern Ireland and anyone else who wants to bring more investment into Northern Ireland.