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NI ‘Best Golf Destination in Western Europe’ accolade

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TOURISM Northern Ireland has released new figures showing that the overall value of golf tourism reached a new high last year, and now far exceeds pre-pandemic levels, driven by more spend by golfers from Great Britain and North America.
Research conducted by Sporting Insights for Tourism NI’s annual Golf Tourism Monitor showed that the overall value of Golf Tourism in 2023 increased to £68.2m, the highest figure ever recorded for golf tourism in NI, and well above the £52m recorded in 2019, the year which saw The Open Championship return to Royal Portrush.
The figures have been published as the region’s golf industry is celebrating Northern Ireland being named the Best Golf Destination in Western Europe by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).
The IAGTO awards, which are voted for by 660 golf tour operators around the world, recognise the destinations, golf resorts, golf courses and destination management companies that delivered outstanding service to their clients.
IAGTO recognises only a select few deserving suppliers and destinations each year and announced the winners of its Europe & Africa awards at its 24th annual IAGTO European Convention in Malaga this week.
Peter Walton, Chief Executive of IAGTO said: “It is a huge endorsement of Northern Ireland’s golf product that our members have voted to name the region the Best Golf Destination in Western Europe.
“IAGTO tour operators demand a very high standard of service and experience to even put a destination on the list of places they bring their valued customers to year after year.
“While Northern Ireland has always had great golf courses, the rest of the package is clearly also meeting and exceeding their expectations.”
Tourism NI’s research shows that North America remains the priority market for golf visitors, accounting for £36.2m of total value in 2023.
Golfers from Great Britain generated £11.9m for the local tourism sector in 2023, up from £6.5m in 2019, reflecting the emphasis on close to home markets following the Covid-19 pandemic. Domestic overnight and day visitors contributed £8.4m.
The report also showed that the overall number of non-domestic golfers visiting NI increased from 23,400 in 2019 to 29,000 in 2023. It said an increase in prices and the thriving luxury end of the market for US visitors helped drive the overall growth in economic impact.
Those who travelled from furthest afield, such as North America or outside Europe, on average played one round at five different courses, more than visitors from Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland or Europe. The majority of domestic visitors played a parkland course while those from the US predominantly played links courses.
George Diamondis, Golf Marketing Manager at Tourism NI, said: “Tourism NI is really encouraged by the figures in this year’s Golf Tourism Monitor, which show the efforts by the industry during and after the pandemic laid the groundwork for a great recovery. More golfers are visiting us from key markets, staying longer and spending more.
“We’re also delighted that the quality of Northern Ireland’s golf offering and the high level of services provided here has been recognised by the prestigious IAGTO awards. Everyone in the golf sector should take great pride in being named the top destination in Europe by this very selective group of international golf tour operators.
“Northern Ireland continues to attract golfers from North America and our close to home markets in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Golfers from Europe and the rest of the world typically look for trophy venues and are more difficult to target due to flight connections and tee time availability.
“So as we look to the future, there is room for growth in attracting visitors from those markets by finding solutions to these challenges.”

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