Above: John McLaughlin, CEO, North & West Coast Links Golf Ireland.
With the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin concluded for another year, one of Ireland’s leading golf marketing companies has claimed that the tournament’s resurgence in recent years, aligned with a proactive global marketing drive, is providing a real boost for golf tourism across the island.
North & West Coast Links Golf Ireland has almost 30 years’ experience in promoting Irish links golf to tour operators and golf enthusiasts around the world, and CEO John McLaughlin revealed that package bookings have increased significantly since 2014 – a period that has seen the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open become one of the biggest events on the European Tour calendar with a huge prize fund of $7 million as part of the prestigious European Tour Rolex series.
“Ireland has always been renowned as a quality golf tourism destination, attracting visitors from all over the world,” said McLaughlin. “However, there is no doubt that the resurgence of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as one of the biggest events on the European Tour has helped increase awareness of our amazing golf product and boosted visitor numbers in the lucrative golf tourism sector. Hosting events like the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase our courses to a huge global audience. These big events, combined with our own global marketing strategy of promoting Ireland at more than 30 trade shows overseas annually have definitely helped raise awareness and deliver business.”
In addition to the 94,000 spectators who attended the tournament at Ballyliffin last week, live footage of Russell Knox’s play-off victory, set against the Donegal coastline, was beamed to a potential global TV audience of up to 600 million viewers. It is this worldwide exposure that will help create a lasting legacy for Donegal and the wider North West region of Ireland, according to McLaughlin.
“For the past week, the eyes of the golfing world have been on Ballyliffin and County Donegal, and anyone who saw the TV coverage cannot help but be impressed by how spectacular the course and indeed the wider region of Donegal – which also featured prominently – came across on screen,” he said, noting the credit that must be given to tourism bodies Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland. “This area is now well and truly on the map and such global recognition makes our jobs a lot easier as we travel around the world promoting golf and tourism in this part of the world. Already, we are receiving messages and expressions of interest in Ballyliffin and this interest in Irish golf is only set to increase when The Open Championship comes to Royal Portrush, another of our member courses, in 2019.”
This year’s Irish Open was the last to be hosted by Rory McIlroy – former Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley is set to take over in 2019 with Lahinch Golf Club earmarked as the venue. McLaughlin paid tribute to McIlroy’s impact during his four-year tenure as tournament host. “Rory McIlroy’s support of the Irish Open – and securing a major title sponsor in the shape of Dubai Duty Free – have really helped raise the tournament to a new level with a massive global audience,” he said. “The past week has been incredible, providing an amazing platform to showcase the fantastic Ballyliffin course and the natural breathtaking beauty of the Inishowen Peninsula to golf fans all over the world.”