WELCOMING the Irish Open in 2017 to Lough Erne, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Alan Clarke, said that the international competition could attract up to 90, 000 people to the county – while appearing to £300m people via television.
The announcement was made last week, and, speaking to the Fermanagh Herald during a ‘Meet the Buyers’ international business event being held at the resort, Mr Clarke’s excitement was clear.
“We’d probably been planning it for 9–12 months. I’ve been in pretty close liaison with Fergal (Purcell, outgoing general manager) and John (O’Neill, marketing manager) at the hotel here regarding it.
“We were always keen to bring the Irish Open to the Lough Erne because we thought it was an important part of the G8 legacy. Obviously Royal County Down was also in the mix, so we’re obviously thrilled we got both, Down in ’15, and Lough Erne in ’17.”
Speaking about Fermanagh as a tourism product, Mr Clarke, pictured, noted a change in just what the county is selling itself as.
“Going back probably 30 years ago, Fermanagh tourism was based on angling and cruising – both of those markets have suffered, angling has decreased, cruising has gone through a difficult period although it is trying to reinvent itself. But I think Fermanagh is now beginning to change its product base: Golf, and the whole aspect of the Lough Erne resort, food comes in.
“The fact that it’s so accessible with the new road from Belfast is important.”
The G8, also held at the resort in June 2013, has provided a ‘real boost’ to the resort and county’s profile.
“The fact that there was the royal visit last week was on the back of the G8, this ‘meet the buyer’ event is on the back of the G8, and the Irish Open is coming on the back of the G8.
“So we are getting real long-term benefits coming out of the G8, and the profile of Fermanagh.”
As well as the Irish Open, the tourist board’s biggest project for the county revolved around a £1.5m investment into the Enniskillen Castle complex.
Mr Clarke explained: “I think that could be a really exciting thing for Fermanagh.”
“Fermanagh is never going to have the big capital investments of other places because of its rural nature but it’s more important that what it does is quality.”
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