IRELAND’S STAR golfer Padraig Harrington today welcomed a convention to Donegal – with tour operators with a billion euros worth of business attending a convention at the luxurious Harvey’s Point Hotel this Friday.
The world’s top golf trade organisation visits Ireland for the first time this Friday – and Donegal is the place they have chosen to stay.
Delegates from IAGTO (The International Association of Golf Tour Operators) will be attending a special Fáilte Ireland workshop at Harvey’s Point Hotel where they will learn first-hand from Irish golf industry members and Fáilte Ireland representatives all about what Ireland has to offer the overseas golfer.
IAGTO is the global trade organisation for the golf tourism industry. Established in 1997, IAGTO’s membership comprises almost 400 of the top specialist golf tour operators in over 50 countries.
It is estimated that IAGTO’s operators control over 80% of golf holiday packages sold worldwide (outside of Asia) and turnover of more than €1 billion per year.
Welcoming IAGTO’s decision to come to Ireland, Padraig Harrington – in his capacity as Ireland’s Golf Ambassador – emphasised what the delegates would find here.
He said today: “Ireland is world-renowned for the high quality and wide choice of golf courses.
“However, there’s much more than just fantastic golf. There’s award winning accommodation, a range of outdoor activities to complement a golf tour, and a unique culture and heritage that can only be found in Ireland.
“The Irish people really make Ireland stand out amongst other golf destinations, it’s the friendly welcome that makes a tour to Ireland memorable and will make any golfer want to return.”
IAGTO hosts several workshops for their members around the world each year but this is the first time Ireland has hosted one.
The workshops allow golf destinations, such as Ireland, an opportunity to give the world’s most important tour operators and buyers an experience of what this country has to offer – golf and otherwise.
President and Chief Executive of IAGTO, Peter Walton, welcomed the opportunity for IAGTO members to visit Donegal.
He said: “This is by far the largest and most important international golf tourism event to have been staged in Ireland and it is taking place at a crucial time when outbound golfing markets are recovering, at different paces, from the economic downturn.
“This event will allow buyers and suppliers to fine tune this summer’s product and offers, whilst planning ahead for the 2012 season.”
Keith McCormack, Head of Fáilte Ireland’s Golf Division, explained: “This is big news for the golf industry. As many of these tour operators do not feature or sell Ireland as a golfing holiday destination at the moment, they represent rich potential for significantly increasing visitors to our shores.
“To achieve this, it is important to give them an opportunity to sample, for themselves, exactly what is on offer in Ireland and to get them to meet with a wide range of our golf clubs, accommodation providers, transport providers and local tour operators.
“We in Fáilte Ireland will also have our own experts on hand to promote all areas and activities available besides golf throughout Ireland. We hope to persuade these operators to sell Ireland to their clients and to significantly increase the number of inbound golfers along with the revenue they can generate for Ireland.”
Golf plays a big part in Irish tourism. There are more than 400 golf courses throughout Ireland, many set against backdrops of spectacular scenic landscapes. Indeed, Ireland is famous for having a third of the world’s links courses.
These spectacular links are complemented by an array of parkland courses which combine high-quality facilities and scenic beauty and offer a challenge to every golfer from beginner up to championship level.
Ireland has been chosen to host a succession of international professional golf championships over the past number of years – from the hugely successful Ryder Cup in 2006, to the Smurfit European Open (1995-2007), The American Express WGC Championship (2002 and 2004) and the Seve Trophy in 2002 and 2007.
In 2011, the highlight of Ireland’s sporting calendar will be The Solheim Cup. This event, the ladies’ version of the Ryder Cup, will be hosted in Killeen Castle, County Meath, between 23rd and 25th September.
Fáilte Ireland will continue to support and capitalise on the recently rejuvenated Irish Open, which remains a key event on the annual European Tour Calendar.
The Irish golfing community meets and welcomes almost 150,000 visitors annually. Golf is one of Ireland’s greatest tourist attractions, contributing an estimated €110 million to the economy.
The golfing industry has faced a number of significant challenges in the last few years. To address these, Fáilte Ireland has been working with the golf industry, through a national Golf Forum, to put in place a number of initiatives that will support the industry and help it back towards growth.
Mr McCormack added: “The arrival of our guests from the International Association of Golf Tour Operators is in keeping with our plans for the future development of the Irish golf industry. We need to be sharp in how we present our golf product and how we sell it abroad.
“Ultimately, we need to fight hard alongside our overseas competitors for a significant share of the international golfing market and the event in Donegal this week will help us towards that.”
Fáilte Ireland has significantly increased its golf budget for 2011. A new golfing brand has been developed – “Golf Ireland – Time to Play” – which is designed to rival competing destinations such as Scotland and Wales. A new national quality assurance scheme for golf courses in Ireland has also been introduced. This new quality standard will ensure that golfing visitors are assured of the consistency and quality of services they will experience in golf courses throughout Ireland.
The move is a major coup for Deirdre McGlone and the staff at Harvey’s Point.