Opportunity knocks for Portrush

THE announcement that Portrush is to host this year’s Irish Open has provided the local ecomony with a fantastic opportunity, say local businesses.

Hotel availability is already at a premium in and around Portrush after it was announced that Royal Portrush Golf Club will play host to the prestigious tournament in June.

News of the tourism boon came as Ulster golf ace Darren Clarke joined with Stormont Minister Arlene Foster and European Tour golf officials in unveiling Royal Portrush – rated as one of the top courses in the world – as the location for this year’s tournament.

It is the first time the venue has staged the event since 1947 and there are renewed hopes the course can once again host a major championship.

Northern Ireland’s profile on the world stage has been enhanced by the phenomenal success on the fairways of our local players.

Clarke triumphed at the Open Championship last summer only weeks after Rory McIlroy claimed the US Open title. The Holywood man’s major success followed compatriot Graeme McDowell’s victory in the same tournament 12 months earlier.

All three are expected to showcase their talents at Royal Portrush, along with some of the biggest names in golf, to the delight of local crowds this summer.

It is predicted tens of thousands of golf fans will descend on the famous old links course for the four-day event, which commences on June 28.

Owner of the nearby Royal Court Hotel, Jennifer O’Kane, said enquiries from members of the public asking about accommodation were already flooding in.

“Our phones never stopped ringing for the past two days and we are now fully booked,” she said.

The hotel proprietor said the golfing event was “fantastic news” for Portrush.

“It is one of the biggest boosts we have had in a long number of years – it is just wonderful,” she said.

“There is a real buzz in the town – everybody is talking about it.”

All 16 rooms at the Atlantis Hotel are already fully booked for a two-week period in and around the tournament.

Manager Sam Kennedy revealed requests had increased “ten-fold” in recent days. He said: “It is a welcome boost not only for ourselves but for every business in the whole north coast. It is fantastic.”

It also emerged that block bookings have already been taken by some hotels.

A spokeswoman for the Ramada Hotel in Portrush said: “We were booked up on Thursday as soon as the news came out. Our 69 bedrooms are now booked and we have a full page of people on the waiting list.”

A spokeswoman for the Magherabuoy House Hotel said: “We are fully booked and were that way from Wednesday with people who are really on the ball. Our 55 bedrooms are now booked for the entire week and we have a long list of people waiting for rooms.”

Meanwhile, the Lodge Hotel in Coleraine has also received block bookings for the entire week.

Hotel owner Norma Wilkinson said: “We have a wedding in the middle of it all and they have also booked a few rooms. But the wedding was booked a year ago and it will go ahead as planned.”

The Adelphi Hotel in Portrush is now fully booked as is the nearby Port Hotel.

The York Inn in Portstewart reported that yesterday (Monday) they had only two rooms remaining.

Local businesses are also set to benefit from the golfing windfall.

Naldo Morelli of Morelli’s ice cream said business owners could expect a “bumper week” of trade superior to that generated by the annual North West 200 motorcyle event.

* FURTHER REACTION on pages 4, 5, 44 and 45.