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Tourism Study shows bulk of Open crowd came from outside Scotland

Research commissioned by the R&A demonstrates golf is still a major driving force for tourism

By Bryce Ritchie

Almost 30% of spectators at last year’s Open Championship at St Andrews travelled from overseas, according to a new report. Research carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre also showed that over one in ten spectators came from the United States.

A total of 35% travelled from the rest of the UK, meaning almost two-thirds of spectators in St Andrews came from outwith Scotland.

The figures have been hailed as an ‘outstanding achievement’ by VisitScotland boss Mike Cantlay, who said the results demonstrated the ‘worldwide appeal’ of Scotland and St Andrews as a golf destination.


“Golf is a critical part of the visitor economy and the ripple effect of event tourism is felt in shops, hotels, and a wide range of businesses across Scotland,” said Cantlay. “It is more than a holiday experience or attendance at an event - it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides an international shop window for Scotland.”

Last year’s Open Championship, won in dramatic fashion by American Zach Johnson, delivered £140million of economic benefit to Scotland, which is the largest amount ever achieved by a golf event in the UK or Ireland, according to an independent economic impact assessment.

The figures should go some way towards silencing the championship’s critics, who have regularly bemoaned crowd numbers, ticket prices and the general commercial success of The Open.

The research was commissioned by the R&A and shows spending by visitors to Scotland for the tournament generated £88million. That equates to almost double the £47.5million in visitor impact achieved in 2010, when the event was last staged over the Old Course.


Interestingly, more than two-thirds of the total visitors and 80% of visitors from the UK said they expect to return to Scotland within one year thanks to the positive experiences they had enjoyed.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the findings and said that the figures show golf continues to be as strong as ever in its birth country.

“We all know that golf and its origins are synonymous with Scotland but these excellent figures show that the connection between the game and its spiritual home is as strong and productive as ever,” said Sturgeon.

“Hosting such events is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Scotland internationally as the perfect stage for events, as well as generating spend for local businesses, restaurants and hotels, and, of course, the wider Scottish economy.”

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