Arlene Foster says NI tourism can beat the recession

The Antrim Coast Road is a favourite with visitors The Antrim Coast Road is a favourite with visitors

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The NI tourism minister has said she is confident that Royal Portrush can host a major golf tournament in 2016.

The Minister was speaking after Rory McIlory's US Open victory and after figures obtained by the BBC suggested that visitor numbers for last year dropped by 300,000 to 1.7m.

Arlene Foster said golf tourism had a role to play in attracting more visitors to NI.

She also said in the first three months of 2011, visitor numbers were up by 7%.

The Executive's Programme for Government has set a target of 2.5m tourists for this year.

In 2008, just over 2m visitors from the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and overseas came to NI.

Last year, that figure fell by around 14%.

The minister said she was confident that the target figure was still achievable given the plans in place for 2012 and 2013.

"We have spent money on many projects such as the Titanic signature and the visitor's centre at the Giants Causeway.

"The time for planning is over and the time for delivery is here."

Paying tribute to Rory McIlrory's victory the Minister said there was "a tremendous opportunity" to attract golf tourism to Northern Ireland.

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