And the long-term legacy of holding the prestigious event is likely to result in many millions of pounds being generated for Kent’s economy through visitors from home and abroad enjoying golf and leisure breaks in the Garden of England.
Indeed, a strategic tie-up between Visit Kent (www.visitkent.co.uk), Golfbreaks.com (Europe’s largest golf travel company) and Shepherd Neame (the renowned Kent-based brewer, pub and hotel operator) will serve to position the county as one of Europe’s foremost golf destinations.
The sport will also benefit following the creation of a Golf Legacy programme – set up jointly by Kent Golf Partnership and Kent County Council (KCC) with funding from the R&A, organiser of the Open Championship – designed to increase participation.
More than 200,000 spectators and 2,000 media from across the world are expected to descend on Royal St George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, from July 14-17, with tens of thousands more attracted to take breaks in the Garden of England in the years after the Open.
It is anticipated that more than £80 million could be earned for the county’s economy through a mixture of direct spending and long-term destination marketing benefits.
And with more than 25% of spectators set to arrive from overseas, to complement the home-based support of the tournament, accommodation providers in East Kent are set to enjoy a significant boost.
The return of the Open Championship to Kent after an eight-year break owes much to the efforts of KCC and Dover District Council – supported in partnership by the districts of Canterbury, Thanet and Shepway – keen to secure an international sporting profile for the area and boost its economy.
Councillor Mike Hill OBE, KCC Cabinet Member for Customer & Communities, said: “The Open Championship is the largest annual single sports event in the UK with a visitor spend greater than Wimbledon and the London Marathon.
“Kent has a growing reputation for accommodating world-level sports events and the Open also gives us a huge platform to promote business opportunities in East Kent. The economic, tourism and reputational legacy from Kent accommodating the Open should therefore be very significant indeed.”
This year, with a record number of spectators expected (nearly 10% more than the 182,500 who attended in 2003), plus improved travel links from nearby London and continental Europe into Kent, the county could enjoy a record windfall from the Open. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants, travel companies and other local businesses are all set to benefit, creating more than 1,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
For golfers seeking to enjoy a break Kent offers a choice of more than 100 courses to play. Royal St George’s is part of Kent’s ‘Regal Golf Coast’, which includes Royal Cinque Ports (venue of The Open Championship in 1909 and 1920), Prince’s (the Open venue in 1932), Littlestone (a Final Qualifying course for this year’s Open) and North Foreland.
Complementing this quintet are London Golf Club (a European Tour Destination and home of the 2009 European Open and where work will soon start on a five-star golf and spa hotel resort) plus Chart Hills (designed by Sir Nick Faldo and ranked 82nd in Golf World Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the UK and Ireland).
Sandra Matthews-Marsh, Chief Executive of Visit Kent, commented: “Royal St George’s hosting the Open Championship offers Kent a significant opportunity to benefit – not just during Open week but in the months and years following the Championship, too.
“We, in tandem with our many partners, including Golfbreaks.com, Shepherd Neame and Kent County Council, are working hard to attract golfers and leisure visitors to enjoy short and long breaks in the Garden of England, and enjoy our wonderful variety of golf courses. We are sure the long-term legacy of the 2011 Open for Kent will be economic benefits running into many millions of pounds.”
For more information about golf in Kent, visit www.visitkent.co.uk/golf.