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Ryder Cup could bring France long-lasting tourism boost

© AFP | Bjorn and Furyk will lead their teams at the Ryder Cup this weekend

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES (FRANCE) (AFP) - 

Hosting this week's Ryder Cup could bring France long-term economic benefits from the global golf travel industry as well as open the sport to a broader audience of new young players and fans.

Those are some of the long-term legacy items organisers imagined when they bid for the event in 2010, even as far back as 1990 when Le Golf National opened as a permanent home for the European Tour's French Open.

"People in France want this Ryder Cup to be the best there has ever been and to work with people who have that determination is great to see," said European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

"It has a legacy for golf in France, a legacy for golf in general and it has a responsibility to the game worldwide."

More than 270,000 spectators from 90 nations are expected to attend Ryder Cup activities, with 43 percent of the ticket buyers from France.

With Tiger Woods providing a major superstar attraction in his first French competition since he was a teen amateur in 1994, the stage is set for the biggest golf event in French history.

The first Ryder Cup staged in continental Europe was in Spain in 1997 with iconic Seve Ballesteros as captain of the triumphant European side.

As interest grew beyond the event's traditional British host courses came bids from new nations, Ireland in 2006 and Wales in 2010.

In 2011, France was announced as the 2018 host, defeating rival bids from Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands.

"When you meet people, many of whom have devoted 10 years of their lives to the Ryder Cup, it is quite humbling when you see the pride they have and what it will mean to them," Bjorn said.

- Launchpad for French golf -

Paul Armitage, Le Golf National's general manager, sees the Ryder Cup as the launching pad for promoting French golf courses to players worldwide, elevating France as a destination to rival Britain, Asia and the United States.

"The Ryder Cup presents a tremendous opportunity... for France as a whole to create a lasting legacy of golf tourism," he said.

"Golf is a travel and leisure industry in a way that no other sport can claim. You don't travel to other countries to play their tennis courts or football pitches.

"The uniqueness of our game is that each golf course is written into the landscape of its home. This distinction creates a different, unique relationship between golf and tourism."

In addition to more than 106 million euros of economic activity for Scotland, the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles brought in an extra 41 million to the nation from outside from about 62,000 spectators, nearly one in six who spent more time there as tourists.

Add more than 416 hours of global media exposure valued at 11.3 million euros for the nation and it's easy to see how France could eclipse that and become a hit with golfers who might have not considered the nation without the Ryder Cup.

There's also a more tangible legacy, with 89 "pitch and putt" style smaller courses built in France and nine more under construction to boost the sport's popularity with French citizens.

And an educational programme for French schoolchildren about golf has reached more than 32,000 students in 1,300 classrooms, with plans to add another 10,000 students.

© 2018 AFP