Golf tourism is taking off in Asia as never before—and it’s no longer just about Thailand.
By Paul Myers
Non-golfers find it extraordinary—indeed incomprehensible—that rational, intelligent men and women can become besotted with a game invented in far-off Scotland half a millennium ago that takes the best part of a day to play and frustrates the daylights out of most participants.
Non-golfers also can’t begin to understand why someone would cart 20 kilograms or more of golf equipment halfway around the world to do the same thing he or she can do at home, weather notwithstanding, whenever they like. But 10 million international golf tourists—a tenth of whom now travel to and within Asia—can’t be wrong. Like a soaring tee shot, Asian golf tourism is taking off.
What’s catching the attention of governments, tourism authorities, tour operators, airlines, and hoteliers is the billions of dollars golf tourism is now generating as one of few international tourism sectors growing annually by double-digit percentages.
Especially attractive for everyone in the industry is that golfers are usually older, more affluent, stay longer, and spend up to three times more money than the average tourist. They’re cashed up, cause no problems, and keep coming back.
Asia today has more than 1,500 golf courses, many of a high international standard and located in major tourism centers rather than cities. Little wonder the once northern hemisphere–centric International Association of Golf Tourism Operators (IAGTO), with more than 2000 members worldwide, has begun embracing Asia in a big way. Last April, the London-based body held its first Asian convention, in Kuala Lumpur, and has scheduled another—in Pattaya, Thailand—for April 2013.