Destination Golf - September 2016 * - Page 27

other travel sectors. But the desire to play new golf destinations as seen across the pages of golf publications or websites is an enormous draw to avid golfers, which is one of the reasons golf tourism appeals to so many tourist boards. We have already started to see a rapid increase in long-haul travel from Asian markets whose golf vacations have predominantly remained within the region. DG: Bearing in mind that nearby destinations for some are long-haul places for others, are the traditional favourite golf holiday hotspots maintaining their popularity? PW: With each passing decade, golfers’ expectations are higher with top quality courses essential, especially the farther a golfer travels. Value for money, regardless of price, and a variety of golf courses within an accessible cluster are prerequisites for many. With 70% of golf travellers looking for a new experience, this is an opportunity for new destinations and a challenge for those more established. Traditional favourite golf destination hotspots can be rejuvenated with even just one additional or renovated golf course. DG: How about the new kids on the block? Which previously little-known golf destinations have established themselves in recent years? PW: There is a natural synergy between the work of golf travel writers and that of golf tour operators who, together, are instrumental in opening up new golf destinations to golf travellers. There are many new golf destinations now on offer, including Slovenia and Bulgaria in Eastern Europe, Malmo in Sweden (wonderful links courses once deemed the bastion of Swedish club members) and even within Spain you can find intriguing new golf destinations such as Logroño in Rioja country, or even Costa Dourada which is doubling its golf visitors by the year. Oman, as a golf destination, has emerged from the desert, while the once-sleepy coastal town of Danang in central Vietnam is now a golfers’ haven in a lively beach resort and fantastic city – and will host the 2017 IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention. The construction of new highways between Punta Cana and La Romana in the Dominican Republic has, in effect, created one brand new destination combining all the courses from both destinations, as you can now drive from one to the other within 45 minutes. In the USA, golfers are discovering great golf, awe-inspiring mountain views and fly-fishing in Oregon and, farther south, there is now a virtual Central American Golf Trail with some tremendous golf resorts from Guatemala through Honduras, Nicaragua, established Costa Rica and Panama (now with seven courses) to Colombia’s Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. DG: New golf courses are continuing to be built in some countries. Do you see that trend continuing or will we see saturation point being reached at some point? PW: The decision to construct golf courses should never be taken purely as a response to a perceived trend. From a tourism perspective, planning is paramount and golf development should take place where it has been assessed that courses will be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable in the long term, generating incremental revenue for the destination together with employment and opportunity for the local community. Where all these factors coincide then the establishment of golf tourism development zones which support the constructions of the right courses in the right places at the right time will lead to all round sustainability. Every destination must be treated on its own merits. In 2003 we participated in the preparation of a golf tourism strategy for Mauritius, together with an environmental ecologist, an agronomist and a golf course architect. We were asked to consider plans to build 14 courses in addition to the three that were already in operation. Our recommendations, on the contrary, were to build only three more courses in the first phase, doubling capacity, then adding two further courses once the six courses were operating close to 75% capacity. The advice was followed, a Cabinet memo submitted, and Mauritius has enjoyed sustainable growth in golf tourism in every year since, throughout the economic crisis, to a point now where golf tourism generated by just eight golf courses represents 9% of the island’s tourism revenue. DG: A number of courses have closed in traditional golf destinations, including the USA, Ireland, Spain and the UK. Were there simply too many golf facilities for the number of golfers? PW: In the USA, for example, golf travel is focused only on a minority of golf courses nationwide, which is why the overall number of courses does not really impact our industry. The same applies in Ireland and the UK. Golf courses that appeal to both domestic and international golf travellers are always going to be in the strongest position economically, but of course some businesses have failed due to a lack of real estate sales. There are many examples worldwide where a golf c