IS TOURISM GOLF’S FUTURE?
Last month, New Zealand Golf Magazine (NZGM) asked “Is Tourism Golf’s Future?” This came after NZGM attended the TRENZ Tourism Show, New Zealand’s largest annual business-to-business travel and trade event, run by Tourism Industry Aoteroa (TIA).
Continuing on from last month, we look at trends in golf tourism.
June’s article was based on what we found out at TRENZ and explored how golf is positioned in the New Zealand Tourism industry and how some of our regions were looking at growing golf tourism. In this second part to our report, we will be talking to leading players in NZ golf tourism to find out what the trends are in Golf Tourism and from where we are getting these golfers.
Last year, New Zealand Tourism sent out a press release titled “Record golf tourism hits a hole in one”. This release contained information about strong growth with golf visitors up a record 23% alongside an 18% increase in spend by these visitors for the year ending April 2016. It highlighted an impressive $329 million NZD being pumped into the economy each year from international golf tourism. Chief Executive of IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), Peter Walton, said the growth in golf visitors to New Zealand in the past year is a great example of what can be achieved within a relatively short space of time when a national tourist board invests in golf tourism promotion and, most importantly, is guided by a sustainable golf tourism promotional strategy.
One year on and New Zealand Golf Tourism Executive Director, Ryan Bradenburg, recently stated that in the 2017 calendar year, rounds of golf played by international golfers across 14 specific marquee courses were up 9% on the previous year, and up 43% since the strategy was launched in 2014 (approx. 35,000 rounds) and close to another 40,000 rounds across the 24 experience courses. The Asian nations lead the way for this growth with rounds of golf from China up 37%, Japan up 2% and the rest of Asia up 51%. Golfers from America, considered the most mature golf market in the world, spend a staggering $19,000 NZD per person while they are here for a golfing holiday.
Tourism is currently the No.1 export earner for New Zealand. It contributes $36 billion to the economy every year, of which $14.5 billion comes from overseas visitors. Golfers happen to be the highest spending of these visitors, staying 27-nights versus 16-nights for an average visitor, and spending $4,800 versus $3,900 for the general tourist. Golfers also are the most satisfied of any group tracked, rating their New Zealand golf holiday a 9.3/10.
New Zealand Golf Magazine talked with the following Golf Tourism experts to get their views on three key questions as they relate to their businesses and facilities. Our expert panel consisted of: Jon McCord (JMC:), the Director of Golf for The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers; Gordon Dalgleish (GD:), current President of PerryGolf, a large international golf tour operator; John Griffin (JG:), the General Manager of Golf at Jack's Point in Queenstown and Shelley Duncan (SD:), Director of Golf at the Otago Golf Club in Dunedin, New Zealand's oldest golf club.
1. WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING WITH GOLF TOURISM?
JMC: We have seen massive growth in the past five years. The interest in the country and its golf courses has been driven by a compliment of offerings and a trend we've seen develop: that it's not only about the golf! New Zealand is not a stand-alone golf destination, it is a multi-faceted destination that offers spectacular scenery and sightseeing, incredible food and wine offerings from North to South, and a wide range of active pursuits that complement the country's golf offerings perfectly. GD: Speaking with regards to the outbound USA market, it remains very buoyant as the economy and stock markets do well, coupled with a relatively strong dollar. The more affluent travellers are seeking great golf experiences. In the last six to eight years, we have significantly grown our “couples business” as compared to the traditional “boy's trips” to Scotland and Ireland. As a result, our longer haul destinations, such as New Zealand have enjoyed a healthy increase. JG: Growth out of Australia is continuing to develop year on year since the introduction of direct flights into Queenstown in the early 2000's. Currently, this group represents around 65% of visiting golfers. The quality of the three premium courses in the region are the catalyst for this growth, coupled with good club golf experiences in Arrowtown, Queenstown, Cromwell and Wanaka. “Fly and drive” is very popular along with golf specific transport providers who offer an excellent hotel to golf return transport system for visitors, along with international tour companies who give clients a reliable, passionate golf experience whilst in the region. Queenstown, of course, is blessed with wonderful accommodation, restaurants and quality night life and entertainment, wineries with exceptional food options, numerous activities and great shopping; all within walking distance of hotels and transport providers. SD: We are seeing an uptake in travel numbers, both off the cruise ships - with an increase in ships coming to Dunedin, plus we are also seeing an increase in “freedom travellers'' who are looking for an alternative to Queenstown. As a club, we have attended the IAGTO conference in the Philippines in April this year and are receiving some bookings from that exposure.
2. AFTER AUSTRALIAN GOLFERS, WHAT IS THE NEXT BIGGEST MARKET AND HAS THIS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 5-YEARS?
The international market has fluctuated in the past 20 years, with the main variables being players
from Asia now dominating the international market. Numbers are still low, in terms of the overall playing numbers, say 8% in total; Japan has a long history of golf and visitors from Japan have a very good understanding for the game, Korea is fast becoming wellrecognised as a golfing nation with many of the world's best players and the Chinese golfing market is developing. The USA/Canadian market appears to be building again. Over the past 5 years, it has become our next strongest market with around 7% of total playing rounds; this market is very golf savvy along with the UK/Ireland market which is much smaller due to long haul travel. SD: We have noticed an increase in golfers from North America and European countries overall. Again, the cruise market is bringing a lot of international golfers to Dunedin from a variety of countries.
JMC: At Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, more than 50% of our total golf for the year comes from North America. This is our largest market by far! We have always had a great following in the U.S. and Canada, especially with flight connectivity continuing to improve. This will only make New Zealand a more attractive and accessible destination. While we have seen great growth in the North American market - it has always been our most productive, Asia is a market that holds amazing potential. Over the past eight to ten years Asia has been a strong focus as golf across the continent is becoming more popular and more accessible. Here too, flight connectivity and interest in golf and “eco-tourism” has driven steady growth, year over year. GD: Our focus has consistently been outbound US golfers, although over the last five years, we have seen an upturn in Asian, South American, Canadian and South African golfers travelling with us. The internet has permitted us to reach golfers who appreciate superior service, regardless of their country of origin. It also makes it a more competitive marketplace which unquestionably helps the consumer, with more choices and options. →
3. WHAT DO YOU SEE HAPPENING IN GOLF TOURISM IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? GD:
We are confident that demand in the couples segment will continue to grow nicely. Golf cruises serve a niche which is extremely loyal when they experience consistently high service levels. For the outbound US market, Scotland and Ireland will forever be the destination market leaders, but New Zealand has a lot of opportunity, particularly if first class, accessible golf courses can be developed around hubs, as we have seen in Queenstown.
With a local perspective, I hope that with the investment that our club is putting into marketing itself and the standard of golf courses in Dunedin, that we will all improve our visitor numbers and golf experiences for visitors to our city. Dunedin has a lot to offer outside of golf with our great wildlife and heritage. It is relatively easy to book accommodation and our city is not too big. As I refer to it, we are a “10-minute city”; you are only 10 minutes away from everything you want to see and do!
In the upcoming five years, I see the interest in golf tourism continuing to grow, albeit at a slower rate. The last three years, have seen tremendous growth. However, with the interest New Zealand has generated from not only a ‘golf tourism' perspective but also from a ‘general tourism' point of view, I see rounds continuing to increase. A big part of seeing continued growth, is the further development of golf offerings within the country. With the opening of recent courses such as: Tara Iti, Windross Farm and Wainui, and with some exciting projects in the pipeline, this will only boost New Zealand's already sterling reputation as a golf destination. Exciting times ahead!
I believe this will continue to grow as NZ continues to be recognised globally as provider of quality golf experiences in iconic destinations. Our reputation in Australia will continue to develop, as more Australians look at Queenstown and NZ as a great holiday destination. It is seen as an easy access alternative to holidaying in Australia because of the outstanding landscape and mild summer temperatures compared to Australia, with a great range of activities all in close proximity. With three or four new courses in the Queenstown/Central Otago region due to start construction, this will only boost our brand as NZ's number one golfing destination and will reactivate those who have visited Queenstown on numerous occasions to return to take on the new challenges whilst enjoying past favourites. The future is very bright, as Queenstown has the capacity to continue to provide a quality experience.
You can see that there has been a lot of growth in the sector with new tourist markets emerging. With some of these exciting views about the future of golf tourism in New Zealand in mind, next month we will be talking to our golf tourism leaders about the Government's role in investing in golf tourism. This should be of particular interest to everyone connected to golf (and that includes not only golfers, golf clubs, and current well-known golf destinations but also our potential new courses of interest, including unique un-tapped destinations) especially regarding the related benefits for the country with the predicted tourism numbers showing a projected growth of over 100,000 visiting golfers by 2024.
↑ Jacks Point Golf Course, Queenstown.
Kauri Cliffs Golf Course, Matauri Bay.
(T-B) Arrowtown Golf Course. Windross Farm Golf Course, Papakura, Auckland.