IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators)
is the global trade organisation for the golf tourism industry

Established in 1997, IAGTO's membership comprises 2400 accredited golf tour operators, golf resorts, hotels, golf courses, receptive operators, airlines, tourist boards, approved media and business partners in 98 countries including, at its core, 590 specialist golf tour operators in 61 countries.

It is estimated that IAGTO’s operators control over 85% of golf holiday packages sold worldwide and turnover more than €2.1 billion per year.

"We strive to provide information, create opportunities and make introductions that will help you develop your business faster, with less effort and less cost. In addition to organising fam trips, press trips, workshops, destination conventions and events, our staff around the world are constantly developing new services for our members to take advantage of. We pride ourselves on being at the heart of the golf tourism industry and invite you to join us.” Peter Walton, Chief Executive, IAGTO.

  • International Golf Travel Market (IGTM)
  • IAGTO Awards
  • IGTM Golf Tournament
  • NAC - Buyer meets Supplier Session
  • NAC - Speed Dating Session
  • AGTC - Welcome Reception
  • AGTC - Over 9.5 Hours Of Meetings
  • IAGTO FAM Trips
  • Networking at IAGTO Events
  • IAGTO Golf Days
Brand USA allies with IAGTO
15th annual IAGTO Awards
IAGTO Golf Tourism Blueprint
NAC heads to Palm Springs in 2015
Huge Success at AGTC 2014
Record attendance for the 3rd AGTC
Golf holiday sales soar 20%
IAGTO Survey Outbound Markets
The 2014 IAGTO Awards
AGTC 2014 Mission Hills Haikou
Golf & Spa - An IAGTO Review
AGTC 2013 Press Conference
State of the Market Address
15 Years of Growth for IAGTO

Tom Garzilli, Sr VP, Brand USA

Brand USA allies with IAGTO

Brand USA – the destination-marketing organization for the U.S. – is partnering with the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) to raise the profile of American golf-related tourism among global travelers.

IAGTO, headquartered in London, is an advocate for nearly 600 golf tour operators in 61 countries. It also works with a network of close to 2,400 association members in 99 countries that are tied to golf tourism in order to develop optimal golfing experiences at golf destinations around the world.

The two organizations will evaluate the current state of golf tourism in the U.S. through an online survey designed by IAGTO that will be issued to golf courses and golf resorts across the country. Brand USA will promote the survey among local Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) as a prelude to forging marketing strategies that elevate golf tourism.

Peter Walton, IAGTO’s chief executive, unveiled the survey at his group’s seventh annual North America Golf Tourism Convention, held this month in Palm Springs, Calif. “The important first step in any integrated golf tourism strategy is to calculate the current value of golf tourism and to assess its capacity for growth,” he said.

Walton added that the new initiative identifies 30 U.S. states “as being most relevant and attractive to international visitors traveling for the primary purpose of playing golf.”

He said this year’s host organization for the convention, the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, would be the first local tourism organization to invite area golf venues to participate in the survey. Palm Springs has more than a hundred 18-hole courses.

Tom Garzilli, senior vice-president for Global Partner Marketing at Brand USA, who also addressed the convention, said: “The assessment provides a baseline from which to build, and the members of IAGTO present an audience that we can work with to develop appropriate golf tourism products. We can then work with our destination partners, the golf courses and CVBs to create meaningful cooperative-marketing programs that will resonate in U.S. markets of all sizes.”

“As a year-round activity, golf entices travelers to many parts of the U.S.”, Garzilli said. “I see this golf tourism opportunity as a way that Brand USA can provide value from the very smallest golf operator in a small city to our largest cities and states. It also presents opportunities for extended stays, travel with families and add-on destinations. We always try to find ways that we can add and create value for our partners and that’s why golf tourism is really compelling.”

IAGTO’s convention at Palm Springs drew 103 golf tour operators from 23 countries and another 180 representatives of golf resorts, golf courses, hotels and tourist boards from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Further reference for state tourist boards, CVBs, golf courses and golf resorts: www.iagto.com/brandusa

15th annual IAGTO Awards

The 15th annual IAGTO Awards have honoured destinations, golf courses and golf resorts from all over the world, with winners coming from the US states of North and South Carolina, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Slovenia, China, Mexico, Morocco and Ireland.

The prestigious IAGTO Awards are the official annual awards for the golf tourism industry. This year’s honours were presented during a spectacular IAGTO Awards Gala Dinner on Thursday, 30 October in front of 1,400 golf industry professionals in the grandiose setting of Villa Erba, on the shores of Italy’s Lake Como, at the end of the 2014 International Golf Travel Market.

The evening also included recipients from Scotland, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico receiving IAGTO Sustainability Awards. These awards, coordinated in partnership with the Golf Environment Organization for the second year running, recognise excellence in environmental sustainability and social responsibility at IAGTO member golf courses around the world.

Costantino Rocca, Italy’s most successful professional golfer, with five wins on the European Tour and two wins on the European Seniors Tour, became IAGTO’s 15th Honorary Award recipient.

Headline sponsor for the second year was Etihad Airways. It was the first carrier to sign up to IAGTO’s Preferred Airline scheme, launched in 2005 to recognise golfer-friendly airlines that carry golf bags free of charge in addition to standard baggage allowance.

2015 IAGTO Awards Winners
Golf Destination of the Year - North America: Charleston, South Carolina
Golf Destination of the Year - Latin America & Caribbean: Cancun-Riviera Maya, Mexico
Golf Destination of the Year - Africa & Gulf States: Marrakech, Morocco
Golf Destination of the Year - Europe: Dublin East Coast, Ireland
Golf Destination of the Year - Asia & Australasia: Sanya, China
Golf Resort of the Year - Rest of the World: Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Golf Resort of the Year - North America: Pinehurst Resort, North Carolina
Golf Resort of the Year - Europe: PGA Catalunya Resort, Spain
Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year: Slovenia
IAGTO Honorary Award: Costantino Rocca

IAGTO Sustainability Award Winners
Overall category - Sustainable Golf Course of the Year: Dundonald Links, Scotland
Community Integration category: Vidago Palace Golf Course, Portugal
Efficient Use of Resources category: Emirates Golf Club, UAE
Nature category: Bahia Beach Resort & GC, Puerto Rico

PHOTOS & LOGOS: Photos and logos can be downloaded from: www.iagto.com/awards

IAGTO Golf Tourism Blueprint

At the opening address of the 17th International Golf Travel Market, Peter Walton, Chief Executive of IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), stressed the need for both regional and national tourist boards to implement integrated golf tourism promotional and development strategies.

After announcing that 2014 marks the third year of significant and consecutive growth in golf tour operator sales worldwide, Walton went on to stress that this was the time when all golf destinations needed to put in place properly funded golf tourism strategies.

He said “In the good times, virtually any destination or well-run golf resort can achieve growth in sales, but what the implementation of a well-planned, destination-wide strategy does is to lay down solid foundations that help secure sustainable growth in the face of an uncertain future. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, the relative popularity of tourism destinations was often discussed as being cyclical; whereas since the turn of the new millennium these somewhat predictable cycles seem to have been replaced by more unpredictable irregular futures where the outcome for any destination is subject to a much greater variety of frequently occurring external events and vagaries.”

Walton went on to say: “The responsibility for instigating such a golf tourism strategy lies firmly at the door of the relevant tourist board or ministry of tourism. However, at a time when public sector bodies are overstretched and often cash-poor, a golf tourism strategy should not be seen as either onerous or costly.

“Quite the opposite, in fact... it is precisely because tourist boards are under so much pressure to deliver a ‘return on investment’ that they must avoid lurching from one golf-related event or promotion to another without having first engaged with the private sector to develop an underlying plan. The strategy or roadmap then effectively helps a destination determine whether or not any particular activity is appropriate, timely and cost effective.”

In order to assist its member golf destinations and to illustrate how all the different elements of such a roadmap fit together, IAGTO has published an Integrated Golf Tourism Strategy Blueprint diagram (676kb PDF) with 10-step explanation below.

The concept of the Blueprint is based on the unparalleled experience that IAGTO has gained from developing golf tourism strategies for more than 30 countries and regions across the globe over the past 12 years. In 2014 IAGTO has been assisting in the development and implementation of golf tourism strategies for the following destinations:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
  • Morocco
  • Jakarta
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand

In the past, IAGTO has developed the strategies for Mauritius, Kenya, Brazil, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Iceland, Sweden, Valencia, Galicia, Marbella, Peru and Guatemala among others and has undertaken major golf tourism studies for France and Spain.

The Integrated Golf Tourism Strategy Blueprint (676kb PDF)
Peter Walton explained how all of the different elements of the Blueprint interact in the following 10 steps:

  1. With the requirement for visible results, the objective for tourist board instigated golf tourism strategies must be increased Sales as well as increased Awareness. These twin objectives should be joined at the hip.
  2. Developing a consumer-facing Golf Destination Website is an essential tool of any strategy. IAGTO has developed a site-map formula for such websites. Promotion should not begin until a suitable website is in place.
  3. Content Development must also precede any promotion. The Content Development guides all promotions and provides a focus for the key messages. IAGTO has developed a Backstory concept for golf destinations.
  4. The Content Development informs the Website Content creation and Media Kit development and is a precursor to all Press Releases.
  5. Communications (Public Relations) and Press Trips to generate Editorial and Social Media coverage follow Media Kit completion.
  6. Any Advertising must carry the Key Message and channel interest to the golf destination Website;
  7. The Website Inspires, Informs and Directs the consumer;
  8. Trade Marketing support must be given to the local golf tourism industry and to international golf tour operators, enhancing their own sales and awareness activities and facilitating B:B business;
  9. In return, the local private sector is responsible for Tracking the growth in sales to the destination;
  10. Product Development and Product Packaging remain the domain of the local private sector and result in the overall Product Positioning of the golf destination which then drives all aspects of trade marketing and promotions and has a direct bearing on resultant sales and sustainable growth.

NAC heads to Palm Springs in 2015

California’s desert golf destination, Greater Palm Springs, is set to take the annual North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC) “to another level” when it hosts the seventh annual event in 2015.

Organised by global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), NAC chalked up its best-ever attendance when South Carolina’s Charleston hosted the sixth annual edition earlier this month and drew a record 360 delegates, including more than 120 golf tour operators from 24 countries around the world.

But next year’s convention is set to be even bigger. “We are going to take the event on to another level after the great success of the North America Convention in Charleston, with the objective of attracting buyers and media from Asia to augment the already record levels of buyers attending from all over the world,” said IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton.

“We will shortly be inviting CVBs and golf resorts from all over the US to attend and we will be expecting 150 buyers including those from Asia.”

Walton added that it would be the first IAGTO event staged in Palm Springs. “I am very excited about taking our members to Palm Springs to experience one of North America’s foremost desert golf destinations,” he continued.

“It will be taking place in a period of the highest growth the golf tourism industry has experienced in the last decade. Golf tour operators will be looking for more and more new destinations because of the upsurge in golf holiday requests, and I expect that level to be even higher this time next year.”

Rick Blackburn, Vice President, Convention Sales & Services, Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he was looking forward to welcoming delegates to the area and to experience its 100 golf courses, and he hoped it would attract 25% more delegates than this year’s NAC.

“Greater Palm Springs has been a huge supporter of IAGTO for many years and we are honoured and very excited to be hosting the North America Convention in 2015,” he commented.

“We are ecstatic about having NAC in Palm Springs. This is a fantastic opportunity for our hotels, golf courses and resorts to showcase the destination. The whole thing about this is to have all these people on your home turf and to get them to see the Greater Palm Springs area. Once they see the beautiful golf courses we have, it will be very easy for them to sell to their clients.”

Blackburn added that Greater Palm Springs had changed over the years, so that even if people attending the convention had been before there would be a lot of new things to see and experience.

“It used to be known for a lot of retirees and Hollywood celebrities – and it is so much more than that now,” he said. “It really attracts the young crowd now as well, so there is a lot for everyone. The cultural scene is pretty vibrant and the nightlife is amazing as well. I think it is going to open a lot of people’s eyes when they see it.

“It is an outdoor playground; there is so much to do outside. We want to highlight the Palm Springs area. We have nine cities in the Greater Palm Springs area and we want to showcase all of them because they are all very different.

“We have big branded golf resorts, lots of boutique properties and everything in between. It is very important for tour operators to see the vast difference in hotels and resorts so that they can build the right trip for clients. We know that after bringing all these tour operators next year a lot of business will be coming to Palm Springs.”

Gary Orfield, Leisure Sales Account Director, the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, said: “I am so excited about NAC coming to Palm Springs next year. There is no way I can sell the destination any better than when people visit. No amount of photographs will justify the beauty of the destination and what it offers.

“It is just a question of getting people to go and then they realise what an exciting place it is.”

NAC 2015 will take place next June. More details of the event will be announced shortly.

Huge Success at AGTC 2014

Asia’s largest-ever golf tourism event has been trumpeted as a huge success, with a record 556 delegates from 40 countries attending the third annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention on China’s Hainan Island.

During the convention, more than 200 golf tour operator buyers from over 150 companies in 32 countries met with 290 supplier delegates from 150 seller companies including golf resorts, golf clubs, hotels, inbound operators and tourist boards from 19 countries across the Asia-Pacific region: China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Fiji, Mauritius, India, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Australia and New Zealand.

There were 137 delegates from China alone, with 57 sellers and 80 tour operator buyers. The convention was also attended by 60 media, dignitaries and other invited guests.

IAGTO’s President, Peter Walton, said: “I am delighted with the attendance at only our third annual AGTC. This is one of the few travel trade conventions that attracts more buyer delegates than supplier companies. Altogether we had 556 delegates from 40 countries, which makes it the largest golf tourism event ever to have taken place in Asia.”

Tenniel Chu, Vice Chairman of Mission Hills Group and Chairman of the IAGTO China Chapter, enthused: “The third annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention has been an outstanding success on every level and Mission Hills Haikou is delighted to have played such a central role in this landmark event.”

Record attendance for the 3rd AGTC

Record attendance for the 3rd Asia Golf Tourism Convention as buyers from all over the world head to China’s Mission Hills

Almost 200 golf tour operator delegates are set to descend on China’s Mission Hills Hainan for the 3rd IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC), which takes place next week.

The event, running from 24-27 March, is being held by global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour operators) in partnership with the Mission Hills Group and the Haikou government and has attracted 194 golf tour operators from 32 countries - an increase of over 30% on last year's ground-breaking event in Pattaya, Thailand.

The biggest tour operator delegations attending are from China, Australia and Singapore, with buyers coming from countries as far afield as the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Vietnam, the UK and the USA.

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “The success of the first two conventions together with the appeal of Mission Hills Hainan and the broad spectrum of golf resorts, courses, hotels and other golf tourism suppliers from across the Asia Pacific has driven this success.”

He added: “And on the supplier side, the golf destinations have flocked to AGTC this year because of the access to these buyers and because of their desire to tap into the Chinese market.”

This year’s AGTC has seen 148 supplier companies register for the event from 19 countries including Fiji, Mauritius, Cambodia, Vietnam and India as well as the established destinations of Thailand, Malaysia and host destination China. There are particularly strong turn-outs, representing an increased focus on golf tourism, from Sanya, Jakarta, the UAE, the Philippines and New Zealand.

“We have 62 Chinese golf tour operators, golf planners and specialist golf travel agencies attending,” Walton continued. “We have also provided 12 Chinese-English interpreters this year to team up with individual buyers who may be relatively new to the international opportunities of golf travel'.

The convention begins on Monday, 24 March, with accommodation and social functions at Mission Hills Hainan and two days of appointments at the spectacular ocean-front Hainan International Exhibition & Convention Centre, where over 5,000 business meetings are expected to take place.

IAGTO will be staging its new IAGTO Excellence Awards for the Asia Pacific region at the AGTC Gala Dinner on Tuesday, 25 March. They will recognise the vision and contribution of golf tourism industry leaders (Pearl & Legacy Awards) as well as outstanding achievements of a handful of golf courses which will herald a new direction in certification for IAGTO globally (Diamond and Platinum awards).

The total number of delegates will exceed 450 this year.

Golf holiday sales soar 20%

Worldwide golf holiday sales by golf tour operators have grown by more than 20% over the past two years, according to IAGTO, the global trade organisation of the golf tourism industry.

Headline figures drawn from its 2014 golf tourism survey reveal that golf tour operators’ holiday sales globally grew by an average of 11.1% in 2013, on the back of 9.3% growth in 2012 – and sales are continuing to forge ahead this year.

Speaking at the inaugural HSBC Golf Tourism Forum in Abu Dhabi, IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “Not only has the cumulative growth in golf holiday sales exceeded, on average, 21% in two years, but 2014 is set to be the third consecutive year of growth, with bookings taken in January being 14.5% ahead of bookings taken in the same month a year earlier.

Click here for full press release

The 2014 IAGTO Awards

Recipients from South Africa, California, Florida, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Sweden, Costa Rica, Portugal and Dubai have been honoured in the prestigious IAGTO Awards for 2014.

The IAGTO Awards sponsored by Etihad Airways are the official annual awards for the golf tourism industry. The 14th gala Awards evening took place on Thursday 14th November 2013 in front of 1200 golf industry professionals at the spectacular Tarragona Placa De Toros (Bull Ring), Tarragona, Costa Daurada, Spain at the end of the 2013 International Golf Travel Market.

Click here for the full Awards Press Release.

AGTC 2014 Mission Hills Haikou

China’s tropical golfing paradise beckons as Asia Golf Tourism Convention heads to Mission Hills Haikou in 2014

Golf & Spa - An IAGTO Review

IAGTO have completed a review of Golf & Spa, looking at how Spa & Wellness offers can be used to increase golf tourism sales and deliver an even better experience for the visiting golfer.

The report highlights the importance of making spa facilities accessible to all golfers and offering discounted golf specific treatments for pre or post round relaxation. The presentation of spa facilities to golfers can have a major impact on their overall experience and their assessment of the venue.

To view the full report please click here (2.3MB PDF). We would like to thank all IAGTO golf resorts, hotels, golf courses and golf tour operators who provided us with information and an insight into this side of the golf tourism market.

AGTC 2013 Press Conference

The official Press Conference took place for the launch of IAGTO’s 2nd Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) that will be staged at The Royal Cliff Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand from 29 April to 2 May 2013.

Image Caption, L-R: Mr Peter Walton - IAGTO CEO; Mr Itthiphol Kunplome - Mayor of Pattaya; Mrs Juthaporn Rerngronasa - Deputy Governor for Europe, Africa, Middle East and America Tourism Authority of Thailand; Mr Vitaya Khunplome - CEO Chonburi PAO; Mr Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya - Director of Domestic MICE Department Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau; Mr Kullatorn Mesommonta - President of The East Coast Golf Courses Management Association.

AGTC is the largest and most important gathering of Asia’s golf tourism industry. IAGTO will be bringing to Thailand 150 golf tour operators from 35 countries who all sell golf holidays to Asian golf destinations. Over 500 delegates will participate including more than 60 golf resorts, golf clubs and hotels from Thailand.

State of the Market Address

Just over a year IAGTO's Chief Executive presented a State of the Market address to over 1000 delegates at the end of the year's International Golf Travel Market. Focusing on business practices that will help companies emerge strongly from the economic crisis, the content is just as relevant today. An edited transcript of the presentation is available here to download.

IAGTO members can view the most recent State of the Market address from last November in the members' section of this website along with the accompanying slide show.

15 Years of Growth for IAGTO

As IAGTO enters its 15th year, its membership continues to rise. Despite a turbulent decade throughout the tourism industry, IAGTO's membership has grown every year since its foundation in 1997. The landmark of 1800 members in 90 countries was passed late last year and this currently includes more than 420 golf tour operators in 59 countries.

IAGTO Chief Executive, Peter Walton, said "We expect membership to continue to increase in 2012 particularly amongst golf destinations and golf tour operators in the Asia Pacific region. We now have an office in China and representatives in Korea and Japan as well as SE Asia which has helped us tailor our global benefits and activities to the needs of individual destinations and markets.

"Despite the challenging economic times that continue unabated, IAGTO suppliers have been consistently creative in putting together great added value offers for IAGTO golf tour operators. The ease with which this interaction between buyers and suppliers now takes place and the relationships which this has helped to forge are I think two of the fundamental benefits of the IAGTO global network which goes some way to explain its continued expansion."