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

Established in 1997, IAGTO's membership comprises 2452 accredited golf tour operators, golf resorts, hotels, golf courses, receptive operators, airlines, tourist boards, approved media and business partners in 96 countries including, at its core, 659 specialist golf tour operators in 64 countries.

It is estimated that IAGTO operators control some 87% of international golf holiday packages sold worldwide and in 2017 they carried 2 million golfers with a turnover of more than USD 2.5 billion. 2016 was the 5th year of consecutive growth for IAGTO operators as sales grew by an average of 7.5% with forward bookings for 2017 up significantly, year on year. IAGTO golf courses, resorts and hotels also performed well last year with an average increase in golf visitor arrivals of 4.2%.

Now celebrating 20 years, we work continuously to create opportunities that help our members grow their business. Our staff around the world are constantly developing new services and we pride ourselves on being at the heart of the golf tourism industry.

  • IGTM 2015 Awards Gala Dinner
  • 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
Central Oregon to host NAC in 2018
Value drives Algarve towards another
9th NAC to set record in Miami
20th IGTM in Cannes, France
Florida’s First Coast of Golf
2017 IAGTO Awards unveiled at IGTM
2017 IAGTO Awards Winners quotes
2017 Sustainability Awards
New Zealand rising golf destination
Danang on track for record AGTC
Success - USA Golf Tourism Survey
Growth potential for US Golf Tourism
Brand USA allies with IAGTO
Thailand interview with IAGTO CEO

Central Oregon to host NAC in 2018

Golf tour operators will get the chance to explore Oregon when the 10th annual North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC) heads to the central region of the Beaver State in 2018.

The event, organized by global golf tourism organization IAGTO, is being staged at Sunriver Resort, near the town of Bend in Central Oregon, from 24-27 June 2018. For state and regional tourism officials it will be a chance to showcase the incredible golf product of Central Oregon: more than 30 courses that, when combined with world-renowned Bandon Dunes on the coast, is set to make Oregon one of the most desirable locations for golf travelers.     

“While many know Oregon because of the success of Bandon Dunes, there is much more to the Oregon golf experience – and Central Oregon is a story in itself,” said Teresa O’Neill, Travel Oregon Vice President, Global Sales.

Alana Hughson, CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association, added: “Three of the US Top 100 golf courses (Crosswater, Pronghorn and Tetherow) are located in Central Oregon and the PGA Champion's Tour was held at Sunriver's Crosswater from 2007-2010, but our destination offers much more than an award-winning golf experience.

“Bend-Sunriver is famous as an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, with world-renowned fly fishing, cycling, hiking and rock climbing, as well as Oregon's famous wineries and microbreweries.”

Central Oregon enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine each year and is home to golf courses designed by some of the game’s greatest golf course designers. Hughson added: “Within the state of Oregon the variety of golf is extraordinary, and in Central Oregon alone the golf experience spans the wetlands of Crosswater to the high desert of Pronghorn.”

Both O’Neill and Hughson see NAC 2018 as being a turning point in the expansion of international golf tourism to Oregon and particularly the Central Oregon region, as well as a great opportunity to grow the domestic golf travel business from other parts of the USA.

“Canadians are our number one international market,” said O’Neill.  “They have long known about Oregon, and know it for golf. We have grown that market from the west coast and now with new flights from Toronto, the east coast of Canada is discovering Oregon as well.

“Of course, international travelers are an important market for golfing in Central Oregon because they stay four times as long and spend four times as much as other visitors,” said Hughson, adding, “the US domestic market is also a core focus for NAC 2018 and Central Oregon with nearly 20 flights a day into Redmond from US airports.”

Europe is currently the biggest overseas market for golf visitors, thanks to non-stop flights to Portland. However, NAC 2018 is also seen as a huge opportunity to boost golf tourism from Asia, particularly China, Korea and Japan. China and Japan are currently the state’s two biggest overseas visitor markets.

Besides golf, Oregon offers a huge array of sights and activities to visitors, including world-class pinot noir and pinot gris wines from its 702 wineries, more than 350 miles of coast with all beaches open to the public, the highest number of scenic byways and bikeways of any state in the USA, year-round skiing on Mt Hood, the crystal-clear blue waters of Crater Lake National Park, tax-free shopping and a farm to table culinary scene. Furthermore, quirky and sophisticated Portland, boasting 84 of the state’s 300-plus microbreweries, and home to Nike, has earned the nickname “Munich on the Willamette”. There are no less than 30 microbreweries in Bend itself for NAC delegates to enjoy.

“You have to visit Oregon to understand Oregon,” O’Neill declared. “I think this is one of our biggest opportunities for inspiring travelers to choose Oregon. Once visitors experience this place firsthand, they want to see more of the state.”

She added: “It is both an honor and a privilege for Oregon to be selected as the host destination for NAC in 2018. Oregon truly is a golfer’s paradise and we invite delegates to share the passion we have for Oregon golf and hope they have the experience of a lifetime to take home with them and inspire their clients to visit.”

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “I visited Oregon for the first time last summer and I found the entire experience quite breathtaking. I had anticipated some stunning landscapes, but the quality, variety and beauty of the golf in Central Oregon is exceptional. It was the easiest decision of the past 10 years to award NAC 2018 to Oregon and I know that our golf tour operators from around the world are going to be blown away by the experience!”

The 10th NAC in Central Oregon will take place from 24-27 June, 2018.

The 9th NAC takes place in Miami from 25-28 June 2017 (www.iagto.com/NAC).


Value drives Algarve towards another

The Algarve continues to exceed golf visitor records after a flying start to 2017, while it has also retained its place as the best value holiday destination for UK tourists.

The region is widely-regarded as Europe’s number one golf destination with 43 fabulous courses and hit an all-time high for golf visitors numbers in 2016 with almost 1.3m rounds throughout the year – an increase of more than 10 per cent on its previous record in 2015.

But the surge has continued into 2017 and the sights are now set on another new record after nearly 328,000 rounds were played in the first quarter of the year – another six per cent rise on last year’s figures.

Aside from the quality of the golf courses, the hospitality and the fabulous climate, golfers also know they can expect exceptional value for money as, according to the recent Post Office Holiday Costs Barometer, the Algarve is the best value holiday destination throughout the eurozone once again for 2017.

The Algarve was one of 14 beach resorts in the eurozone surveyed by the Post Office for price checks on meals, drinks and other holiday essentials, coming out on top of the pile for British holidaymakers on a budget.

Visitors know that prices for meals and drinks – one of the biggest costs for tourists – do not come any cheaper than along the stunning Algarve coastline, which can make a huge difference to holiday costs.

Maria Manuel Delgado e Silva, ATA golf product manager, said: “Last year was a hugely successful year for everyone associated with our golf tourism industry but it’s fantastic to see this continue into 2017.

“Our guests know they can be assured of enjoying top-quality golf courses and can expect friendly and the very best in service whenever they visit. It remains our ambition to provide the very best in hospitality, accommodation and the whole golf experience and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors throughout the rest of the year.”


9th NAC to set record in Miami

With five months to go until the 9th annual North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC), organizer IAGTO has announced that 140 golf tour operators from a record 37 countries have already registered to attend this year’s event.
More than half of the attending operators are travelling from Europe, Canada and the USA, with a further 17 operators from Australia and New Zealand, and a similar number from Latin America and the Caribbean. Asia accounts for 19% of registered “buyers” at NAC, which is being held at Trump National Doral® Miami from 25-28 June. That represents a notable increase on previous years, reflecting a growing interest in travel by golfers to North America from Asian markets.

Claudio DeMarchi, North America Representative of global tourism industry organisation IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), said: “With new flight connectivity to Miami, this great golf destination is now much more accessible to the Asian market, which explains why we have 12 Chinese and five Singaporean golf tour operators already registered, with no doubt more to come.”

Trump Organization Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, Eric F. Trump, said:
"We are thrilled to be the host property for this year's IAGTO NAC. It is an exciting time at Trump National Doral as we celebrate the culmination of our multi-million dollar transformation and showcase our premier golf courses and unparalleled luxury service to the world's best golf travel leaders."

The Miami convention marks a homecoming for the event. Reflecting on the first NAC that was hosted by Doral in May 2009, DeMarchi said: “NAC was set up specifically to support the American golf destinations at the beginning of the global economic crisis. The iconic Doral resort back then hosted the entire event, which is why we have branded this year’s convention ‘Back to the Blue Monster’ to show our appreciation for what the resort did for the industry in a more difficult time. By comparison, we only had 40 golf tour operators from 10 countries at our first event, so this shows how things have grown!”

Linda Stilmann, Senior Director of Sales for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said: “Hosting one of the most important golf tourism events in North America is central to our focus on sports tourism promotion throughout the Greater Miami and the Beaches area in 2017, and to have the golf travel decision-makers from so many countries experience our destination and golf product first hand will undoubtedly reap immediate dividends.”

NAC 2017 provides an opportunity for golf destinations throughout North America, but particularly the USA, to engage and do business with the world’s leading golf tour operators and will comprise two days of business sessions, culminating in the annual NAC golf tournament to be held on Doral’s legendary Blue Monster and Red Tiger golf courses. The event will also mark two years of partnership between IAGTO and Brand USA, the destination-marketing organisation for the USA, designed to increase golf tourism to the United States.

“Our ground-breaking USA Golf Tourism Survey published last year showed that golf courses across the country are open to and of interest to international visitors and had capacity for growth of around 20% on average. For years, golf travelers have really only scratched the surface of the many amazing golf experiences that are waiting to be discovered throughout the USA,” added DeMarchi.
Visit www.iagto.com/NAC for more information.

20th IGTM in Cannes, France

Reed Travel Exhibitions and David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes, are pleased to announce the 20th edition of the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) will be held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, in the south of France, from December 11-14, 2017.

Organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions, IGTM is the world's leading, global B2B event for golf tourism suppliers, buyers and media, with more than 1,300 visitors, 600 exhibitors, 400 tour operators and 100 specialised golf media expected to attend the milestone event.

The landmark edition of IGTM is set to be a prelude to golf’s most prestigious team event, The 2018 Ryder Cup, which will take place at Le Golf National, on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris, France.

David Lisnard commented: “In view of the next Ryder Cup in Paris, the gathering of international golf tourism professionals in Cannes will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase France as a destination in an attractive and privileged golfing region.

“The golf tourism industry is a constantly growing sector, which we must embrace if we are to further develop our range of tourism services.  In hosting the 20th edition of IGTM, the leading event in the sector, we will play a major role in boosting tourism in the Riviera from the world’s sporting community, and more specifically British, American and Asian visitors.”

Charlie Cracknell, Senior Exhibition Director at Reed Travel Exhibitions, said: “Cannes is one of the most glamorous destinations in Europe and, as the established home of the world’s largest festival of cinema, it is the perfect destination to host the landmark edition of IGTM.

“The quality of golf courses and resorts in Cannes is outstanding and, combined with an excellent conference facility at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, we have all the necessary elements to stage a truly fantastic event.”

Showcasing one of Europe’s most stylish golfing destinations, Cannes and the wider Côte d’Azur, IGTM 2017 will not only help put the spotlight on over 30 of the region’s golf courses, many of which are internationally renowned, it will also highlight the 600+ courses throughout France. 

David Lisnard added: “IGTM will help contribute to expanding the international reputation of Cannes, the capital of outdoor sports, and the Côte d'Azur, as an unbeatable tourist and golfing destination thanks to the diversity of our countryside, sunny climate, history, culture and the quality of our infrastructure. 

“The event will also highlight the region’s hospitality expertise, excellent infrastructure and first-class professionalism – all of which will help drive economic wealth to the region.”

Before and during IGTM 2017, FAM trips will also be organised on the Côte d’Azur for tour operators and specialist press in the golf travel sector.

“In a context of heightened competition with European and international destinations, all the links in the tourism chain have been mobilised to provide attractive conditions to IGTM’s organisers thanks to the combined efforts of Cannes Town Council, SEMEC, Atout France, the CRT Côte d’Azur, golfing hotels, agencies and all professionals involved in promoting the Côte d’Azur destination,” concluded David Lisnard who praised the partners for their commitment.

The 20th edition of IGTM follows a record-breaking event in Mallorca that counted more than 14,000 pre-approved appointments, the highest number of pre-registered buyers and 515 exhibitors, together with a range of local and international media, attending the four-day event that took place at Son Termes, in Palma.

For more information about IGTM visit: www.igtm.co.uk

Florida’s First Coast of Golf

Northeastern Florida’s Coast is pleased to announce it has been awarded the Golf Destination of the Year for North America for 2017 by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).

With five distinct coastal regions, each with their own championship golf offerings and luxury southern charm, Amelia Island, Jacksonville and The Beaches, Clay County, Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches, and St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach makes Northeast Florida’s Coast a premier golf destination. 

Northeastern Florida’s Coast is globally recognized as the home of THE PLAYERS Championship played each May on TPC Sawgrass’ THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. The region is also home to the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, PGA TOUR and Champions Tour. Northeast Florida, and its 196 kilometer stretch along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, is home to some of the world’s finest coastal golf courses, resorts and teaching academies in the USA.

IAGTO is the global trade association of the golf tourism industry, comprised of 600 golf tour operators from more than 60 different countries who cast their vote for this award. Each operator is asked to nominate the best performing golf destinations enjoyed by their clients, resulting in five Golf Destination of the Year winners from each of the five regional categories – North America, Latin America & Caribbean, Europe, Africa & Gulf States & Indian Ocean, Asia and Australasia. Criteria under consideration include customer satisfaction, quality of courses and accommodation, value for money, professional conduct of suppliers, support from local tourism industry and accessibility to tee times.

Visiting golfers have many choices to select from boasting 44 travel friendly courses stretching over 196 kilometers of Florida Atlantic coastline. Accommodation choices are abundant featuring 7 luxurious golf resorts with four and 5 diamond ratings as well as upper mid-scale accommodations. Apart from the fantastic golf, accommodations, beaches and Florida sunshine – the region’s people have a hospitable culture and southern charm that has visiting golfers returning year after year. Shopping, local seafood dining and popular local breweries and wineries are also part of the local flare our guests partake.

For golf aficionados and leisure travelers alike, Northeast Florida’s travel access points are easy to navigate. The award winning Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) has up to 14 daily flights connecting from all international gateways within the United States and direct service from Toronto. By car, the regional motorways are brilliantly positioned for efficiently navigating the region and is just a short 1.5 hour drive from Orlando.

Florida’s First Coast is a resort destination for families, couples, and senior travelers, offering pristine beaches, exceptional golf, a wealth of art and cultural events, and a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment for all ages year-round.

For more information on visiting Northeast Florida, contact Florida’s First Coast of Golf, Inc. 904.607.3204 or visit www.florida-golf.org

2017 IAGTO Awards unveiled at IGTM

Destinations, golf courses and golf resorts from Florida, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Greece, Vietnam and Austria were lauded as the 17th annual IAGTO Awards took place at a gala dinner in Palma, Mallorca.

The event, attended by more than 1,000 golf tourism industry professionals, was held in Palma’s spectacular Son Amar show venue on the final night of the International Golf Travel Market.

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “For 17 years now we have been recognising a handful of golf courses, golf resorts and golf destinations each year who have excelled in their efforts to deliver the best possible experience to the visiting golf traveller.

“This has become such a special event because the Awards are voted for by the world’s golf tour operators and golf travel writers and therefore carry great weight within the industry.

“There are always some great stories behind the winning destinations and resorts. We held our first IAGTO Awards in 2000 in Jacksonville accompanied by the city’s 60-piece Philharmonic Orchestra, so to see the North Florida region that encompasses Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Amelia Island picking up our North America Golf Destination of the Year Award, brought back a lot of good memories; Los Cabos is one of the world’s truly great golf destinations which is continuing to add new spectacular courses to its inventory; and Andalucía triumphed in Europe for the second time which is testimony to how well this expansive golf destination is working together.”

The 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards, which are run in conjunction with GEO (Golf Environment Organization), were also announced at the gala dinner.

2017 IAGTO Awards winners
Golf Destination of the Year – North America: North Florida, USA
Golf Destination of the Year – Latin America & Caribbean: Los Cabos, Mexico
Golf Destination of the Year – Africa & Gulf States: Western Cape, South Africa
Golf Destination of the Year – Europe: Andalucía, Spain
Golf Destination of the Year – Asia & Australasia: Chiang Mai Province, Thailand
Golf Resort of the Year – Europe: Costa Navarino, Greece
Golf Resort of the Year – North America: Barefoot Resort & Golf, South Carolina, USA
Golf Resort of the Year – Rest of the World: Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, Vietnam
Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year: Kärnten (Carinthia), Austria

2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards winners
Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Nature Protection: Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort, Kenya
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Community Value: Laguna Golf Phuket, Thailand
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Resource Efficiency: Pebble Beach Resorts, California, USA
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Outstanding Commitment to Sustainable Golf: Machrihanish Dunes, Scotland

For the 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards press release, and comments and press releases from individual IAGTO Awards and IAGTO Sustainability Awards winners, visit www.iagto.com/awards.

2017 IAGTO Awards Winners quotes

Golf Destination of the Year – North America: North Florida
David Reese, President, Florida’s First Coast of Golf: “We are truly humbled and grateful to be named the 2017 North American Golf Destination of the year. To be selected amongst so many amazing golf destinations throughout the US, Mexico and Canada is truly an honour. We cherish our relationships with all IAGTO tour operators and thank them for entrusting our region to deliver a memorable experience for their clients. We also appreciate the members of the media for covering North East Florida for so many years.”

Golf Destination of the Year – Latin America & Caribbean: Los Cabos
Rodrigo Esponda Cascajares, Managing Director, Los Cabos Tourism Board: “We are delighted to accept this prestigious award from the world’s leading association of golf travel providers,” said. “Dating back to the early 1990s, we have welcomed some of the most spectacular golf facilities in the world. The recent addition of several outstanding newcomers has raised the bar of excellence and taken the Los Cabos golf scene to the next level.”

Golf Destination of the Year – Africa & Gulf States: Western Cape, South Africa
Carl Reinders, Owner, ProGolf African Safaris, speaking on behalf of South African golf tour operators: “It is fantastic to win this award in which we were up against Abu Dhabi, Agadir, Dubai and Casablanca. I hope it will encourage more golfers to visit South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape. South Africa has now been awarded an IAGTO Destination or Golf Resort Award for the seventh time since 2003, which highlights just what a fantastic golf destination our beautiful country is and the wonderful golf it has to offer.” 

Golf Destination of the Year – Europe: Andalucía, Spain
Francisco Javier Fernández, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Andalucía said the award was the most evident proof of the “quality and excellence” of the golf offered by the region. Fernández, who collected the award at the Gala Dinner in Palma, Mallorca, highlighted the “attractive and diverse complimentary offers of the region that suit almost all the preferences and desires of the visitor” and contribute to enhance Andalucía as one of the most complete and competitive destinations worldwide.

Golf Destination of the Year – Asia & Australasia: Chiang Mai Province, Thailand
Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand: “I am delighted that Chiang Mai has been voted as the Asia & Australasia Golf Destination of the Year for 2017 by IAGTO. It is fitting that the city is now internationally recognised for the high quality of its golf courses, for it is a little-known fact that Chiang Mai is home to Thailand’s first-ever golf course, created way back in 1898. Golfers love that within just a few kilometres of the city they can find challenging, state-of-the-art courses, all with a stunning backdrop of the Northern hills. And they can end the day’s play enjoying traditional Northern hospitality, spa treatments and unique delectable cuisine.”

Golf Resort of the Year – Europe: Costa Navarino, Greece
Stephanos Theodorides, Managing Director and Vice Chairman of TEMES SA – Costa Navarino: “We are both delighted and honoured that tour operator members of IAGTO have selected Costa Navarino as the Best European Golf Resort 2017.  With its variety of challenging yet rewarding courses by the sea, and perfect weather all year round, Costa Navarino is fast establishing itself as a leading destination to excite golf aficionados.  Furthermore, with plenty to offer beyond exceptional golfing, Costa Navarino introduces guests to a plethora of authentic experiences, combining culture and history, thus becoming the perfect, all season getaway.”

Golf Resort of the Year – North America: Barefoot Resort & Golf, South Carolina, USA
Dave Genevro, Barefoot Resort & Golf General Manager: “We are honoured to have won this award and it’s a testament to the entire team at Barefoot Resort, beginning with the ownership of the Puglia family and their dedication to making Barefoot a premier resort. Every day our goal is provide a premier golf experience and that begins at the bag drop and extends through the 19th hole. This award is validation of that hard work and one we are extremely proud of.”

Golf Resort of the Year – Rest of the World: Laguna Golf Lăng Cô, Vietnam
Chi Phan, Laguna Läng Cô Assistant Vice President, Director of Operations: “Winning the IAGTO Golf Resort of the Year award is a significant milestone and recognition to Laguna Golf Lăng Cô team’s dedication in providing high quality resort and course facilities with exceptional experience. It comes on the heels of the recent 2nd annual Laguna Golf Classic hosted by Laguna Golf brand ambassador and course designer Sir Nick Faldo and we are set to welcome our guests for the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in March 2017.”

Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year: Kärnten (Carinthia), Austria
Christian Kresse, Managing Director, Carinthian Tourist Board: “Carinthia lies in the south of Austria between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea: a special location that holds various benefits. Its mild climate, stunning scenery with mountains such as the Grossglockner, numerous warm recreational lakes like the Wörthersee and naturally also the delicious local cuisine make Carinthia a holiday region offering great variety for families. Golfers can also enjoy Carinthia’s beautiful countryside on the region’s courses, which are all renowned for their high standards. Many of the Carinthian golf clubs are partners in Alpe-Adria-Golf Card, a cooperation with our friends in Slovenia and Friuli Venezia Giulia that enables golfers to play in three countries with only one ticket. I am delighted that Carinthia has won the international Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year award and I feel sure that we will now attract even more visitors with our unique Alpe-Adria-Golf Card.”

2016 IAGTO Sustainability Awards Winners’ Quotes

Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA
Teresa Wade, founder of Experience Green, local non-profit organisation that promotes sustainability: “It is an honour to be recognised by IAGTO and GEO and receive this award for sustainability throughout the destination. Hilton Head Island was developed on sustainable guidelines, and continues leadership for sustainability through measurable and transparent initiatives with people and partnerships at the centre of its success.  It is rewarding to know that this good work, with golf at the core of its focus, will benefit residents and visitors, both natural and human, today and for generations to come.”

Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Nature Protection: Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort, Kenya
Mohammed Hersi, CEO, Heritage Hotels: “We are humbled and extremely elated that our efforts at improving our immediate environment with our partners has received such a major recognition. It’s an endorsement to our shareholders' vision and a major boost for the stakeholders involved. As a company, we strongly believe in giving back and looking after our environment. The Eburru Forest remains one of the few places in Kenya where the elusive Bongo remains in the wild. We owe it to our future generations to look after our bio-diversity.”

Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Community Value: Laguna Golf Phuket, Thailand
Paul Wilson, Laguna Golf Assistant Vice President/Group Golf Director: “Laguna Golf, part of Banyan Tree Group, is proud to be recognised by the established IAGTO Awards with two prestigious awards. Echoing the Group’s ethos of Asian-inspired hospitality and sustainability, IAGTO provides the platform for us to raise the bar and spur us to be forward-thinking in the continual strive for service excellence while leading the way in sustainability for a superior golf experience.”

Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Resource Efficiency: Pebble Beach Resorts, California, USA
Bill Perocchi, CEO of Pebble Beach Company: “Pebble Beach is surrounded by stunning natural beauty integral to the golf and visitor experience, and our environmental efforts have allowed us to make great strides in preserving the legacy of our property for our guests. We are proud to be the recipient of an award that recognises these important efforts, and look forward to continuing our environmental stewardship of this beautiful corner of the world for generations to come.” 

Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Outstanding Commitment to Sustainable Golf: Machrihanish Dunes, Scotland
David Southworth, Founder and CEO of Southworth Development, the parent company of The Village at Machrihanish Dunes: “We are thrilled to have received this special award from GEO and IAGTO. Our company places great importance on being good stewards of the environment, and Machrihanish Dunes has shown that it’s possible to provide an even more elevated experience to visitors by putting ecological responsibilities at the forefront. We consider ourselves privileged to have the opportunity to stand watch over this precious shore land, and to make it possible for so many people to come to Machrihanish and enjoy it. It’s a responsibility that we welcome—and one that we also take very seriously.”

2017 Sustainability Awards

South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island has been named as the first-ever Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year in the 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards.

This capped a remarkable double for the island, following on from it winning the North America Golf Destination of the Year honour in the 2016 IAGTO Awards.

The latest accolade came during the fifth IAGTO Sustainability Awards, held as part of the annual IAGTO Awards at a gala dinner attended by over 1,000 golf tourism industry professionals at the Son Amar show venue in Palma, Mallorca, on the final night of the International Golf Travel Market.

Golf courses in the USA, Kenya, Thailand and Scotland were also honoured for their efforts in the fields of nature protection, resource efficiency, community value and outstanding commitment to sustainable golf. 

The IAGTO Sustainability Awards are the culmination of a strategic partnership between global golf tourism trade organisation IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators), and GEO (Golf Environment Organization), and recognise excellence in environmental and social responsibility.

The 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards winners are:
Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Nature Protection: Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort, Kenya
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Community Value: Laguna Golf Phuket, Thailand
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Resource Efficiency: Pebble Beach Resorts, California, USA
Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Outstanding Commitment to Sustainable Golf: Machrihanish Dunes, Scotland

Jonathan Smith, GEO Chief Executive, said: "Once again we see an outstanding response to the IAGTO Sustainability Awards. The standard of entries gets stronger and stronger – exemplifying the commitment and positive value of golf across all corners of the globe.

“While all the entrants and shortlisted clubs deserve praise, the winners of the three regional venue awards, Great Rift Valley, Pebble Beach and Laguna Phuket, stand out for their commitment and positive impact across the three core themes of sustainable golf – nature, resources and community.

“Machrihanish Dunes, the winner of this year's inaugural Outstanding Commitment Award, have, from the course's inception through to today, worked in harmony with the natural environment.  In many ways, the Machrihanish Dunes project represents golf's turning point back towards stunning, highly naturalised courses.”

“This year, the celebration of the first-ever Sustainable Golf Destination Award is a genuine landmark for golf and golf tourism,” Smith continued.

“This award encourages golf tourism destinations around the world to find ways to increase and promote the positive social and environmental value the sport brings to their region.

“In this first year, Hilton Head Island are well deserved winners, delivering so many individual and collective actions across the destination. Our huge congratulations to them and to Teresa Wade and her team who did so much to coordinate the initiative there.

“Kudos to all of this years participants and winners, and to IAGTO for their continuing leadership to spotlight and encourage sustainability in and through golf."

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “The addition of our new Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year Award, announced last year, has already had a terrific impact around the world by giving destinations the tools and incentive to look at sustainability across an entire region, levelling up the existing best practices in sustainability. Within only five years our Sustainability Awards have made a real difference across the globe, which is great to see.”

2017 IAGTO Sustainability Awards Winners GEO citations:

Hilton Head island: Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year
“Winner of the Sustainable Golf Destination of the Year, Hilton Head Island was an outstanding entry due to both individual club and collaborative destination efforts. They demonstrated holistic sustainability through a combination of practical action and a continual commitment to future improvements and showed community partnerships to be at the heart of their work.”

Machrihanish Dunes: Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Outstanding Commitment to Sustainable Golf
“This year, in a special discretionary award, Machrihanish Dunes, in Scotland, is celebrated as a club which has shown an exemplary and ongoing commitment to sustainability and highlights the exceptional contributions or actions which have been brought to GEO’s attention through certification, media coverage and other award entries.
“Machrihanish Dunes has been selected due to its outstanding and inspiring work as a minimal impact golf course, in harmony with its natural environment. The club’s commitment and practices to use resources efficiently and provide positive community value are also showcased through this award.”

Pebble Beach Resorts: Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Resource Efficiency
“World-renowned Pebble Beach wins the Resource Efficiency category for its collaboration with seven neighbouring courses using reclaimed waste water. This project has greatly reduced the amount of waste water that previously had been discharged into Carmel Bay, contributing to the improvement of ocean water quality in this area. Furthermore, the reclaimed water meets 100% of the irrigation needs of all the golf courses in the Del Monte Forest (Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, Peter Hay Golf Course, Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, and Poppy Hills), thus eliminating potable water usage and saving over four billion gallons of potable water for the community to date.

“In addition to this, a solar PV renewable energy project at the maintenance facility has offset 99% of the building’s annual electricity bill. The 25-year cost saving is projected to be over $900,000. The project provides a 25-year carbon footprint reduction, equivalent to planting 59,000 new trees to soak up harmful greenhouse gases; removing 335 cars from the road in greenhouse gas exhaust emissions; the elimination of trash pick-up from 81,000 homes by not sending 571 tons of waste to landfill; and the elimination of 12,000 15-gallon fill-ups by not burning 179,211 gallons of gasoline.

“Pebble Beach has also developed a recycling programme to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste in all operations, from offices and retail to the golf courses, special events, 17-Mile Drive scenic turnouts, and post-guest room recycling. These efforts annually divert over 6.46 million pounds of green waste, plastic, glass, metal, cardboard, paper, batteries, tires, paints, paint thinners, used carpets, oil filters, oil, chemicals, and more from area landfills, and reduce impact at the resort level, including biodegradable containers and use of non-toxic chemicals in housekeeping.”

Laguna Golf Phuket: Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Community Value
“Laguna Golf Phuket has been dedicated to community relations and corporate social responsibility since its establishment in 1984 within the grounds of a disused tin mine. By turning profits back into key ethically motivated purposes – cultural diversity, social equity, educational empowerment, promotion of health and sports, and environmental preservation – the resort is able to function as a community within a community, safeguarding its ecological and cultural heritage and promoting a shared prosperity.

“For this reason and the wider value it provides, Laguna Golf Phuket wins the Community Value category.”

Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort: Sustainable Golf Course of the Year – Nature Protection
Driving positive ecological impacts on a large scale, Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort, in Kenya, wins the Nature Protection category for its reforestation programme alongside the Kenya Wildlife Service and Rafiki Foundation in the local Eburru community. One thousand acres of native forest will be restored this year providing valuable habitat for local wildlife, encouraging biodiversity and protecting watersheds and soil from erosion. The introduction of zebras, impalas, antelopes and reedbucks will also return a balance to the ecosystem and a more natural food-chain cycle.

• For quotes from IAGTO Sustainability Awards winners and the overall 2016 IAGTO Awards press release, click on www.iagto.com/awards.

New Zealand rising golf destination

Record golf tourism growth hits hole in one

Read Tourism New Zealand's Golf Tourism Progress Report here.

Golf tourism in New Zealand is thriving with golf visitors up a record 23% alongside an 18% increase in spend by these visitors for the year ending April 2016.

The growth rate is among one of the highest being experienced worldwide.

This week, Golf Tourism New Zealand’s third golf tourism progress report was released to industry providing a summary of activity taken over the past year as part of the International Golf Tourism Strategy.

An impressive $329 million is being pumped into the economy each year from international golf tourism.

Over the last few years there has been significant investment in new and existing courses resulting in New Zealand offering a range of uncrowded internationally ranked courses that are proving very attractive.

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.

“The results speak for themselves and are testament to Tourism New Zealand’s golf tourism initiative. We are confident that international golf travel to New Zealand will continue to snowball because the destination has clusters of truly spectacular golf courses providing a golf experience that is quite unique to New Zealand and will be much sought after as the word spreads around.”

Walton added “Globally, golf tourism is in a good place with 2016 being the fifth year of consecutive growth and forward bookings for 2017 looking strong, with golf tour operator bookings up 4.8% year on year worldwide and up 5.3% in Asia and Australasia.”

The golf tourism market is extremely valuable. Golfing visitors tend to stay longer and spend more, staying on average 27 days compared with other holiday visitors who stay for an average 16 days.

Golfing visitors are also more likely to do other activities like visiting wineries and local attractions so we promote itineraries that incorporate regional offerings that golfers can easily enjoy in addition to their course rounds.

International golfers are looking for unique courses that offer something different.

New Zealand has around 400 courses and offers incredible variety, from oceanfront subtropical courses in the north to alpine settings in the south. Golfers can easily travel to a range of courses while in New Zealand sampling what each region has to offer on their way and this is a huge draw card.


Danang on track for record AGTC

With six months still to go to the 6th annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC), the event this week received its 200th registration from international golf tour operators.

Established in 2012 by IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) as an annual networking event for its Asia Pacific members, ACTC has now become pivotal for IAGTO golf tour operators across the globe looking to extend their product and expand sales to golf destinations throughout the region. Approximately 70% of the attending golf tour operators or ‘buyers’ will be from Asia Pacific markets.

Branded “AGTC on the Beach”, the 2017 Convention heads to the award-winning golf and beach destination of Danang, in central Vietnam, next May having previously been staged in Malaysia capital Kuala Lumpur, Thailand beach resort Pattaya, China’s Hainan Island, Indonesia capital Jakarta and, this year, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. 

Speaking in Danang this week, IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “To have 200 of our member golf tour operators signed up to attend next year’s event so early is a clear indication of both the value of the event to tour operators and the appeal of Danang as a golf destination. Despite currently having only four golf courses, all are world class, offer great value and welcome visiting golfers. This demonstrates the importance of clusters of ‘export ready’ golf courses to the success of aspiring golf destinations.”

Walton added: “Our AGTC event is open to our member golf resorts, golf courses, hotels and other golf tourism suppliers from Asia, Australasia, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf States, where they get to meet with IAGTO golf tour operators from over 35 countries. The growth rate of golf holiday sales to and within Asia by IAGTO operators has been running at around 10% per year since 2013, so we will not be surprised if attendance at AGTC 2017 tops 600 delegates, all of whom will be looking to take advantage of a dual expansion of sales and destinations.”

AGTC 2017 is supported by Danang Tourism, Furama Resort, Sungroup, Premier Village, Novotel Danang, Vietnam Airlines, Ba Na Hills Golf Club, Montgomerie Links Golf Club and Laguna Golf Lang Co along with a raft of hotels and Vietnamese inbound golf operators.

Deputy Director of Danang Tourism, Nguyen Xuan Binh, said: “We are very honoured to be staging the Asia Golf Tourism Convention. It will be very good to get so many international golf tour operators to see and experience our city, beach resort and golf courses for themselves. This will obviously help to promote Danang as a golf destination and encourage more people to come to the city for golf. We have very beautiful golf courses and our aim is to develop high end, high quality tourism. Golf is very important for us already will continue to grow over the coming years, so we are very pleased to have this opportunity to showcase Danang to IAGTO golf tour operators.”

Peter Walton concluded: “Based on the experience of previous AGTC host destinations, next year’s event will lead directly to an immediate growth in golf tourism to Danang and Vietnam, amounting to incremental tourism revenues in the tens of millions of dollars. To secure this tangible legacy of high revenue, low impact tourism, we have, this week, enthusiastically agreed to support Danang Tourism in the development and implementation of a sustainable golf tourism strategy for Danang and the wider Vietnam Central Coast region.”

AGTC 2017 will take place from 7-10 May at the Furama Resort Danang and Convention Centre, with golf tour operators staying at the Furama Resort, Premier Village and Novotel Danang hotels. An expected 180 golf resorts, golf courses, hotels and tourist boards from across the Asia Pacific region will meet to do business with over 220 golf tour operators from more than 35 countries.

To view the AGTC website: www.iagto.com/AGTC.

Success - USA Golf Tourism Survey

Inaugural USA golf tourism survey off to a flyer

Just two months since the launch of the Brand USA-backed National Golf Tourism Survey conducted by global golf tourism organisation IAGTO, the initiative has proved a huge success with tourist boards and golf courses across the U.S. giving it their backing.
Aimed at identifying the current value of golf tourism in the US prior to the development of a strategy to boost the number of international golfers to the country, the initiative was unveiled during the 7th annual North America Golf Tourism Convention held by IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) in Palm Springs, California, in June.

Already, over 50 state tourist boards and local convention and visitor bureaux have signed up to participate and more than 200 individual golf courses have completed the golf visitor survey so far.

IAGTO Project Coordinator Guillaume Post explained: “Calculating the current value of golf tourism and assessing its capacity for growth on a regional basis is an essential first step to developing an effective golf tourism strategy. This survey and service is being conducted entirely free of charge and we would like to invite every state tourist board, regional tourism organisation and commercially-minded golf course to get on board.”

US tourist boards and golf courses can register at www.iagto.com/brandusa.

The results of the survey will be published at the 8th IAGTO North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC), taking place at Pinehurst Resort, NC, from 26-29 June 2016.

Peter Walton, IAGTO’s Chief Executive, is inviting all tourist boards, however small their golf destination, along with their golf courses, hotels and DMCs to attend NAC next year. He said: “Not only will the NAC be their chance to meet with over 100 golf tour operators from 25 countries, all selling golf vacations to the US, but it will double up next year as an educational forum helping every golf destination in the US find the most effective ways to develop international golf tourism.”

Details of the NAC event at Pinehurst Resort are available at www.iagto.com/NAC.

Tourist boards and golf courses already signed up and participating in the National Golf Tourism Survey are from 20 states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Oregon, Washington State, Montana, Maine, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Hawaii.

Brand USA
Brand USA, the destination-marketing organization for the U.S., has partnered with the IAGTO to drive golf tourism to the USA. IAGTO and Brand USA have embarked on an evaluation of the current state of golf tourism in the U.S. with a national golf tourism survey being conducted across as many as 30 US states (www.iagto.com/brandusa). 

Established in 1997, IAGTO is the global trade organisation of the golf tourism industry, and has over 2400 members in almost 100 countries including nearly 590 golf tour operator members in 61 countries, which control more than 85% of golf holiday packages sold worldwide and which collectively have annual sales of over US$2 billion. IAGTO runs annual Asia and North America Golf Tourism Conventions, along with regular Destination Conventions. IAGTO established the International Golf Travel Market, now owned and operated by Reed Travel Exhibitions, in 1997 and the International Golf Travel Writers Association in 2000. IAGTO also runs the prestigious annual IAGTO Awards and the IAGTO Excellence Awards.

For Further Information:
Guillaume Post
Marketing & Communications Manager
gpost@iagto.com │ Tel: +44 20 8096 3377 │ www.iagto.com

Growth potential for US Golf Tourism

While golf visitor numbers grew in 2015 for U.S. golf courses, there is still significant capacity for “desirable” growth from both the international and domestic golf travel sectors – with potential for as much as a 20% increase this year and beyond.

That is one of the initial findings from the year-long golf tourism survey being undertaken by the global golf tourism organization, IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators).

IAGTO began its first nationwide golf tourism study In September 2015 following an announcement in June at its 7th North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC) in Palm Springs that it was teaming up with Brand USA, the destination-marketing organization for the U.S., on a major initiative to drive golf tourism to the United States.

IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “Although we already carry out the most comprehensive global golf tourism survey annually, this is undoubtedly the most ambitious project that we have undertaken considering the sheer size and variety of the USA’s golf destinations and the number of golf courses involved.

“It was striking that only 2% of the participating courses kept accurate data on domestic and international visitor numbers, so providing them with a mechanism to achieve this simply and with minimum hassle was very well received.

“Golf courses participating in the survey will not only get a better idea of the direction that golf tourism within and to the USA is taking, but most importantly where they themselves are positioned within that national picture.”

Walton added: “The project is ongoing and the full findings will be presented at the 8th NAC taking place at Pinehurst Resort, SC, America’s Home of Golf, on 27 June this year.

“Although still six months away, the event already has received a record number of registrations from international golf tour operators and U.S. golf courses, resorts, hotels and DMCs (destination management companies).

“We already have a lot of good data and we are keen to make this available to the golf tourism industry straight away.”

Key mid-term findings from the IAGTO U.S. golf tourism survey:

  • All but one of the respondent facilities considered themselves to be attractive to the U.S. domestic market, the exception being a state university golf course.
  • 93% of courses perceived themselves to be attractive to the international golf visitor and a further 4% were unsure of their appeal.
  • 96% were keen to receive more visiting golfers in 2016 and beyond.
  • 9.8% of visitor rounds were played by international golf travelers.
  • 44% of courses projected that golf visitor numbers would be up in 2015 compared to 2014, with only 6% experiencing or expecting a drop in visitor green fees.
  • There was much less certainty projecting international visitor numbers compared to domestic golf visitors, with 18% of courses unable to gauge whether international golf visitors would increase or decrease in 2015. This compared to only 7% of courses that were unsure about the trends of the domestic market, demonstrating that many courses did not have a good “handle” on the international market.
  • Overall, international visitor rounds were expected to grow by 1.95% in 2015 with domestic visitor rounds growing by 1.80%. Of those courses experiencing an increase in visitor numbers, average growth per course in 2015 was expected to be 6.4% from international visitors and 7.4% from domestic visitors.
  • 83% of courses were able to calculate the capacity for growth in golf visitor rounds in 2016 and beyond. This “desirable capacity for growth” represents 19.3% of existing visitor round numbers – meaning almost one extra golfer for every five golfers currently playing.
  • The average green fee of the respondent courses was $86.40.
  • Total visitor green fee revenue, together with pro shop and food and beverage spend by visitors, exceeded $530 million from the 230 participating courses alone.
  • 41% of courses stated that international golf visitors spent an average of 18% more per person in the pro shop and on food and beverages than domestic visitors.
  • Tens of millions of dollars were also generated directly by golf visitors in room night sales from only this small sample of golf courses and golf resorts.

Golf courses, CVBs and state tourist boards can participate in this ongoing national golf tourism survey by visiting www.iagto.com/brandusa

For details of the 2016 North America Golf Tourism Convention, visit www.iagto.com/NAC

Survey details:

Findings are from 230 18-hole equivalent courses (for example a 27-hole facility is considered 1.5 courses).

Participating golf courses include IAGTO members and non-members and the survey, to date, has secured the support of 60 state tourist boards and regional CVBs (convention and visitor bureaus).

47% of participating courses were classified as semi-private golf clubs, 44% classified themselves as golf resorts, 20% were municipal facilities and 21% had a real estate component.


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

Thailand interview with IAGTO CEO

Commonly considered as the most influential man in global golf tourism, Peter Walton travelled to Chiang Mai with Golf Vacations, earlier this year, and George Somapa, Editor of Golf Vacations Thailand interviewed him this week after the announcement that IAGTO had chosen Chiang Mai as the venue for its 5th Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) next year. We found out there is a lot more to this CEO than an annual golf travel event...