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

Established in 1997, IAGTO's membership comprises 2542 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 61 countries.

It is estimated that IAGTO operators control some 87% of international golf holiday packages sold worldwide and in 2016 they carried 1.9 million golfers with a turnover of more than €2.1 billion. 2016 looks likely to be the 5th year of consecutive growth for IAGTO operators as sales grew by an average of 10.7% in 2015 with forward bookings at 1 January 2016, 12.1% up year on year. IAGTO golf courses, resorts and hotels also performed well last year with an average increase in golf visitor arrivals of 4.9%.

For almost 20 years we have worked 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
Growth potential for US Golf Tourism
Success - USA Golf Tourism Survey
Brand USA allies with IAGTO
Thailand interview with IAGTO CEO
NAC heads to Palm Springs in 2015
15th annual IAGTO Awards
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

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.


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

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...

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.

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

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.