Published on : Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Golf travel to Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai and the surrounding province is predicted to rocket by an unprecedented 25% over the next two years – as a direct result of hosting the 5th annual Asia Golf Tourism Convention.
This week the city is welcoming the largest-ever delegation of golf tourism professionals for the annual Asia convention, which is organised by global golf tourism industry organisation IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) and which has become a key networking event for golf travel in the region.
A record 643 delegates from 37 countries, including well over 200 tour operator buyers from 156 companies and 265 seller delegates from 155 golf resorts, golf clubs, hotels, inbound operators and tourist boards throughout the Asia-Pacific region, are participating in the event at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Proceedings got under on Monday following a welcome from dignitaries from the city and surrounding region at a spectacular opening ceremony featuring traditional Thai dancing and drumming displays with a golf-themed twist.
The delegates will also be experiencing golf on some of the region’s 14 golf courses; the annual AGTC Golf Tournament is taking place on two courses – Chiangmai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort and Mae Jo Golf Resort & Spa – on Wednesday, while 126 delegates will participate in a post-convention familiarisation trip and a further 11 will enjoy the culture and history of Mae Hong Son, Lampang and Lamphun on a non-golfing tour.
Addressing delegates, IAGTO CEO Peter Walton highlighted the importance of golf for Chiang Mai and Thailand, saying: “Asia is now the powerhouse of global golf tourism and Thailand is the engine that sits at the heart of this dynamic region.
“When we select a destination to host the AGTC we take into account the extent of the positive impact we can have on golf tourism to the region. Such is the capacity in Chiang Mai province’s 14 courses that it is anticipated that golf tourism to Northern Thailand will grow by some 25% over the next two years, as a direct result of staging the 5th AGTC in Chiang Mai here this week.
“Part of the reason for this is that while golf tour operators are very familiar with Thailand as a golf destination in general, it is clear that a majority had not visited Chiang Mai for many years, even a decade or more.”
Walton continued: “The quality of the courses, their rolling landscapes combined with the great value of the hotels and well established tourism infrastructure means that simple familiarity will surely breed success.
“The convention itself has been outstanding, with Chiang Mai attracting a record 643 delegates from 37 countries including 220 golf tour operators, all selling golf vacations to or within the Asia Pacific region. Thailand is not the only country that is benefiting from the convention – with 4200 business-to-business meetings pre-scheduled and many more taking place on site and ‘off campus’, golf resorts, destinations, hotels and golf courses from all over the Asia Pacific are generating new business by the hour.”
Welcoming the convention attendees to the gateway to Northern Thailand and Lanna Culture, Chiang Mai’s Deputy Governor, Puttipong Sirimart, thanked IAGTO for bringing more than 600 delegates from Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia and all over Asia, and added: “Golf tourism is a very important market for Chiang Mai and we know that with your help we can grow this sector by perhaps 25% over the next two years.”
Tourism Authority of Thailand Executive Director Marketing Services Department, Kitsana Kaewtumrong, told AGTC delegates that TAT’s tourism strategy was focused on four niche markets: wedding and honeymoons, health and wellness, green tourism and golf. “The increasing demand and popularity of golfing in Thailand among international golfers and golf tour operators has undoubtedly caught the attention of TAT and thereafter, we have placed much emphasis on this market as golfers do not travel alone, they come with families and friends, a very important market for tourism,” he said.
Golfers spend two to three times as much per day in Thailand as leisure tourists, according to Dr Sarawut Srisakuna, Acting Director General for Pinkanakorn Development Agency, which runs the CMECC convention centre where AGTC is taking place, underlining the importance of golf to the Chiang Mai area.
He pointed out that while Chiang Mai attracted almost eight million out of Thailand’s total of 29.88 million tourists in 2015, just 120,000 visitors were golfers.
“I strongly believe that today is a new beginning for Chiang Mai,” he said. “This convention is the catalyst for the growth of tourism.”