KPMG report: Recession curbs appetite for golf travel

Demand for golf tourism has waned amid a persistent recession, but new international destinations are surfacing regardless – hoping to capitalize whenever the economy recovers, according to findings of a just-released KPMG survey.

More than 120 golf tour operators from 41 countries – about half from Europe – participated in the poll conducted this summer by KPMG Golf Advisory Practice based in Budapest, Hungary.

The survey responses clearly show the toll of the recession’s impact: 38 percent of the tour operators reported a decline in the number of golf tourists. That response was nearly four times greater than in 2008 when 10 percent acknowledged a slowdown in demand.

Though more than a majority of participants – 54 percent – noticed an increase in demand, that response, too, is off considerably from 2008. Then, 73 percent of operators reported an increase. (This year, 8 percent said demand was stable compared with 18 percent in 2008.)

Once the global recession passes, however, tour operators – 80 percent – expressed confidence that their business would grow steadily, if not experience “spectacular growth.”

Survey participants also were asked to rate “hot spots” for tourism in the coming years on a scale of 1 to 5, from modest to strong demand, respectively. Industry stalwarts topped the ratings: Spain (3.36 average score); Portugal (3.13); Ireland (3.10); Scotland (3.10); and USA (3.07).

But emerging markets such as Turkey – which is actively developing a golf tourism sector along its Mediterranean coastline with government support – made an impressive showing as well. It ranked 7th with a score of 2.89, faring better than more established markets such as South Africa (2.75) and Dubai (2.43).

Turkey’s efforts to establish courses in clusters, giving golfers easy access to multiple options, and the country’s more affordable prices likely are working in its favor.

According to the survey, golfers’ most important factors in choosing a golf destination are: course quality, price, accessibility and number of golf courses. Of the eight factors considered, a destination’s “golf tradition” ranked least important in vacation planning.

Among other key findings of KPMG’s Golf Travel Insights 2010:

• Nearly 70 percent of survey participants reported that tourists’ average length of stay remained the same. But 42 percent said golfers’ average trip budget has decreased, reflecting a budget-conscious mentality and the availability of discounted rates and packages.

• Seven-day golf packages, including flights, accommodation and golf, ranged from 400-500 euros to 5,000 euros. But the highest share of golf travelers chose packages priced between 1,000-1,500 euros.

The survey by KPMG Golf Advisory Practice – which conducts a variety of industry research and hosts a major annual conference, the Golf Business Forum – also included responses from tour operators in Asia, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand.

For a complete copy of the KPMG survey, Golf Travel Insights 2010, visit www.golfbusinesscommunity.com

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