Addressing members of Thailand’s Golf In A Kingdom destination marketing program in Bangkok this week, Mr Walton said golf tourism had recovered more quickly than other sectors since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. And despite continuing problems, especially in Europe, the sector was continuing to grow.
He said international golf tourism was expected to exceed 50 million travellers in 2011, and perhaps reach 55 million, equivalent to the level in 2007 before the GFC.
“Golf tourism bounces back more quickly than other sectors,” he added. “In established markets, one in three golfers plan to travel in the next 12 months. That is a lot more than in other sectors, like skiing.
“We also know that golfers spend 120 percent more per person per day when staying in a resort than other travellers.”
Mr Walton, who is visiting the region from his London headquarters in preparation for the inaugural IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention in Kuala Lumpur next April, also said that whereas only 12 percent of the population in the United States played golf, golfers were responsible for 27pc of US travel expenditure.
“While we don’t have figures for other countries, this shows how important golf tourism is in the current international tourism climate,” he said.
Mr Walton later said that Spain, the United States and Thailand were currently the big three international golf destinations, with Turkey and Portugal among developing countries that were rapidly increasing their golf tourism sectors.
“Thailand is very well placed to continue the progress it has made in promoting golf tourism,” he noted.
An example of how the market is growing in Thailand has been the first visit to South-East Asia this month by clients of US tour operator, Kalos Golf. One group of 37 participants spent five days in Bangkok last week before travelling to Vietnam and Cambodia, also to play golf. A second group of 35 arrives in Bangkok this week where - like the first group - they are scheduled to play the renowned Thai Country Club before also travelling to Vietnam.
Tour manager, Sue Pierce, said the first group’s visit had exceeded her clients’ expectations. “We were welcomed so warmly and everyone had a wonderful experience. We were amazed that despite the flooding around Bangkok, there was no standing water on the course. We have already made a decision to return every year.”