Asia-Pacific region’s most important golf tourism event has recently mounted its annual convention in Manila. The Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) 2018 opened on April 22 and closed on April 25 at one of the most popular and world-class event venues in the metro, Resorts World Manila.
More than 560 international golf tour operators from around the world participated in the four-day event, 25% of which were first-time attendees of the annual convention. The 7th AGTC comprised of interesting and unique activities—like ‘Supplier Meets Buyer Speed-Dating’ and ‘Buyer Meets Supplier Appointments’—all designed to facilitate meeting and matching of golf tour operators (who are selling golf vacations across Asia) with golf tourism suppliers (gold resorts, hotels, inbound tour operators, tourist boards, and golf courses).
The highlight of the event was its thrust to promote the country as a golf destination in Asia. “The potential of the Philippines as an international golf destination remains undiscovered,” said Peter Walton, chief executive of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) which owns and operates the AGTC.
“Up to 70% of golf travelers say they choose their next golf destination based on the past golf visits of their friends, relatives, and fellow golfers. This brings the Philippines to a major scale because it has had a number of visitors from about 20 to 30 of the markets globally,” Walton added.
Walton also emphasized that golf tourism holds a strong potential as a source of revenue for the tourism sector. He estimated that every golf traveler spends up to 120% more in a golf destination on the average compared to general leisure tourists. “This is revenue for the country’s tourism industry and not just the golf courses, as 75% of spend is concentrated on hotels, restaurants, shopping, and transportation,” he explained.
Walton also suggested for the government to take advantage of the current state of global golf tourism. “Demand is exceeding supply in the popular destinations,” he said. He translated this into further revenue opportunities and added that local golf product makers should also ensure the quality of their merchandise for them to enjoy huge patronage from international golf travelers.
AGTC was made possible through the support of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its Tourism Promotion Board (TPB), along with other partners from the private sector—Resorts World Manila, Philippine Airlines, and the Association of Inbound Golf Tourism Philippines (AIGTP).
Convincing local golf clubs to open up
For its part, AIGTP recommended government intervention to convince golf course operators in the country to openly accommodate golf travelers from other countries. “Right now, we are still dealing with issues over exclusivity,” answered AIGTP President Connie Mamaril when asked about the current state of the local golf tourism. “It will be the role of the DOT and the TPB to make membership-golf course owners agree. They can offer incentives like tax cuts on imports, fertilizers, golf carts, and any other item they may need in golf courses.”
To date, there are 95 golf courses across the country—50 of which are in Luzon, while the remaining 45 are in the Visayas and Mindanao (including one in Boracay that is temporarily closed along with the entire resort-island). Of those golf clubs, 30 have already signed up as members of AIGTP.
The AGTC also promoted other host countries as golf destinations in the past. From 2012 to 2017, the annual event was held in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Pattaya (Thailand), Hainan Island (China), Jakarta (Indonesia), Chiang Mai (Thailand), and Danang (Vietnam).