Italy is perfectly positioned to benefit from growing domestic demand for golf and international golf tourism, according to new research compiled by KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice.
With the golfing world turning its attention to Italy for the European Tour’s BMW Italian Open, 13-16 September followed by the annual KPMG Golf Business Forum at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, 17-19 September, the report shines a light on a country that could be European golf’s sleeping giant.
With growing media interest in Italian tournament professionals including Francesco Molinari, who will tee it up with Team Europe at The Ryder Cup later this month, plus teenage sensation Matteo Manassero, a two-time winner on the European Tour, the number of golfers in Italy could continue to rise, while the established tourism market could convert more of the country’s 35 million foreign visits per year into higher-yielding golf holidays.
The report – prepared with the support of Fondazione Campus Lucca, and to be launched at the KPMG Golf Business Forum on September 18 – reveals the number of golf courses and golfers inItalyhas doubled in the past two decades. Specifically:
- The number of golf courses has grown 137% in 20 years to 278, although only 232 of these are deemed standard 9 or 18-hole facilities
- The talian Golf Federation (FIG) reports the number of golfers has nearly doubled in the same period to more than 100,000 affiliated players, although approximately 70,000 are believed to be regular golfers, including close to 600 PGA golf professionals
- Golf is concentrated in the north ofItaly, with 71% of courses found here, 19% in the central region and 10% in the south and islands (Sardinia and Sicily)
- Piedmont and Lombardy regions host the highest number of golf courses, 43 and 39, respectively, followed by Veneto (28) and Emilia-Romagna (25). Tuscany and Lazio, located in central Italy, also provide a wide range of alternatives to play golf with 20 and 17 facilities, respectively
- Sardinia and Sicily host some of the most prestigious Italian golf clubs, more than half of which have been developed in the last 10 years. With the opening of five new golf courses last year, the central and southern regions show positive development trends
- Despite the economic downturn, more than half of the facilities surveyed reported an increase in the number of rounds played (2011).
However, the report also reveals thatItalyis not realizing its potential:
- Membership fees in Italy are among the highest in Europe (EUR 1,950 per annum, on average), resulting in a low membership base at golf courses – 346 members per course, on average
- The game is also perceived as elitist in some quarters, and is dominated by male players (66% of registered players), although measures have been put in place to encourage greater participation among women (23%) and juniors (11%)
- Overall, the average golf participation rate is between 0.12% and 0.17% of the population, relatively low compared to established golf markets such as Great Britain (1.7%), Ireland (4%), Sweden (5.2%), the Netherlands (2.1%) and Switzerland (1%)
- 25% of rounds in Italy in 2011 were played by tourists
- Based on 2010 data presented by the National Tourism Observatory, the estimated number of foreign tourists who play golf in Italy is around 50-60,000. These golf tourists are mainly composed of adult couples (41%) and groups of friends (23%)
- In the same year, Italy recorded more than 35 million foreign visits, with the seven top source markets of inbound golf tourists accounting for over 46% of all visitors (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Sweden, Netherlands, UK).
To assess golf tourism demand potential, KPMG applied golf participation rates in these seven source markets. The results indicate a significant latent demand – up to 190,000 golf tourists – already present in Italy, indicating significant additional golf tourism potential.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice, said: “Something has happened with the Italian golf market in the past few years that makes it interesting. Some regions in Italy have finally recognized the socio-economic benefits that golf tourism can generate.
“Furthermore, the international success of Matteo Manessero together with the Molinari brothers and other young golfing talents has acted as a catalyst in attracting significant media attention for the game, which provides great exposure for golf and is very important in generating additional local demand.”
Dr. Sartori continued: “Despite the economic crisis, the outlook for the development of integrated golf resorts and master planned communities in the country is still positive.Italyis still a large economy with a strong domestic economic power and a tourism product that is second to none. The development of integrated golf real estate is a question of domestic and international economic recovery, the return of confidence of buyers and developers, together with the provision of bank financing for project development and to real estate buyers, something which will probably happen only in the mid term.
“Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Italy possesses all the key ingredients for the successful development of a larger golf population, golf resorts and communities, as well as stand-alone facilities.”
The survey results will be addressed by key industry professionals – including Sir Nick Faldo, Sir Rocco Forte, Costantino Rocca and Rio 2016 Olympic golf course designer Gil Hanse – at the Golf Business Forum, to be held at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, September 17-19, 2012. (For more information about the event and to register please visit www.golfbusinessforum.com.)
The full report will be available for download, free of charge, after 18 September on www.golfbusinesscommunity.com