Thailand’s emergence as a major force in global golf tourism will be further enhanced next week with the international launch of Golf In A Kingdom, a collection of the country’s best golf clubs, hotels and resorts.
Established five years ago, Golf In A Kingdom has grown to 23 members, comprising 12 top courses and 10 hotels in all major golf regions of the country, plus the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It is by far the leading program of its type in Asia Pacific.
“Golf In A Kingdom has played a major role in Thailand becoming one of the world’s top three golf tourism destinations, so we have decided to showcase it to golf tour operators and media from around the globe,” founder Mark Siegel said this week.
The international launch, to be held at Siam Country Club’s acclaimed Plantation Course on 1st May, will be attended by 60 golf tourism executives from Asia, Europe, North America and Australia and 30 media, most of whom are coming to Thailand especially for the occasion, from the same markets.
“Thailand has grown in stature immensely in the past five years as a golf tourism destination,” Siegel says. “We estimate total inbound golf tourism will reach 750,000 this year, double the number at the time Golf In A Kingdom was launched, with at least half the visitors coming from within Asia itself.
“Thailand receives more than 60 percent of all golf tourists to Asia and the way the market is developing, it is likely the kingdom will pass one million inbound golf tourists within three years. Thailand will then challenge Spain and the United States as the world’s favourite golf destination. It seems inevitable that, eventually, Thailand will become number one.”
Siegel says Thailand’s pre-eminence in Asia and its rising status internationally in golf tourism is because of a unique formula of golf, entertainment, value for money, golf infrastructure, safety, climate and, above all, the friendliness of the Thai people.
“Other countries have great courses and facilities, just like Thailand. But none have Thailand’s secret weapon – its people,” he argues. “They are the difference.
“Everyone in Thailand makes a special effort to ensure visitors feel welcome, and this is no more apparent than on Thailand’s golf courses, especially among the caddies.
“Many people who come here to play golf return time and again. In fact, the level of repeat business – and the length of time many people stay – is extraordinary. No other country goes anywhere near matching Thailand in this regard and all the while we are attracting new golf tourists. It is producing the perfect result.”
He also says a period of political stability is helping to maintain Thailand’s attraction to international tourists.
“Last year, Thailand welcomed 22 million international visitors, up 16 percent on 2011, about 3.5 percent of whom played golf. Although this may seem small, it is double the percentage of tourists who play golf in Malaysia and many times more than those who visit other Asian countries.”
The Golf In A Kingdom launch will be preceded by the Golf In A Kingdom Cup, a special tournament for invited tour operators and media.
The managing director of Siam Country Club, Khun Prasertchai Pornprapha, said the launch event presented was an opportunity to showcase its 27-hole Plantation course, as well as the Old Course and new Waterside course that will open next year.
The Old Course was the first private golf course in Thailand when opened in 1970. Both it and the Plantation layout have hosted LPGA tour events, including this year’s Honda LPGA Thailand at the Old Course, won by Korea’s InbeePark, and between them play more than 70,000 rounds a year.
“With Laem Chabang (a nearby course that is also a member of GIAK) we have the two best courses in the Pattaya region. Siam Country Club has set high standards that are a hallmark of Golf In A Kingdom courses,” he said. “We have seen considerable growth in visitor numbers to our courses and through our Golf In A Kingdom membership we are sure this will continue.”
Golf In A Kingdom members:
Golf Clubs – Banyan Golf Club, Black Mountain Golf Club, Chiang Mai Highlands Golf Resort & Spa, Laem Chabang International Country Club, Loch Palm Golf Club, Muang Kaew Golf Club, Red Mountain Golf Club, Riverdale Golf Club, Siam Country Club Old Course, Siam Country Club Plantation Course, Suwan Golf & Country Club, Thai Country Club.
Hotels & resorts – Banyan The Resort, Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa, Hilton Phuket, Hilton Arcadia Phuket Resort & Spa, Millennium Hilton Bangkok Hotel, Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers, The Chedi Chiang Mai, The St Regis Bangkok, Veranda Resort & Spa Cha-am, Veranda Resort & Spa Chiang Mai
Golf In A Kingdom www.golfinakingdom.com