As international golf tourism to South-East Asia accelerates, the region’s leading dedicated golf tour operator is gearing up for its biggest year ever.
“We’re expecting double-digit growth again for the 2013/14 season,” says Golfasian founder, Mark Siegel, who is bolstering his company’s resources to meet the demand.
“Inquiries for Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia are all very strong,” he reports. “Thailand and Vietnam are the destinations of choice for most visitors from Europe, Australia and within Asia itself. We’re receiving increased demand for Malaysia and Cambodia as well.”
An estimated one million international golf tourists – more than half from within Asia itself – will visit South-East Asia this year, with Thailand and Vietnam expected to capture 85 percent of the traffic.
Founded in 1997, Golfasian is recognized as the leading dedicated golf tour operator in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia. The company specializes in golf holiday tours for individuals and groups and has handled more than 85,000 golfers in its 15-year history.
Golfasian’s management team – comprising tourism industry professionals from the US, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, Germany, Vietnam and Thailand – has a wealth of experience in the golf, tourism and hospitality sectors.
Sales and marketing director, Marco Scopetta, a Swiss national who was the country’s PGA champion and, later, secretary of the Swiss PGA, joined Golfasian two years ago after moving to Thailand. He names Hua Hin as his favorite golf destination.
“Hua Hin combines fantastic golf courses, fabulous restaurants serving authentic local delicacies and international cuisine and a vibrant nightlife offering something for everyone,” he explains.
“Black Mountain Golf Club, site of the Asian Tour’s Black Mountain Masters in 2009 and 2010 and the 2011 Royal Trophy, is one of five great courses there. Banyan Golf Club won top prestigious golf awards at the Asia Pacific Golf Summit in 2010, while Springfield Royal Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1993, has long been one of Thailand’s most popular courses.”
Golfasian’s overseas sales manager, Paul Tudor, was raised in Melbourne, Australia and is a former professional player with a business degree. He spent five years teaching golf in Singapore and, later, in Bangkok before joining the company earlier this year.
Paul, who is responsible for developing Golfasian’s Malaysian and Indonesian business, says the two countries offer outstanding golf tourism opportunities.
“Malaysia has world class golf courses, beautiful beaches, scenery and an abundance of cultural and leisure activities,” he says. “The warm, tropical year-round weather makes Malaysia a must do for any golfer visiting South-East Asia.”
Malaysian native, Barry Knaggs, who heads up Golfasian’s expanding sales business in Vietnam, has been playing golf for 28 years and entered the golf tourism almost by accident through organizing tours to Vietnam for friends.
He says the 700-year-old city of Danang offers wonderful cultural experiences and should be included on any golf visit to this emerging golf tourism destination.
Jim Mullet, Golfasian’s international sales manager is based in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, which he names – along with nearby Chiangrai – as the best place for foreign golfers who want to experience traditional Thai culture.
Jim, whose background is in business management in the US, says that like central and southern Thailand, northern Thailand has excellent courses and hotels, but feels less westernized and “more Thai”.
“The pace is more leisurely, the people are some of the friendliest anywhere, traffic is seldom an issue and the value for money is unbeatable. Northern Thailand also offers more in terms of non-golf activities, tours (both cultural and action-packed), shopping and natural scenery than other areas. And direct air links to Chiangmai and Chiangrai keep improving both domestic and international flight options and greater frequency.”
Ian Morgan, Golfasian’s manager for Phuket, Koh Samui and Hua Hin, is an ex UK golf professional who played professional golf for eight years, then spent 16 years working as a travel agent in Britain before moving to Phuket.
“Living the dream is an over-used cliché, but even after coming to Phuket for more than 10 years and working here on a daily basis, I am still knocked out by the beauty of this Island,” he says. “Wherever I am in, is my office and what could be better than looking out over RedMountain golf course on a cloudless day.”