The Highlands’ leading golf courses and hotels will be showcased next week to some of the industry’s biggest hitters at the start of a bumper year for the sport in the region.
A delegation from the partner group Highland Golf Links (HGL) will have a potential audience of 40,000 industry leaders from 74 countries during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, which runs from 26 to 29 January.
It is one of the world’s biggest international merchandise and golf tourism events, with exhibitors able to promote golfing businesses and destinations to Professional Golfers’ Association and Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association representatives, tournament directors and organisers, coaches, shop owners and managers.
HGL is made up of the Highlands’ three leading links courses, Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Castle Stuart Golf Links and The Nairn Golf Club, as well as three major hotels, the Kingsmills Hotel and Culloden House in Inverness and the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch.
The HGL delegation – chairman Fraser Cromarty, CEO at Nairn; Neil Hampton, general manager at Royal Dornoch; Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart; and Tracey Milton, sales manager at the Kingsmills Hotel – are spending four days at the event at a time of unprecedented interest in golf tourism in the Highlands.
Take up of HGL’s Play and Stay packages, which allow visitors to enjoy the spectacular links courses and luxury accommodation in the ‘shoulder months’ of the year, reached record levels in 2015, having increased by 22.6 per cent on 2014. Figures for this year are already up 14 per cent on 2015.
Interest is set to soar further with a number of high-profile tournaments taking place in the Highlands during 2016.
Castle Stuart will stage the Scottish Open for the fourth time in six years when the tournament, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management, is held at the Moray Firth links in July.
In June, Royal Dornoch will stage the Northern Open during a year-long celebration to mark 400 years of golf being played in the town.
And in August, Nairn will be home to the 2016 Home Internationals competition, the premier amateur team event in Great Britain and Ireland. It will also be preparing to welcome the Boys Amateur Championship in 2017.
Fraser Cromarty said: “The PGA Merchandise Show is a global platform on which to showcase the Highlands as a major golfing destination. It is one of the industry’s biggest events of the year and offers major opportunities to promote the region and secure valuable business in a highly competitive market.
“With so much attention focused on the Highlands this year, it is an ideal time for our courses and hotels to be promoting what we have to offer in this spectacular location.”
Tracey Milton said: “Golf tourism is a growing part of our business at the Kingsmills. We saw our golf market grow by 12 per cent from 2013-2014 and a further 9 per cent last year. Already this year, golf-related business is 42 per cent ahead of the same time in 2015.
“It’s an exciting time to attend the PGA Show to further promote our outstanding courses and hotels to an international audience.”
Stuart McColm added “The PGA Show attracts a truly international audience and is a chance to mingle with the movers and shakers in the industry.
“Meeting up with tour operators as well as PGA professionals gives us the opportunity to sell the Highlands directly to the companies and courses that form the itineraries for the visiting golfers. It is a must visit for anyone serious about growing their business and the Highlands has much to shout about this year.”
Neil Hampton said: “The overseas market has always been a key sector and working together in a coordinated group to promote a world-class destination at the PGA Show tells everyone how seriously we take this event.”
Highland Golf Links www.highlandgolflinks.com