Members of Thailand’s Golf in A Kingdom marketing collective are expecting a strong high season as tourism to the kingdom recovers.
Advance bookings for the December to March peak season – when golfers take advantage of cooler temperatures, sunny days and superior course conditioning – are equal to previous years’ levels. A record of more than 700,000 foreign golfers visited Thailand in 2013 and with inbound international tourism now rebounding, 2015 arrivals are expected to return to the 2013 peak.
“It is looking very positive now that Thailand’s political problems have been resolved, with certainty and stability returning to business and everyday life,” says Golf In A Kingdom program manager, John Carter. “All our members are extremely confident the high season will be at least equal to last year, and maybe better. International travellers have come to realise Thailand is as safe, friendly and welcoming as it has always been and there is now no reason not to travel here.”
Golf In A Kingdom comprises Thailand’s best golf courses, hotels and resorts located in and near Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket and Chiangmai.
John Blanch, the general manager of Thai Country Club, part of the Hong Kong-based Peninsula Hotels group and one of Thailand’s most prestigious golf clubs, says Thailand’s new government and prime minister have been generally well received – a message now filtering through to major inbound markets. Consequently, he is expecting a rebound in international bookings, which had dropped during and after political turmoil earlier in the year.
Derek Schade, the general manager of Lotus Valley Golf Club near Bangkok, says pre-bookings for the high season are similar to the rebound after floods hit Bangkok in 2011.
“This could be an overflow of golfers who planned to visit last year, but were unable to come because of travel insurance difficulties. Advance bookings for October and November were close to the same period last year, so the signs are positive.”
Derek Schade expects growth in the Japanese market, but a slight fall in Korean visitors. He forecasts the number of ASEAN visitors will increase in advance of new ASEAN passport policies being introduced. He is hopeful of a surge in golf visitors from China, but says this hasn’t yet happened.
Harald Elisson, the general manager of Black Mountain Golf Club near Hua Hin, now expects more visitors year-round, especially during the April to November low season.
“We believe we can boost numbers from Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Northern Europe. People are still discovering golf in Thailand. At first they wanted to discover the beaches and culture, but now golf is becoming a priority.
“Black Mountain has the two most important USPs for this: one of the best courses in Asia and the world’s best weather for playing golf year-round.”
Stacey Walton, the general manager of nearby Banyan Golf Club, says there has been a significant rebound in tourism following renewed political stability.
“Golf rounds in August and September increased by eight percent and 15pc respectively over last year. This shows people again have the confidence to visit Thailand.
“Hua Hin has always been a safe place for tourists and infrastructure has improved, making the Royal town easily accessible by road from Bangkok. Hua Hin is emerging as a very popular golf destination and a preferred location for lifestyle and leisure.
“The recent Centara World Golf Championships, which attracted more than 500 golfers, was a massive success and next year’s event could increase to 750 participants. The forthcoming King’s Cup, an Asian Tour event at Black Mountain, will also raise the profile of Hua Hin. The fact that Hua Hin is home to the King of Thailand embraces safety and security and makes it attractive for families. There are also plans for new hotels and shopping facilities, which will add to the town’s appeal.
“We expect a growing number of repeat tourists, especially expats living in Asia. More golfers are choosing to buy a second home in Hua Hin and joining one of the many golf clubs here. I expect this will continue, as well as an increasing number of visitors from Australia during the low season.”
Stacey Walton says while Banyan’s rates will rise slightly this year, “…. we believe in accessible, affordable and sustainable golf management, which is reflected in our rates. We seek to provide a great golfing experience and value for money and are the only golf club in the country to offer guests GPS in golf carts.”
Golf In A Kingdom www.golfinakingdom.com