At the opening address of the sixth IAGTO North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC) in Charleston, South Carolina, Chief Executive Peter Walton revealed that the USA was the fastest-growing golf destination for IAGTO golf tour operators in 2013.
Speaking to 360 delegates attending North America’s annual golf tourism convention – a record for the event – Walton explained that the event was created in 2009 as a direct response to the beginning of the economic crisis in the US to help counter its impact on golf travel. Previous NACs have been held in Florida’s Marco Island, Miami and Palm Beach, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Monterey County, California, and he said each event had resulted in strong international and domestic golf leisure sales.
“We fully expect the success of previous years to be replicated here in South Carolina, where IAGTO has enjoyed a very close relationship for the past 17 years, during which IAGTO awards have been presented to Myrtle Beach, Coastal South Carolina and Kiawah Island Resort,” Walton added.
Helen Hill, Executive Director of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the largest-ever North America Golf Tourism Convention here in Charleston in the year that the USA tops the charts as the world’s fastest-growing golf destination. This is the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our unique blend of history, culture, hospitality and golf to the world’s leading golf tour operators. Knowing that this event will have a positive impact on the growth of golf travel not only here in Charleston and across South Carolina but throughout the United States makes this week an incredibly valuable landmark occasion for us.”
Gary Edwards, Managing Director of Coastal South Carolina, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase what I strongly believe is the finest city in America and to show a golf product that matches the excellence of Charleston. This event has exceeded our expectations in literally every way. We knew it would be a record NAC and Peter Walton and his staff have done an excellent job in facilitating membership and encouraging participation in the Charleston event.”
IAGTO conducts the largest annual golf tourism survey of golf tour operators, golf courses and golf resorts worldwide, analyzing the business of more than 650 member companies for the 2014 Golf Tourism Report. The 553 golf tour operator members in 62 countries control more than 85% of the world’s golf holiday packages with sales in excess of $2.2 billion in 2013. The USA was the sixth most important golf destination for IAGTO operators in 2013 but took top spot as the fastest-growing golf destination ahead of Portugal, Dubai & Abu Dhabi, Scotland, Morocco, Ireland, Spain and Vietnam.
“In 2012 we saw the resurgence of the USA as a powerful force in outbound golf tourism, recovering from the economic crises ahead of its European counterparts, and this was followed up quite clearly last year with sales to golf destinations throughout the USA growing faster than any others around the world, including in Asia, Europe and Latin America,” Walton told the audience.
“Because the direction of tourism is so much affected by exchange rates, we are used to seeing countries being either strong as outbound markets or strong as inbound destinations, not both at the same time. However, the USA bucked the trend in 2013 by not only continuing its resurgence as an important outbound market but also by attracting ever more golfers from across the globe. Such is the appeal of iconic golf destinations to the world’s avid golf travelers.”
To back up the resurgence in golf travel to the USA, IAGTO North America representative, Claudio DeMarchi, said: “You only have to look at the number and geographical spread of golf resorts, courses, hotels and DMCs (destination management companies) attending our North America Convention here in Charleston to see how eager everyone is to attract not only more domestic golf visitors but also international golf travelers too. Remarkably, 34% of all attendees from the USA this year are new members and first-time visitors to this event, which gels the entire USA golf tourism industry together.”
Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, is co-sponsoring the Charleston NAC event. Karyn Gruenberg, Brand USA’s Vice President, Partnership Programs, explained: “Golf tourism continues to be a growing niche market for travel to the United States. Our presence at the IAGTO North America Convention provides Brand USA and our partners the opportunity to showcase the diverse golf assets available in the US while developing new relationships with international tour operators and domestic partners.”