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Golf tourism is a niche kind of travel, but one that attracts higher spending given the nature of resorts and destinations associated with the sport.
The Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign, and Disney World are a few of the first images that come to mind when tourists imagine a trip to the United States.
Golf courses, places for deep focus and quiet patience, are not on most tourists’ mind — except those that are increasingly heading to the U.S. for that activity alone.
The U.S. is the fastest-growing destination for golf tour operators in 2013, according to data released by International Association of Golf Tour Operators, the global trade organization for the golf tourism industry.
The organization includes 553 golf tour operators that together control more than 85% of the world’s golf holiday packages with more than $2.2 billion in sales last year.
Other fast growing golf destinations include Portugal, the UAE, Scotland, Morocco, and Ireland; however, the global golf tourism industry is doing well worldwide. This year is expected to mark the third consecutive year of golf tour operators’ sales, building on top of more than 20-percent growth over the past two years.
IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton summed up the most recent global tourism trends earlier this year.
“Regionally, Asian operators report that golfers are starting to explore more golf destinations, with operators worldwide featuring more destinations and attracting new clients. In the USA, operators are seeing the return of the ‘middle market’, with high-end golf travel having remained strong throughout the economic crisis,” explains Walton.
“The strength of the outbound Australian market is expected to continue, while the Canadian market may level off in line with a weakening Canadian dollar.”
One interesting growth trend is seen in Germany, which experienced the greatest growth in women golfers in 2013. Germany also has the highest percentage of female golfers, representing 39 percent of all golfers in the country.
Despite differences in regional growth, golfers worldwide are split almost evenly in their preferred booking habits.
According to golf resorts and courses, half book more than three months in advance and half book less than three months before arrival.
Half, or 52 percent, of golfers worldwide book their golf holiday via a golf tour operator or travel agency compared to 48 percent that book directly.
There is; however, a third option outside of tour operators and direct bookings that’s now coming into play. Golfscape, which sees itself as Jetsetter for golf bookings at luxury resorts, is targeting travelers who prefer are used to booking online and prefer to search and shop option on their own.