The driving force behind business

2012-01-17 00:00

FOR a generation and more, the game of golf has been playing a key role in driving the location marketing business, positioning countries, regions and venues as desirable destinations in the highly competitive arena of both business and leisure tourism.

Starting with the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open, followed by the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the Africa Open and the Joburg Open, the flagship, Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt, which kicks off on Thursday brings to six the number of eminent events in South Africa over a two-month period.

South African stars, including Masters­ champion Charl Schwartzel and two-time U.S. Open Championship winner Retief Goosen are on the “Champions All” line-up.

By its very nature, the royal and ancient­ game of golf is tailor-made for destination marketing, showcasing countries, regions and resorts on two fronts.

Firstly, the business-to-consumer angle through global TV reach and media coverage, secondly, the lucrative business-to-business sector through opportunities only golf can deliver, a business-friendly platform including prestigious Pro-am places and key client and customer entertainment opportunities.

Try inviting blue-chip travel trade or economic development executives to play a set with Rafael Nadal, a five-a-side with David Beckham or a bike ride with Lance Armstrong, and you’ll realise just how potent golf’s business offer actually is.

“Golf tourism is an important segment­ of the overall tourist market, both in terms of volume and spend-per visitor,” said Mike Pask, senior vice-president IMG Golf, Academies and Sports, Leisure and Tourism. “Golf tourism can drive substantial investment into resort developments, generating substantial economic growth and job creation.

“The level of investment into golf resorts and its transformative effect on local and regional economies is indicative of the scale and upmarket positioning of golf tourism within the broader tourism market.

“The ease with which golf holidays can be integrated into beach holidays for the family, spa retreats for a spouse or even weekend city breaks is why golf dominates the sports tourism­ sector.”

Scott Kelly, group marketing director of the European Tour, global golf’s most multinational and cosmopolitan circuit — South Africa is one of 27 countries on the 2012 International Schedule — agrees.

“The great thing about golf is that it is the sport of business and the sport of a lifetime,” said Kelly.

With TV pictures of January’s Volvo Golf Champions beamed into half a billion homes worldwide, showcasing the Fancourt resort, extolling the virtues­ of the Garden Route and positioning­ South Africa as a premium­ destination, the ever-increasing legions of golf tourists’ search for opportunities to spread their golfing wings.

“The direct impact of golf tourism — to either events or golf resorts — is substantial, as the average spend of golf tourists is substantially higher than that of your average tourist,” said Mike Park of global sports and media company IMG, the co-promoters of the Volvo Golf Champions.

“Golf is a lucrative sector due to the upmarket segments of the market that the sport typically attracts, including high net worth individuals, corporate members and the lucrative meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) business, while golf tourists tend to be among the upmarket segments interested in second home ownership near golf resorts,” said Park.

“Many visitors to golf events will be of a director level or higher and will form opinions of the local market during­ their travels [and] the provision of networking opportunities.

“[They] may facilitate the promotion of local, regional and national business and generate legacy effects lasting well beyond the conclusion of the championship.

“The corporate hospitality on offer at golf events may present opportunities for new business deals to be made, driving economic growth long after the tournament is over.

“There are three types of economic impacts associated with hosting golf events, including direct (new money entering the economy), indirect (increased orders to suppliers due to new money entering the economy) and induced effects (additional domestic­ demand due to additional wages paid to local residents),” explained Park.

“And the media value of the event drives additional, albeit less tangible, benefits to the host market in terms of awareness and legacy effects, and the direct economic impact to the host region can move up as a result of the exposure and media value of a golf tournament.”

However, there is a cautionary note.

“To be effective, the event strategy needs to be tied into long-term objectives, which are best identified through discussions with local and national tourism boards as well as with the resort hosting the event.

“Each event is unique in the opportunities and challenges presented by its location, the demographics of the local catchment area and the corporate landscape in nearby towns and cities,” said Park.


• Mike Wilson is a sports business journalist.

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