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Kenya banks on golf to boost tourism

International experts are inspecting local courses as Kenya seeks to sells itself as a golf tourist destination. Photo/FILE
International experts are inspecting local courses as Kenya seeks to sells itself as a golf tourist destination. Photo/FILE 

International golfers are in the country to inspect courses and other facilities as a first step towards developing a tourism strategy anchored on the sport.

The officials, who belong to International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO,) are playing on various courses across the country with a view to identifying “the most cost effective and direct route” to tap the lucrative niche market, according to Kenya Golf Marketing Alliance (KGMA) chairman, Mr David Stogdal

Courses that are found to measure up to global standards will be granted complementary membership to the IAGTO, which has access to 330 golf tour operations in 50 countries, 223 of which sell golf destinations in Africa, the Gulf States or the Indian Ocean.

The interest in Kenya is a result of the country winning the Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year Award for 2009 at the International Golf Travel Market last November.

Speaking during the tour, IAGTO’s chief executive, Mr Peter Walton, said as an additional benefit, the organisation would look into the possibility of granting complimentary membership to selected private golf course “which comprise an essential part of Golf Destination Kenya’s product.”

This, he said, would give the country a greater presence within the golf tourism industry, KGMA has been working at promoting golf as a major tourist attraction in Kenya and is hosting the IAGTO. The audit report is expected out in six weeks time.

IAGTO is a global trade organisation for the golf tourism industry.

Established in 1997, it has a membership of over 1,000 as well as 340 specialist golf tour operators in different countries, thus control over 80 per cent of golf holiday packages globally.

The organisation’s interest in Kenya came following the country’s win of the “Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year Award” for 2009 at the International Golf Travel Market.

Globally people either travel specifically to play golf in various golf courses or take it up as a secondary activity to a beach holiday or on business travel.

The global golf tourism is estimated to be worth over $17 billion according to IAGTO and has growth potential, especially as new markets like Dubai and Asia open up.

Major markets

The US, UK, Japan, Canada and Australia are the main source markets for golf tourism, with others like China and Taiwan emerging to be major markets .

Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) has been marketing the country as a golfing destination and participates in branding efforts in some of the international tournaments held in the country like the Kenya Open which attracts players from Kenya and beyond.

There has been increasing growth in golf in Kenya with new courses being unveiled across the country, including at Vipingo Ridge In the North coast as well as the Aberdare Hills in Gilgil .