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Society & Success

Kenya beckons as great golf tourism destination

Golfers at the Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort. Kenya is home  world class  greens. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Golfers at the Rift Valley Lodge and Golf Resort. Kenya is home world class greens. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Golf tourism, and its effect on the various global economies, is subject to many research documents ; all of which echo one key message, golf tourism is big business. My interest, and it should be the interest of many in the golf fraternity, is in when and how Kenya will become a bigger player in the golf tourism space. Kenya is home to some truly world class golf courses, available at ridiculously low green fees, affordable caddies and great weather throughout the year. So why don’t our golf tourism inflows grow?

According to a report published by Technavio.com, Global Golf Tourism Market 2017 – 2021, the global golf tourism market in 2016 totalled a huge $22.92 billion (Sh2.3 trillion) and from their research this market will total $44.6 billion (Sh4.46 trillion). Interestingly, 71.4 per cent of the 2016 revenues were generated by domestic tourism, a statistic that should catch the eye of the golf administrators across Africa and Kenya. Is your golf club doing enough to attract domestic golf tourists?

What has and what will continue to contribute to this growth? According to Technavio.com, four major factors are contributing to the growth of the global golf tourism market; (1). Growing number of golf courses worldwide. (2). Association initiatives and sponsorship deals. (3). Launch of low-cost airlines and; (4) Growing popularity of professional golf tournaments.

In 2015, over 34,000 golf courses were documented worldwide and according to Technavio.com about 670 golf courses are in various stages of planning and construction around the globe. Kenya has seen its fair share of new golf course developments, and although the rate of completion is slow, many are still under construction around the country. The advent of low-cost airlines has made air travel accessible to a larger demographic, increasing the number of people travelling to play golf.

In Kenya, the launch of the Madaraka Express (SGR), Nairobi to Mombasa has made it more affordable to travel for holiday, business and even golf; hopefully the coastal golf courses, some of the best in Kenya, will see an increase in footfall .

The presence of budget airlines such as Air Asia and Tiger Airways in Asia encourage both domestic and regional travel, and hence the growth of golf tourism in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. The reverse is true in Africa where air connections within and between countries is limited.

Lastly, vendors who specialise in golf travel also play a key role in driving tourism numbers to specific destinations. The Technavio.com report lists five key global vendors – Golfasian, Golfbreaks, PerryGolf, SGH Golf and Your Golf Travel, none of them lists Kenya as a golf tourism destination.

Golfasian focuses on golf travel within and to Asian destinations. Thailand for example receives over 23 million tourists annually, of these over one million are golf tourists generating revenues over $3 billion (Sh300 billion).

Golfbreaks, PerryGolf and SGH Golf offer their clients “custom golf vacations”.

PerryGolf lists courses in South Africa among its offerings whilst Golfbreaks promotes tours to Mauritius, Morocco and South Africa. Yourgolftravel lists courses in Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia and Egypt. Not one of these top golf tourism vendors lists Kenya as a golf tourist destination.

As the golf tourism market expands, will Kenya step up to claim its rightful place? What role can your club play? What can our inbound tour operations do better? What support can KTB give them to market our beautiful golf courses better?

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