Golf travel is considered a major activity both as a direct form of special interest travel and as an adjunct to other forms of travel. The golf tourism industry has consistently experienced growth Y-on-Y just before the Covid-19 pandemic. The industry took a hit from the pandemic just like every other industry, but that negative impact hasn’t been felt that much by golf travel tour operators as the industry is currently witnessing a sharp resurgence to its position just before the pandemic.

The sport gained more followership during the pandemic and more avid golf lovers can’t wait to clear the mental boredom of staying at home for the first few months of 2020. Going forward into 2021 and beyond, more golf sports lovers are anxious to have a golf travel trip at choice locations.

Explained below are some of the top trends in the golf travel industry.

Covid-19 and the Industry

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused unprecedented challenges in the travel industry across the globe. During the health crisis, many travelers canceled their trips or preferred to travel domestically and to nearby countries, as different travel bans and restrictions were implemented worldwide.

As vaccination rates continue to go up and travel restrictions are lifted across the country and globe, many travelers are eager to resume traveling this summer.

Pre & Post-Pandemic Trends

  1. With the number of vaccinated individuals in the US, the UK, and other countries on the rise, the travel industry has begun to open up as more consumers begin to feel safer traveling.
  2. Due to the global pandemic, the UK vacation venues for golfers experienced dramatic losses in those areas that relied on foreign players. 
  3. Many people quit playing or put it on indefinite hold due to anxiety and financial stress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  4. Cost is no longer the top consideration for consumers when it comes to travel, travelers put their health and safety first. 
  5. Globally, travel confidence soars as bookings for golf holidays increase by 39%.
  6. Travelers are choosing the hotels and airlines that follow and take all precautionary measures, to ensure their safety.
  7. Consumers report that overall exposure to other travelers and boarding a flight are the top two anxiety-producing parts of traveling.
  8. Golf travel bounced back from the pandemic quicker than most other tourism industry sectors.
  9. Due to the pandemic, there has been significant growth in regional travel and tourism.
  10. Travel companies are getting lots of inquiries from customers who have never used an agency before.
  11. With golf holidays on the rise, tour companies are targeting this market need.

Locations

  1. As golf rises in popularity with the aging population of many Western nations, more markets are emerging. 
  2. The majority of the golf courses are in North and South America (53%) while Europe holds second place (23%) and Asia third (16%).
  3. The US is the largest market with a total participation of 33.5 million golfers in 2018.
  4. The competition in golf tourism is increasing and traditional markets are challenged by emerging golf destinations such as Mexico, Egypt, China, Malaysia, and Thailand.
  5. The survey found that a proportionately high 34% of golfers stated the quality of a venue’s facilities was important to them in choosing a golf holiday location.
  6. Destinations showing significant growth in popularity include South Africa, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Mauritius.
  7. Governments of various countries are capitalizing on the growing popularity of golf by creating an exhaustive and coordinated framework to promote golf tourism in their countries. 

Industry Insight

  1. Golf tourism is seeing growing popularity, particularly as a form of recreational sports rather than a competitive one.
  2. North America has the largest market for golf tourism due to the increasing expenditure on leisure activities such as golf because of rising purchasing power, job security, and increasing average income in the region.
  3. Golf tourism represents the top end of the tourism market.
  4. It’s predicted that the overall tours and activities segment will grow to $183 billion
  5. Various countries have recognized that golf tourists tend to spend more than average tourists and are therefore investing a lot to reap the benefits of extra foreign revenue.
  6. Golf attracts thousands of travelers every year whether for entertainment, primary motivation, or secondary activity.
  7. 85% of consumers use their phones to book travel activities, including restaurant reservations and sightseeing tours. 
  8. The golf travel industry overall in the United States is a $20.5 billion business.
  9. Prior to the pandemic, Worldwide golf tour operator sales had notched up a seventh consecutive year of growth.
  10. The golf tourism market is poised to grow by $5.36 bn during 2020-2024, progressing at a CAGR of 4% during the forecast period.
  11. 8.2 million golfers played 57.6 million rounds of golf while traveling for business or leisure in 2017.

Motives & Habits of golf tourists

  1. Golf has become a strategic tool to modify seasonal visitation and to extend the tourism season for golf lovers.
  2. Golfers want more activities where they can create lifelong memories away from the fairways.
  3. Today’s golf tourist has absorbed so-called ‘snacking’ culture and they want to collect as many experiences as possible during multiple short trips instead of one longer trip.
  4. Hotels are the most preferred accommodation for most golf tourists.
  5. From the 60 million golfers worldwide, nearly half travel worldwide with the motivation of playing golf while on holiday.
  6. 64% of golf tourists took at least one international trip in the past 3 years. Active and heavy golfers are more likely to travel more often nationally and internationally to play golf than basic golfers.
  7. More Baby Boomers want to travel with their non-golf playing spouses and younger golfers who want a more varied overall travel experience.
  8. Today’s golf lovers do not think twice while spending money on the game and on hospitality services pertaining to the game.

Demography

  1. Baby Boomers are still driving most of the travel trends, however, younger golfers are beginning to impact changes in resort amenities and golf package itineraries.
  2. Approximately 56 million people play golf worldwide with 26.7 million of these residing in the United States, 5.5 million in Europe, 5 million in Canada, 14 million in Japan, and 3.8 million in the United Kingdom.
  3. Around a third of all golfers in the U.S. are now millennials
  4. In the US, Juniors (6-17) and young adults (18-34) comprise approximately 35% of all on-course golfers, with 5.7 million women playing golf on a course in 2018.
  5. 39% of adult golfers in 2017 took a trip for business or leisure with an overnight stay during which they played at least one round of golf.

Other Industry Trends

  1. Almost 1/3 of golf travelers are willing to take a road trip more than eight hours (one way) to indulge in a golf getaway, while 76% would travel more than four hours. 
  2. About 5 to 10% travel worldwide with the sole purpose of playing golf. This number has been steadily increasing over the years as more countries embrace golf tourism as a key source of foreign exchange.
  3. The nature of jobs has already changed and people are getting an increased amount of leisure time available for activities such as golf tourism.
  4. Easy mode of transport like airlines, travelers are able to move to various locations to take part in golf events. 
  5. Golf courses have become a very relevant attraction for a tourist destination. New venues in host locations are creating promising opportunities in the golf tourism sector.
  6. Remote working has invented a new trend in the tourism industry where people travel and work from their vacation spots.
  7. European tourists spend an average of EUR 250 per day on a week-long golf holiday, only 26% of which is spent directly on golf (the rest on travel, accommodation, food, etc.).
  8. People are spending more time than ever researching trips before booking.
  9. Tour package vendors are coming up with offers such as individual low-price or even zero-price overnight stays to attract customers.
  10. Baby Boomers are still driving most golf travel trends, however, younger golfers are beginning to impact changes in resort amenities and golf package itineraries.
  11. The incidence of golf travel increases with income — 52% of golfers with a household income of $100,000 are more likely to take a golf trip.
  12. The Golf Tourism industry is highly competitive and comprises numerous regional and international players.
  13. Social media isn’t just a tool for tour operators to drive engagement, it has also become a customer service platform.
  14. Golf events such as the PGA TOUR playoffs and U.S Open have been encouraging recreational golfers to get out and play.

REFERENCES

https://buffalo.agency/state-of-the-industry-golf-travel-2020-where-we-are-and-where-were-headed/

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191202005568/en/Global-Golf-Tourism-Market-2019-2023-Advent-Integrated

https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/golf-tourism-sector-overview

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-10-golf-travel-trends-2020-ed-schmidt

https://destinationgolf.travel/iagto-chief/

https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/travel-confidence-soars-as-bookings-for-golf-holidays-increase-by-39

https://www.tourwriter.com/travel-software-blog/tour-operators-catching-on-to-the-popularity-of-golf-tourism/

https://www.tourwriter.com/travel-software-blog/golf-tour-operators/

https://www.thengfq.com/2018/09/ngf-releases-report-on-20-5-billion-golf-travel-industry/

https://riversedgegolfbend.com/bend-oregon-golf-blog/demographics-of-golf/

https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1091

https://www.peek.com/pro/day-tours/marketing-to-bleisure-travelers-tips-for-tour-and-activity-operators

https://www.thegolftravelguru.com/top-10-golf-travel-trends-for-2020/

https://www.benchcraftcompany.com/demographics

https://riversedgegolfbend.com/bend-oregon-golf-blog/demographics-of-golf/