Golf tourism has been considered as a direction to develop the Vietnamese tourism sector towards the diversification of products, attracting more international visitors to the country.
With around 40 operating golf courses and more to come in the near future, as well as diversified natural resources, warm climate, hospitable people and cheap travel costs, Vietnam has the advantages to develop golf tourism. Compared to several countries in the region such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the number of golf courses in Vietnam is quite few, but most of the courses have been newly built with modern designs. Many courses were developed by world leading designers achieving world-class quality.
Surpassing a series of heavy competitors, Vietnam was named Asia's best golf destination by the World Golf Awards in 2017 and 2018. In addition, numerous hotels owning the best golf courses in Vietnam were honoured, including those in Da Nang, Lam Dong, Thua Thien - Hue, Binh Thuan and Kien Giang. The achievements show that Vietnam is gradually affirming its position as the most attractive golf destination in the region. According to the statistics from the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), there are now nearly 60 million golfers around the world and golf tourism has become the third biggest driving force for the tourism movement in Asia.
Around 170 golf travel companies from 40 member countries of IAGTO that are exploring the Asian market want to develop their business in Vietnam, aiming to increase 50% of buyers for the Vietnamese market. The figure proves that the potential and opportunities for the development of golf tourism are huge.
Also according to IAGTO, golf tourists are known for their high expenditure and long stays, with an average 2.2 times higher than others. Therefore, golf tourism will become an effective market to attract international visitors, bringing sustainable and stable benefits to the 'smokeless industry' in Vietnam.
In Thailand, golf tourism has been identified as one of the pillars for its tourism sector over the past years. In addition to policies to promote this type of tourism to major markets, 'the land of golden pagodas' has held an annual Golf Tourism Fair to stimulate and attract international golf tourists, contributing to affirming its attraction as a world leading golf destination. Vietnam can learn from Thailand's experience to develop golf tourism.
At an international seminar on the values of golf tourism under the Asia Golf Tourism Convention in 2017 in Da Nang city, Deputy Director General of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism Ngo Hoai Chung frankly pointed out the weakness of this type of tourism in Vietnam. The lack of connection between travel companies and golf owners has caused a low rate of golf tours. In addition, golf tourism has not been combined with other types and the service system for golf tourism lacks professionalism. Notably, the country has not organised any large-scale golf tournaments.
According to experts, in order to develop golf tourism, it is crucial to set appropriate strategies for synchronous investment on the basis of complying with the principles of the market mechanism, while ensuring the adequacy and rigor of state management. In addition to the improvement of infrastructure and professionalism of the service staff, the links between travel companies and golf courses, as well as between golf courses in Vietnam and in the region, should be enhanced to operate professional tours. The combination of golf playing with many other types will increase product value chains.
Based on statistics on the number of visitors from the golf courses and travel companies, the tourism sector will identify major and potential markets to set appropriate and flexible promotion strategies.
Australian professional golfer Greg Norman was selected as the ambassador for Vietnamese tourism for the 2018-2021 tenure. With his popularity, he was expected to promote Vietnam's golf tourism to international friends. The preparatory conference for the formation of the Vietnam Golf Tourism Association was recently held in Hanoi. Accordingly, the Vietnam Golf Tourism Association's Congress is expected to take place in late March within the framework of Vietnam International Travel Mart in Hanoi.
Standing Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association Vu The Binh said that the Golf Tourism Association will be a professional social organisation that gathers travel enterprises and golf management units to develop specific golf tourism products and the golf tourism brand in Vietnam. The increase of visitors to Vietnam to play golf will boost tourism development.
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