POSTED: January 18th 2012

SCANLON: Golf Tourism in Rio can jump start a job market and leave a lasting legacy

Results of the opinion poll among the Golf Business Community regarding the expected golf development hot spots in the next 5 years / IAGTO
Results of the opinion poll among the Golf Business Community regarding the expected golf development hot spots in the next 5 years / IAGTO

LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA/LAUSANNE: Golf tourism is a gigantic worldwide business with a steadily growing market creating many collateral job opportunities.

International Golf Federation (IGF) Executive Director Antony Scanlon explained to just how this can positively affect the city of Rio and leave a lasting legacy.

The Global Trade Organisation for the Golf Tourism Industry (IAGTO) recently issued a report stating that the global golf tourism market is worth over $17 billion.

There are 56 million people that play golf worldwide: 26.7 million in the United States, 5 million in Canada, 5.5 million in continental Europe, 14 million in Japan, and 3.8 million in the United Kingdom.

Of this 56 million, between 5% and 10% travel overseas each year primarily to play golf – therefore making the international golf tourism market between 2.8 million and 5.6 million.

The leading golf tourism market is the United States - it is thought to contribute over $60 billion to the economy.  

Europe (aside from the UK) is still not considered a mature golf market; it is still mainly pursued by the elite few (worth $20 billion). The UK, Japan, and Australia all have mature golfing markets.

IAGTO believes approximately 30% of golfers take annual golf trips and 70% of these golf travellers are looking for new destinations.

The choice to add golf to the program of the Olympic Games could have a major impact on the city of Rio.

So the plan for creating the new course will really open the door for the golf tourism market in Rio?

ANTONY SCANLON: I think so yes, in terms of legacy, in terms of building this course from the commercial side it will be viable and sustainable. Then on top of that if we look at opportunities for developing the game. I think in the total of Rio there are probably about 1000 players within the two clubs with memberships of about 500 and those are 18 hole courses.

So therefore the other requirement that we have had is to work with the Brazilian golf federation to use this venue as a center for excellence to develop the game at the elite level and also to attract people to golf as well opening the opportunity for new people.

So this why you are reaching out the public to make golf more of a mass sport?

ANTONY SCANLON: Yes and one of the issues with golf in a lot of the countries is accessibility and as much as we can we are trying to make golf more accessible and provide pathways for people based on their ability.

And consequently making it less expensive to play?

ANTONY SCANLON: Hopefully yes, but it depends on the economics and a lot of the expense depends on the funding models of the business itself and it is pretty hard to put a finger on it.

In this instance by added this sport to the Olympic Program you have the opportunity to create a whole new legacy for the host city which was really important as to why it was selected. Is this true?

ANTONY SCANLON:  Sure and also to the development of the sport and financially to the community as well because of the tourism factor that will be created. This adds to the normal everyday traffic that will come from local residents in Rio to play on the course.

You will be creating jobs for people to work on the course, depending on the business model that the legacy owners will have and how they develop that will create opportunities for jobs for others.

Then on top of that if you look at it, one of the things that is not publicized enough, is the pathways that golf provides other than playing. You can be interested in playing the game, but from that interest can emerge a career.

In the US two million people work in the golf industry, most of the people who work in golf play the sport or are attracted to the game.

For our sport one of the strategic objectives is to provide pathways. And those pathways are not just in participating in the sport, it is also to provide careers for people. Be they professional golfers, tour players, agronomists or someone working in the hospitality section of the club itself. So in Rio where jobs are scarce there are some opportunities here. 

The Rio climate is also very conducive for golf isn’t it?

ANTONY SCANLON: They can play all year round that is the beauty of Rio. It is a similar climate to Australia, you can play all year. Whereas here in Europe, a lot of clubs are shut three or four months a year because you can’t play at them.

Some people were saying to us if Rio was the right city for us to be at given their lack of courses. But for us it is a perfect opportunity.

Golf has a clean image, how else do you think it can contribute to the Olympic brand?

ANTONY SCANLON: The values of the sport mirror the values of the Olympics so well. The charitable contribution is another thing that is undersold; it is incredible how much golf contributes to charities around the world.

Part II of a multiple part series

Keywords · Antony Scanlon · golf · tourism · IAGTO · Rio 2016

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