By Ayan Das
Thailand, the eternal tourist paradise, has mass of tourists flocking to its shores, drawn by its treasure trove of emerald seas, silvery beaches, extravagant scenery, a vibrant nightlife and mouth-watering Thai food. Thai golf tourism is riding on the back of a tourism explosion to the realm, with total foreign arrivals doubling in the past seven years to more than 22 million in 2012. Thailand will become the world’s leading golf tourism destination within three years if the current growth drifts continue.
Then played by the nobles and elitists, the sport soared on the popularity graph during golfing legend Tiger Wood’s heyday in the nineties and the decade after, in view of his part Thai parentage. A second wave of popularity swept through the nation soon after with star Thai golfers Thongchai Jaidee and sisters Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn sending ripples in golfing circles. Mark Siegel, the principal of Thailand’s largest inbound golf tourism company, Golfasian, said, ‘Golf tourism to the kingdom has also skyrocketed to a vague 750,000 arrivals in 2012, up 50 percent in the past three years.’
If this rate of knots continues, Thailand will pass Spain as the world’s most popular golf tourism destination in 2015 or 2016. Siegel expects 15 percent further growth in 2013 to more than 850,000 golf visitors, worth US$3.68 billion, with one million mark in visitor numbers expected to be passed in 2015. This would put Thailand on an equal, or similar, traction with Spain, which has subjugated international golf tourism for more than a decade, but has been losing market share to budding destinations including Portugal, Turkey, North Africa and Asia, especially Thailand.
After two successful editions of TGTM, Thailand Golf Travel Mart 2017, once again lived up to expectations. It had 150 buyers from 32 countries, which met and networked with 95 local sellers, representing Thai golf courses, tour operators, hotels and travel agents, through a pre-scheduled appointment matching programme and “speed-dating” sessions.
Beyond Khao Yai and Nakhon Ratchsima lie other equally striking regions like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket and so on that house some of the other top-rated golf courses in Thailand. The resort townships of Pattaya and Hua Hin, for example, were voted ‘Golf Destination of the Year for Asia and Australasia’ by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) in 2012 and 2014. Further, Chiang Mai was designated as ‘Golf Destination of the Year Asia and Australasia 2017′ by 220 golf tour operators worldwide.
To the impeccable suites, gastronome food and sole Thai hospitality, the Indian contingent had the opportunity to relish its unique offerings before bidding adieu to the Land of Smiles.