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EVOLVE A VIABLE BUSINESS MODEL TO PROMOTE GOLF TOURISM, SAYS GIRISH SHANKAR

The Government is pulling out all the stops to cash in on the opportunity for the growth of golf tourism in India offered by the surge in interest in the sport the world over, particularly amongst the youth. The Ministry of Tourism aims to create a comprehensive and coordinated framework for promoting golf tourism in India, capitalizing on the existing work that is being carried out, and building upon the strength of India’s position as the fastest growing free market economy.

Addressing the first-ever ‘FICCI Golf Tourism Summit’ organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Ministry of Tourism and India Golf Tourism Association (IGTA), Girish Shankar, Additional Secretary Tourism, urged the stakeholders to evolve a viable business model for the growth of golf tourism in India which would serve as a benchmark for assessing the extent to which India matches up to the expectations of the buyers of the golf tourism product.

Citing an independent study, Shankar said that 52 per cent of travelling golfers are likely to take two or more golfing holidays in a year and they spend on an average, 33 per cent more on their holidays as compared to regular holiday makers. Close to 80 per cent of the golfers would be prepared to visit a new golfing destination and this community represents the wealthiest 50 per cent of all golfers.

The objectives of the draft guidelines prepared by the Ministry for giving a fillip to golf tourism are to promote India as a golf destination for domestic and international tourists, earning of additional foreign exchange through development of this niche product and thereby contributing to economic growth, socio economic development through employment generation, both for men and women and encourage the creation of additional world class golf infrastructure in the country.

With international tourists expected to grow in the next few years, it is important that India has the right product to meet the need of the visitors.

The strategy is to include the entire sequence of creating awareness, encouraging stakeholders and the target markets to experience and promote the venues, thereby generating higher demand for the product. This would include optimizing major golfing events in India by building relationship with sponsors, broadcasters and the travel industry; improved access to India’s signature golf courses and working closely with India’s premium golf courses to make these courses more tourist friendly; and raising the profile of quality golf courses in the key tourism market and working with the golf courses to develop and promote quality golf experience.

Anand Kumar, Managing Director, National Highways Infrastructure and Development Corporation, Ministry of Transport, Government of India, pointed out that there was no deficit in the golf tourism product that was being offered to the world; what was lacking was the right kind of publicity for positioning it for attracting golf lovers to this country.

In this context, Kumar underlined the need for the government, industry associations, golf course owners and travel and tour operators to brainstorm to evolve a short, medium and long term strategy for centre-staging golf tourism.

He suggested that road shows and expositions could be held in the short term; participation in major golf summits in India and overseas in the medium term and organizing India’s own golf tourism mart in the long term.

Usha Sharma, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, called for a golf tourism conclave on a much bigger scale where over 100 buyers (Tour Operators) from different countries could deliberate on gaps that needed to be closed to promote India as a golf destination. The way forward could then be documented in a policy paper prepared based on the feedback of the buyers.

She urged tourism professionals to suggest how best the services of the 14 overseas offices of Tourism Ministry could be leveraged for publishing India as a preferred golfing destination.

The inaugural session of the summit was also addressed by A Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI; Rajan Sehgal, President, IGTA; S C Sekhar, Senior Executive Vice President, Hotels Division, ITC Hotels & MD Landbase India Ltd.; Aakash Ohri, Director, DLF Golf Resorts; and Peter Walton, Chief Executive, International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO).

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