Since launching the New Zealand Golf Tourism Strategy in 2014, more and more international golfers are setting their sights on our country’s 400 courses. But how is this impacting local Kiwi golfers?
The most recent update on our tourism progress (produced by Golf Tourism New Zealand and working alongside Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Golf) provides insight into how we’re tracking after four years.
Firstly, a few numbers:
• The country’s golf tourism strategy focuses on 38 courses, stretching from Kauri Cliffs down to Oreti Sands. There are 14 ‘Marquee’ courses (which have significant international appeal with amenities and service levels to match) and 24 ‘New Zealand Experience’ courses that provide local charm, value for money and help to create clusters of great golf around the Marquees. Of these 38 courses, the vast majority have a membership which are the primary users of the course, with the exception of a few such as Kauri Cliffs, Kinloch, Cape Kidnappers and Jack’s Point.
• In the 2017 calendar year, rounds of golf played by international golfers across these 14 Marquee courses were up 9% on the previous year, and up 43% since the strategy was launched.
• Asian nations lead the way for this growth with rounds of golf from China, Japan and Other Asia up 37%, 2% and 51%, respectively.
• Golfers from America, considered the most mature golf market in the world, spend a staggering $19,000 NZD per person while they are here for a golfing holiday.
A typical Kiwi golfer may look at these figures and panic, fearful that our courses will soon become overcrowded with visitors taking up precious tee times. Well, fear not . . . the total number of rounds played by international visitors across the 14 Marquee courses was only about 35,000 in 2017 – which is a far cry from overcrowding. Add to that the international rounds played across the Experience courses and the numbers start to creep closer to 75,000 rounds of golf being played in New Zealand by international visitors.
While this doesn’t equate to a queue for tee times, it does equate to a significant contribution to areas like employment, GST and overall GDP.
Tourism is currently the No.1 export earner for New Zealand. It contributes $36 billion to the economy every year, of which $14.5 billion comes from overseas visitors.
Golfers happen to be the highest spending of these visitors, and are also the most satisfied of any group tracked, rating their New Zealand golf holiday a 9.3/10. They are also more likely to visit vineyards on their trip, with 41% of golfers indulging in a wine experience versus the average of 25%.
When we look at the big picture – whether you vote red, blue or green – the golf strategy is about bringing high-value, low-volume visitors to New Zealand.
Furthermore, the strategy focuses heavily on regional New Zealand where 28 of the 38 premium courses are located. And the most popular regions for visiting golfers? Northland, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Otago.
As a Kiwi golfer – be that a club member or casual player – we should be proud that what we have to offer is so sought after that people are willing to endure a lengthy flight (or flights) to come and experience what many of us take for granted.
We should also like what these golfers are doing for the golfing landscape in New Zealand. The 75,000 visitor rounds (and let’s remember that is from just 38 courses) contribute millions of dollars in green fees. And millions more is in ancillary spend on items like food and beverage, golf carts and hire clubs, plus golf retail purchases.
This level of spend allows clubs to improve playing conditions, upgrade facilities, attract and retain qualified staff, and ultimately maintain fees for Kiwi golfers at what are some of the lowest domestic subs and green-fee rates in the world.
Next time you see a visitor on your course, make sure you give them a nod, a wave or, better yet, a bit of conversation, even an invitation to join your game.
The future of many of New Zealand’s courses may well rest in the spending power of these angels from abroad.