Thailand will remain Asia’s market leader in golf tourism because other countries can’t match the kingdom’s “secret weapon” – the Thai people and especially golf course caddies – according to the largest dedicated inbound golf tourism operator in the region.
Mark Siegel, whose company, Golfasian, will this year bring 6000 international golf tourists to south-east Asia, mostly to Thailand, told a group of visiting Asian golf journalists the kingdom would stay ahead of rival golf destinations because of the special way visitors are welcomed.
“You can probably find countries with better golf courses, maybe with better value, nicer weather and better infrastructure, but nowhere else matches the genuine friendliness of the Thai people,” he said.
“In Thailand, everyone is treated as a guest. They are considered part of the family as soon as they arrive. The people do it because they are happy, not because it’s good business. Kids in Thailand are taught to be nice.”
“Visiting golfers experience genuine Thai friendship in many ways, but especially with caddies, who really have fun and are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about golf. They also like their jobs. It’s not an act. They are Thai golf’s secret weapon. Everyone who comes to Thailand to play golf is a winner.”
The statistics bear out his claim. This year, 600,000 golf tourists are expected to visit Thailand, an increase of more than 15 percent over 2011, making the kingdom the world’s third most popular golf destination after Spain and the United States.
This small but important and growing tourism sector is now worth $US2 billion a year in ground arrangements alone.
Despite efforts by other regional destinations, including Malaysia, China and Vietnam to capitalise on Thailand’s popularity as a golf destination, none have come close.
And while Europe and Australia have been major feeder markets for inbound Thai golf tourism for the past decade, more visiting foreign golfers already come from regional Asia – especially Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore – than other markets combined. As the popularity of golf increases in China and affluence grows throughout Asia, Mark Siegel says the region will remain the driving force of golf tourism to Thailand for some time to come.