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An assessment of golf tourism’s future growth potential to 2020


This report presents forecasts for the volume and value of golf tourism from 2010 to 2015 and then to 2020. The work was carried out between August 2010 and January 2011 and has been supported by Scottish Enterprise (SE), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), VisitScotland and Golf Tourism Scotland (GTS). The aim of the research was to develop estimates of the growth of golf tourism in Scotland and its economic impact. The rationale was that a better understanding of the market and its size would help identify opportunities, lead to business growth and increase income and employment in Scotland.


The research was based on a review of reports and data for the sector as well as consultations with a range of stakeholders in the private and public sectors who work in and around golf tourism, including a survey of GTS members.


Over the next ten years consultees expected to see the largest changes in visitor numbers from European countries (Germany, France, Holland), from emerging markets (India and China) and to a lesser extent North America and Scandinavia. Prospects for growth from within the UK and other more established golf markets were considered to be weaker, although the UK is, and will continue to be, the largest market for golf tourism in Scotland, with opportunities to encourage more ‘staycations’. Participants in the survey were generally upbeat about prospects, with more than 80 per cent expecting to see positive growth in both halves of the next decade. No respondents stated that the industry will decline over the next decade. The main drivers of change identified were economic conditions, participation, events, marketing, online booking, the quality of service, new courses and access. The recession had a significant impact on golf tourism in Scotland, although perhaps not as severe as other parts of the tourism sector. Under base level assumptions, the GVA generated by golf tourism is expected to reach £138 million by 2020. Based on the consultations and previous research it is assumed that participation as a driver will be relatively flat in the more mature markets of North America, Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is expected that the opening of new courses, the Trump course in particular, will generate growth, as well as publicity and interest. There is consensus that the events that will boost visitor numbers will be the Ryder Cup and the Open championships in Scotland. The cumulative net economic impact of hosting the Open Championship and Ryder Cup between 2010 and 2020 is estimated to be around £270 million to Scotland. In terms of online booking, evidence from other areas suggests that clubs experience an increase in green fee revenues. Moreover, it is suggested that failure to develop this type of access by more courses could risk deterring potential visitors.


Recommendations are made with regard to the limitations of available data. It is recommended that improvements be made by maintaining and strengthening the course data collected through the Golf Tourism Monitor (GTM) and through a separate, representative survey of golf visitor expenditure which reflects the numbers at certain types of courses and provides average values that fit with categories and regions used in the GTM.

Author SQW Consulting
Published Year 2011
Report Type Research
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