The United States is home to half of the world’s golf courses and year-round opportunities to play drives billions of dollars in golf tourism each year. Golf tourism is a major golf industry segment, whether it’s a “buddies’” trip, a seasonal vacation, or recreational activity with business associates, friends, or family. The 2018 NGF Golf Travel Industry Report estimated that the U.S.’s golf-related tourism expenditures totaled $20.5 billion of the total $84 billion industry. A total of 8.2 million golfers played 57.6 million rounds of golf while traveling for business or leisure in 2017.
The effects of COVID-19 in 2020 were devastating to the travel industry, resulting in over 8 million jobs lost and a decline in spending of $1.2 trillion through May 2021 alone. In golf, with the decimation of travel and cancellation of outings and events, resorts and golf courses in travel destinations were hit harder than any other segment. The NGF reported overall the industry saw a 24% increase in rounds played in 2020 over 2019. However, golf courses located in travel-dependent markets suffered a reduction of rounds played. Thus, they had to rely on the local golf market and compete with other local and regional courses.
As the travel industry works hard to get the travel economy going against the backdrop of the pandemic and projected long-term adverse effects, it is essential for the golf industry to be involved in related advocacy efforts.
In 2020, the NGCOA embarked on a new advocacy initiative focusing on the golf and travel industry. The primary purpose of this initiative is to serve as an advocate in the domestic and international travel industry and we embrace our role to elevate the voice of our industry in this space. In addition, we needed to continue to foster alignment with other organizations that share much of the same goals and values as the NGCOA.
The US Travel Association (USTA) is the tip of the spear for pro-travel research, public policy, and advocacy work for the travel industry. Unfortunately, upon close inspection, the golf industry was nowhere to be found in a supportive and involved capacity, nor at the leadership table. As the NGCOA is the organization under which many golf resorts and destinations network and gather, we sought to change this. Not only did we believe being a member of the US Travel Association is important, but obtaining a leadership role would provide the best opportunity to ensure the voice of our industry is included during the strategic planning of the association.
While travel impacts a large sector of our industry, some more than others, we recognized that a seat on the US Travel Association Board would allow the NGCOA to further lobby through the USTA and, as of May 2021 and with support from our travel-dependent resorts and golf destination executives, the NGCOA now has a seat on the USTA Board.
Since rolling out the new Golf & Travel Advocacy initiative, we have created a platform to build a community of advocates, increased golf’s visibility within the travel industry, advocated for legislation impacting the golf travel industry, developed strategic partnerships, and are beginning to measure business impact. One of our initial critical ongoing efforts is to reach out to local destination marketing organizations (DMO), convention and visitor bureaus (CVB), and key golf destination executives from across the US to introduce the NGCOA and offer our assistance with enhancing golf’s position within their travel marketing strategies.
To learn more and join the NGCOA’s Golf & Travel Advocacy initiative, please contact Ronnie Miles at rmiles@NGCOA.org.