Why is ‘bleisure’ missing from the golf travel industry?

By: Mark Siegel February 8, 2016

Recently, I made an interview with Mark Siegel, the owner of Golfasian that I would like to share with you. Today, Golfasian is the largest dedicated Asian golf tour company. In 2014, Golfasian handled 147,880 golf tourists, who played 74,382 rounds.

What are the trends in the last 3 years in Asian golf tourism?

Asian golf tourism is dominated by Thailand, which accounts for approximately 80% of the 800,000 golf tourists to Asia each year due to the excellent infrastructure and renowned hospitality. Malaysia and Indonesia are the next largest destinations while Vietnam and Cambodia are up-and-coming.

The trend of golf tourists is to prefer established destinations that are reachable by direct flights from their home countries. However, more and more golfers are combining multiple destinations and countries into one trip and searching out new golf locations.

Also, as destinations mature (and get busier) the trend is to increase prices which instead of raising revenues, actually drives business away. Phuket Thailand is a prime example of this. While Phuket used to be Thailand’s top golf destination, it now ranks 4th behind Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai. This is due to the high green fees at all of Phuket’s golf courses.


How are people booking their golf trips? (Technology, timing, payment, etc.)

Golf travelling groups research and plan their trips plan their trips around 1 year before they travel. If they have not been to a destination, then most first get recommendations from friends and golf club members before going online to search for companies, golf clubs, and golf resorts that might provide the services they are interested in. After locating a few potential companies to work with, they will get preliminary quotes and compare inclusions, exclusions, terms, and costs.

This will generally be done by email or telephone. Once they decide on a company who is best qualified to organise their golf trips, they will normally pay a small deposit to hold their booking until around one month prior to their trips when they will pay the full amount due. Around 50% of golf travelers prefer to pay by bank transfer and the others normally pay by credit card. A small percent of groups may pay on arrival it is impractical to pay in advance. Chinese and South African golfers fall into this latter category where moving money out of their countries is difficult.

How typical is to Asian golf tourism the ‘bleisure’ (combining business & leisure) phenomenon?

Interesting you should ask this question. Bleisure is practically unheard of in the golf travel industry as businessmen hardly ever have the free time to golf on their trips. However, the new trend is, and a new term I have coined is “gleisure” holidays.

There is a very rapidly increasing demand for golfers to combine golf and leisure into one holiday. Our Golf Lifestyle Experience™ Tours are designed with this in mind. Each tour incorporates both golf and unique leisure experiences such as attractions and activities through the eyes of locals, and unique cultural and historical sites. Most trips combine two or more golf destinations, many of which are listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Who is a typical golf tourist in Asia?

75% of the Asian golf tourists are travelers from North Asia with those from Japan, Korea and China leading the way. These golfers travel year round and make multiple trips a year. Their golf trips tend to be short in duration (3-4 days), in large groups (10-30 players) and play at a range of courses (from countryside public courses to PGA championship ones).

On the other hand, Australians and Europeans make up the majority of western golf travelers coming to Asia. Both groups stay for longer (1-2 weeks), travel in both small and mid-size groups (2-10 golfers), and demand to play at only the best quality courses. Australians generally travel during their winter from June to October when the weather at home is worst and prices in Asia are lowest. Europeans also do the same from November to March, though prices are much higher due to the influx of leisure tourists during these months.

The typical age of golf travelers is from 35 to 70, with the most common age from 50 to 60.


How are Asian golf resorts & golf clubs prepared to Millennials?

Millennials do not travel much for golf as there is far fewer playing golf and most are more concerned with their career than their golf swings. When this group does they have the same needs as older golf travelers.

How does social media affecting on Asian golf tourism?

Golfers all like to communicate and post pictures of their travels on social media like Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook, so these are good ways to get exposure about tours and tournaments.

However, golfers coming to Asia do not use social media to make any buying decisions, but rather still prefer to go to their local tour operator or research/buy online directly from the golf tour operator in their chosen destination. This social media non-effect is the same for other golf destinations. The hype about social media is overblown and other than creating goodwill, there really is no effect for big ticket items like golf holidays.

Do P2P services (e.g. Airbnb) exist in Asian golf tourism?

Social sharing options exist for Asian golf tourism, but they are not popular as the golfers would have to take full responsibility for his/her trip. This is difficult as most of the better resorts and all of the best golf courses are not available via any socially sourced sites. Also, since self-driving is not recommended in Asia, the golfers would have no way to travel to the resorts and golf courses.

Finally and most importantly, when something goes wrong (as it does in 99.9% of the cases in Asia), the golf traveler would have no one to turn to assist him/her and make sure their trip is successful. In other words, Asian golf trips need someone locally to coordinate things, speak the language, and sort out any/all issues to insure each and every golfer is satisfied with their holiday. There is no second chance to do things over.

Has anything to add to this story? Share it in the comments!