What has VisitScotland achieved in golf tourism in 50 years?

By: August 27, 2019

When we reach such a major milestone/anniversary like VisitScotland (50th), then the organization (previously called the Scottish Tourist Board) rightly looks back and summarizing its achievements.

This what I will do too. I have already written about the Scottish golf tourism industry in 2017. In those days, it was worth £286 million to Scotland.

Can you imagine that in 1970 only 9% of domestic visitors (from Scotland and the rest of the UK) played golf while they were visiting Scotland and in 1978 there were around 350 golf courses?

VisitScotland golf tourism promotion in 1969

VisitScotland proudly claims that women making up around 16% of golf club membership in Scotland in the last decade and a Women in Golf Charter established by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews last year.

At the same time, KPMG’s latest Golf Participation Report for Europe (2018) found that ONLY 12% of Scottish golfers are women. This is the 4th lowest in Europe.

It is very good that VisitScotland (previously the Scottish Tourist Board) recognized the value and business potential in golf tourism.

50 years ago, golf was modestly featured in early marketing with some examples stating that

“Golf is the ordinary man’s game in Scotland. So, it is cheap as well as plentiful”….“Wherever he goes, the golfer realises right away he is in the Home of the Game.” 

VisitScotland golf tourism promotion in 1991

VisitScotland – ambitious goals for 2020

Scotland is planning to generate £325 million revenue from golf tourism by 2020.

The Brexit will have a minor effect on the above-mentioned target since 70% of the golf tourists are from the UK & Ireland.

Here are some interesting statistics about the Scottish golf tourism industry:

  • Overseas golfing visitors spend on average £338 per night during a trip to Scotland, which is more than 4 times the daily spend of an average overseas visitor (£78.90).
  • From 2008 to 2017 the value of golf tourism and events increased by 30%.
  • 50% of all female golfer visitors to Scotland describe themselves as either “luxury” or “holiday” golfers, indicating a willingness for a high-spend and to undertake a variety of other activities during a golf trip, visiting multiple regions.

Travel trends in 2019-2020

As the popularity of ‘Iinstagrammable’ destination as a holiday planning factor is growing, countries like Scotland have to tackle the phenomenon of over-tourism.

Over-tourism is already causing a headache for such Scottish cities like Edinburgh. Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, Santorini, and Barcelona are also struggling with this problem among the other popular cities.

This is why the concept of “Under-tourism” is beginning to take hold.

I really missed from the On Course for Growth document (the Scottish Golf
Tourism & Visitor Development Strategy 2013-2020
) how Scotland will jump on the bleisure bandwagon.

A Glassdoor study found in 2018:

  • 15% of UK Employees Work on Holiday Through Fear of Falling Behind.
  • 40% of UK employees take half of their holiday allowance.
  • The average US employee took only 54% of their allowance compared to 62% in the UK, with two in three (66%) working while on holiday. 

This is why I think it is worth offering something compelling to workaholics and other employees.

I don’t think it would be an unrealistic idea to combine wellness and golf tourism to attract more golf tourists to Scotland.

In 2017, the value of global wellness tourism was worth $639 billion.

I know that VisitScotland is already thinking about how to take advantage of the popularity of wellness tourism.

However, it would be wise to build the relevant elements into the On Course for Growth document.

VisitScotland golf tourism promotion in 2000

Last, but not least, let’s create women-centric golf experience offers. Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.

In 2017, they estimated that the “female economy” was worth $18 trillion, and it’s grown since then.

The intention to focus on female golf tourists can be detected in the above-mentioned golf tourism strategy. Its fast implementation would help the Scottish golf tourism industry a lot.