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Jamaica is looking to revitalise and tap into the potential of the sport of golf to attract visitors to the island, to boost the tourism industry and economy.
The global golf tourism market, where people take trips with the main purpose of playing the sport, is valued over US$17 billion, according to the International Association of Golfing Tour Operators (IAGTO).
An estimated 56 million people play golf worldwide, of whom 26.7 million are in the United States (US) alone, which is the leading market in terms of the sport contributing over US$60 billion to that economy.
The Government is collaborating with stakeholders, such as Sandals Resorts International, in targetting what is considered to be the largest sports-related travel market.
Recently, Sandals hosted 166 travel advisors from across the US at its 18th annual USA Travel Advisor Golf Tournament, at the organisation’s Golf and Country Club in Ocho Rios, St. Ann. It was the event’s first staging since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two-day tournament comprised teams playing in a four-member scramble, putting their skills to the test, and competing in various activities throughout the tournament.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, said golf is part of the higher value offerings of the industry’s experience, adding that the sport provides the potential to bolster arrivals and earnings as Jamaica rebounds from the pandemic.
He noted that Jamaica was once a renowned golfing destination globally and is steadily being re-established as such, through the efforts of the Government as well as local and international stakeholders who, together, are working to secure the tourism sector’s full recovery.
“We want to recover back with golf; and so we welcome you, travel advisors, for golfing. You have flown all the way from the different parts of the United States to be here to start that process of ensuring that recovery is happening,” Mr. Bartlett said.
“[Also], I want to say how very happy we are, in Jamaica, for the partnership we have had with you over the period and for the confidence that you continue to repose in us,” he added.
National Manager of Golf Sales for Sandals and Beaches Resorts, Jake Coldiron, told JIS News that the idea behind the event was to allow travel advisors to experience golfing in Jamaica, so that they can go back and sell to the market.
He said it also aimed to further strengthen and build awareness of the island’s expanding golf tourism brand.
“I think golfing in Jamaica is kind of like a hidden gem. When most people think of golfing in the Caribbean, yes, Jamaica is kind of up there, near the top; but I truly believe, now, we need to expand. I believe Jamaica is going to be on the map [for] golf,” he pointed out.
Mr. Coldiron indicated that the travel advisors also got a chance to engage with hotel staff and locals, which added to the overall travel experience.
Local golf professional and coach, Bill Williams, who took part in the tournament, described the sport as “worthwhile” and beneficial to the country, while welcoming the tournament’s resumption.
“We’re looking forward to seeing more business out of it. So, we try to do a lot of promotion and spread it as much as possible,” he told JIS News.
Mr. Williams, who has worked at Sandals Golf and Country Club since 1992, said he also teaches golf to youngsters, aged six to 18, from vulnerable communities.