One of Asia’s leading figures in the golf tourism industry is bullish about post-Covid-19 prospects for in-bound golfers to the region.
Speaking in the latest in a series of Asian Golf Industry Federation podcasts with leading lights from the industry that are being broadcast at www.agif.asia, Mark Siegel, Founder and Managing Director at Golfasian, predicts golf tourism will bounce back strongly.
American-born Siegel, who’s spent the past 25 years in Asia, believes strong domestic recoveries will be seen in the coming months, to be followed by the return to Asian golf courses of international golf tourists.
Siegel said: “Our strongest markets are Vietnam and Thailand and we’ve recently received good news from both destinations. Vietnam has eradicated the virus for any kind of community spread and they’ve opened up their economy for domestic operations. And the Thailand Government met and approved the reopening of the Thai economy also, at first for domestic privileges then they’ll look at the international ones.
“On May 1, Thai courses reopened. I tried to make some bookings, but they were all sold out, until around May 5! There’s a good pent-up demand here and a lot of players looking to get out on the courses and be in the fresh air again. Hopefully it’s a good sign of things to come.
“I’m planning for the third quarter still to be no international travel, but then things picking up in the last three months of the year to maybe 25 per cent of normal capacity and things returning to normalcy at the beginning of next year.
“I can already see some airlines screening their employees for Covid as they ramp up their testing. There are golf courses doing the same, screening all employees, including caddies. They’ll be enforcing social distancing and guaranteeing that their staff are virus-free.
“As more testing comes on line, regardless of any other medical breakthroughs, I think that will help reduce peoples’ fear and tension and get people travelling and out on the golf course again.
“Of course, it will be a little bit slow in the beginning, but people will learn to live with the new normalcy and start to pursue their hobby and their pastime as they did in the past.”
With international travel pretty much suspended and airports at many countries not accepting international flights, Siegel and his team at Golfasian (www.golfasian.com) have been putting the downtime to good use.
He said: “We’re using this time as an opportunity to update our online presence, materials that we have, tours that were planned, tournaments that we run, doing some training with the staff – and catching up with all the things we don’t usually get a chance to do when we’re busy with tourists.
“It’s an opportunity to rethink about our business and also refocus on what we do well so that when golf courses reopen and travel resumes we’ll be in a very good position to pick up as good as if not better than where we left off.
“I’d like to relay a message to everybody in the golf industry, particularly the golf courses and the suppliers to the industry – there is light at the end of the tunnel. Stick with what made you great in the past, keep improving and I’m sure we’ll see the return of golfers very soon and international golf travellers soon thereafter.
“By joining together and growing our knowledge base, sharing best practices and taking a little control of our own destiny, once this global crisis passes we’ll be in a very good position to pick up where we left off from and continue to grow.”