Upswing in golf tourism

The Remarkables reflected in one of the ponds at Millbrook Golf Resort. Photo: Getty Images
The Remarkables reflected in one of the ponds at Millbrook Golf Resort. Photo: Getty Images
A long-time local golf pro says Queenstown golf tourism last year was "phenomenal" — however, he believes the New Zealand Open’s still vital for local golf’s global profile.

Jack’s Point golf GM John Griffin states: "What keeps Queenstown NZ’s no.1 golf destination is we currently have five really top-ranked courses all offering different experiences with Arrowtown, Queenstown Golf Club, two courses at Millbrook, Jack’s Point.

"And with new courses coming on at Hogans Gully and Gibbston and [Wanaka’s] Glendhu Bay, it only increases the value of the golf destination to Queenstown.

"It’s not one of us that’s doing it, it’s the fact we are that collective — and Queenstown offers so much more than just golf."

The visiting golfer, Griffin adds, also tends to fit the higher-spending, longer-staying category.

Aussies are still the biggest overseas market — "a good 60%" — but numbers out of the United States are up and there’s some growth out of Asia.

Continuing to be the home of the NZ Open is a huge plus for Queenstown, he says, "because it keeps the profile of the town at the forefront of people globally who have that golf interest".

Millbrook’s golf ops manager, Tom Buttenshaw, adds: "There is a significant Australian golf tourism market that previously travelled to Asia, Europe and the US in large numbers who are now coming to NZ and Queenstown in greater numbers.

"Millbrook has developed some close partnerships with clubs in Australia, and we are seeing large numbers of their members visiting the resort."

The Hills’ CEO, Rob Selley, says they’ve also seen increased visitors.

Queenstown Golf Club GM Andrew Bell says golf visitors are up but club members make up about 65% of those playing its famed Kelvin Heights course.

"We’re sitting at roughly 90% occupancy on a daily basis."

However, while visitor numbers might be up 25%, their discretionary spend on shirts, hats and food and beverage, etc, is up only about 10%.

Peak Golf Queenstown owner Stephen Jensen says his golf tour business is stronger than pre-Covid, though he attributes some of last year’s numbers to pent-up demand.

He believes the resort’s golf proposition is so good because courses are all handy to each other, combined with the attraction of the town.

Mountain Scene understands golf tourism’s worth $100 million-plus a year to the area, though Destination Queenstown, which promotes it, doesn’t keep stats.

DQ marketing & comms director Sarah O’Donnell says during last year’s Open, commercial accommodation occupancy was 81% and visitor spend in the Arrowtown area was close to $1m.

 

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