Golf tourism tees off in Kerala, likely to boost sagging spirits post alcohol prohibition policy

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Oct 5 2014, 11:30am hrs
KeralaThe Thiruvananthapuram Golf Club, set up in 1850, is among the world?s oldest.
At a juncture when the states phased alcohol prohibition policy is giving a massive headache to the R27,000-crore Kerala tourism industry, golf has offered it a robust outdoor pasture or two to cheer up. The Gods Own Country brand is scouting possibilities in golf tourism, after the Sports Authority of Indias (SAI) takeover of Thiruvananthapuram Golf Club coincided with setting up of the SAI National Golf Academy.

The Thiruvananthapuram Golf Club, set up in 1850, is among the worlds oldest. Covering an area of 25 acres, it is a nine-hole golf course. At the same time, the new 136-acre golf course built in association with Cochin International Airport (CIAL) in Kochi, is the largest in India.

What helps golf tourism is the sudden perk in interest in golf worldwide, as the sport is all set to enter Olympics in the competition category for the first time at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. As per the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), India is set to be number three in the world as far as the growth rate in golf tourism is concerned, says Jiji Thomson, director general, SAI. Kerala, in turn, would also need to develop more golf courses at its hill stations like Munnar to lure international golf tourists, he adds.

The SAI National Golf Academy has entered into a partnership with Colorado Springs Golf Course, reputed to be one of the best golf courses in the world. Arnold Palmer Golf Management Company, which runs golf courses worldwide, has offered to back the academy. As a first step, the academy will take in 20 children in the 8-14 years age group for training.

Meanwhile, tour operators in Kerala are worried about the phasing out of bars in the state, other than in five-star hotels, after September 30. This could impact MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) tourism, as per EM Najeeb, former president, Kerala Travel Mart. Though liquor would be available at retail outlets for people to buy, they can drink only at their homes.

There are two sub-segments of MICE tourism domestic and inbound. The domestic sub-segment includes doctors conferences

sponsored by pharmaceutical

companies. There are also dealers conferences called incentive groups in tourism lingo. The inbound

MICE tourism is an upmarket segment handling dealers conferences in five-star hotels.

Inexpensive options to play golf could surely lure health-conscious medical professionals to golf destinations like Kerala, says PM Abraham, former secretary, Thiruvananthapuram Golf Club.

The golf course at the SAI National Golf Academy-acquired property is reputed to be one of the least expensive golf courses to play in. While the fate of Gods Own Country hovers around the new policy of the state government, the entry of international golf tie-ups like those with the US-based Arnold Palmer group surely will keep Keralas hospitality business in better spirits.