The golf tourism industry celebrated its much-anticipated inaugural IAGTO European Convention (IEC) this week in Marbella, Costa del Sol in typical Andalucian style.
Organised by global golf tourism organization IAGTO (International Association of Golf Tour Operators) for the benefit of its member companies, the three-day event was attended by 634 delegates from 46 countries, making it IAGTO’s largest and most successful event to date.
At the Opening Address it was announced that, due to overwhelming demand, IEC would return to Andalucía next year from 13-15 May 2024 and take place in the city of Málaga, the gateway to the Costa del Golf, where attendance is expected to exceed 800.
Sitting alongside IAGTO’s Americas Convention (NAC) and Asia Convention (AGTC), IEC completes a trio of annual IAGTO events that span the globe. IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “Our 2,500 member companies now have the opportunity to attend whichever conventions are most beneficial to them, at an affordable cost, in the knowledge that the business conducted, and relationships established will deliver dividends every single time.
“For example, here at our first IEC, 50% of the buyer delegates are from the top 22% highest performing golf tour operators in their region.”
During the event, 8,300 meetings were pre-scheduled between buyers and suppliers over two full days, and further networking was facilitated through the IEC Golf Tournament played over three courses (La Quinta, Rio Real and Santa Clara golf clubs), five hotel receptions, a Feria Andaluza themed Welcome Reception for all delegates and the traditional IAGTO-style Farewell Fiesta.
Speaking about what it takes to create practically useful meeting environments, Walton said: “What underpins everything we do is the close relationship we have with our members throughout the year. We understand how the golf tourism industry is evolving and what the priorities are for individual companies at any given time. Our events are simply a reaction to this, and they too change and evolve every year.
“We also have incredibly good working relationships with over 100 tourism boards. To bring an event of this size, and to enable it to return, requires a tremendous amount of support and commitment from partner institutions. For IEC 2023 we had three superb anchor sponsors – the tourist boards of Andalucía and Costa del Sol along with the Marbella Town Hall, in addition to event-function sponsors including the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation.”
Delegates were welcomed by officials from the host destinations.
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sports of Andalucía, Don Victor González told them: “Andalucia’s relationship with IAGTO, given the relevance of the destination in the field of golf travel, is close, fruitful, long-lasting and I would almost dare to say historic. This event is equally noteworthy as an example of public-private collaboration between the institutions and organizations involved, that we all work in the same direction to promote the development of an essential activity for the region.”
Marbella Mayor Angeles Muñoz said: “We are convinced that this event will not only have a significant impact on our promotion as a golf destination but, together with the forthcoming Solheim Cup, will be a great boost for our Marbella brand.”
Renee Kachler, Director of Business Development for the Costa del Sol Tourism Board, said: “With over 70 golf courses distributed across the Costa del Golf, making up 67% of the golf courses in Andalucía, the Costa del Sol is one of the most important golf destinations in the world. Golf is therefore very important to us. It is a segment that has a significant economic impact on the destination, not only golf clubs but also hotels, restaurants and service companies.”
Pablo Mansilla, President of the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation, said: “Revenue of 2,200 million euros every year result from golf related activities in Andalucía, with more than 50,000 people employed directly and indirectly with golf.
“That’s mainly because of you,” he told delegates. “It’s mainly because you keep sending visitors to Andalucía.”
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