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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Golf tourism has massive potential to position India as a 365-days destination’

Posted by Admin 17 Apr 2018

Sitting at the helm of affairs in the Tourism terrain, Rashmi Verma, Secretary- Ministry of Tourism (MOT), Government of India, has a finger in many pies. The MOT has stepped up its efforts to exploit golf tourism in its true potential, though a lot needs to be done – feels Verma who believes in mincing no words.


In an exclusive interaction with Dinesh Thakur, Founder and CEO of 4moles.com, she answers the volley of questions with élan.



Dinesh Thakur, Founder and CEO of 4moles.com with Rashmi Verma, Secretary Tourism


                      Dinesh Thakur, Founder and CEO of 4moles.com with Rashmi Verma - Secretary, Ministry of Tourism



Candid Excerpts



According to the Foreign Tourists Arrivals (FTAs), we have about 10 million inflows out of which 50% is coming from Japan, The US, Europe and these are all golf-friendly countries. Are they any plans that we are doing under the new guidelines to attract the golfers who are already coming in?


Yes, we are treating Golf tourism as a niche product and we are hugely focussing on countries on where there is a lot of potential. We are supporting initiatives for developing world-class Golf courses apart from the existing ones. India has some uniquely placed and iconic Golf courses in Srinagar, North-east. We propose to capitalize on that and we have a dedicated sports movie for the promotion of Golf tourism ‘Caddyboots’. We have made this movie in partnership with CNN and we will be using this movie to promote and attract more golfers to our country. We will be focussing on our key markets US and Japan, who also have an interest in Golf.



Today, the domestic market of Golf is reasonably big. Any new initiatives we are doing to promote Golf tourism in our country?


We continue to sponsor the local events and we have a committee which is chaired by me to look at ways and means of promoting Golf tourism. The committee, which also has representatives of various Golf associations, meets on a regular basis. We also engage with the private sector and evaluate strategies on how we can promote Golf tourism in India. We also support events, especially in the North East and we get people on fam tours also.


Whenever we give support to such events we have a certain amount of deliverables for them which they have to deliver for the promotion of Golf in India. The tournaments are also shown on media. Also, we are in the process of revamping our website and there will be a separate, dedicated portion on Golf.




Kids Golf is growing about 40% in India. Anything specific we are doing to promote Golf for children in India?


 No, We are not doing anything specifically to promote that but this can definitely be looked into.



Rashmi Verma with Team 4moles.com



We have around 200 Golf courses and I am sure that you are aware that 70-80% are under the Government today-whether it’s Defence or Delhi Golf course. Unfortunately, the international and domestic Golfers who are actually on the ground are not really welcoming there. Anything we are doing to address the same?



In fact, many of the Government Golf courses also are now looking at organizing international events and getting international Golfers to showcase their Golf courses and get better revenue for their Golf clubs. We are supporting these events and getting corporate Golfers from abroad on fam tours. When it’s done in partnership with us, they do welcome.



But that means tourists have to wait for events to play in these Golf courses. What about them who want to play? 


But you can visit Delhi Golf Club as well as pay and play!



That is where the issue is. Today it’s a huge amount of money involved where the Indian also pays the same amount. Maybe, you can look into the same as a committee.


Yes, that's something we would look into. 



Khelo India has started a campaign by the Ministry of Sports. Is the Ministry of Tourism working closely with the Ministry of Sports?


Not for Khelo India. But we have given them the responsibility of upgrading and renovating the Golf courses. For instance, the one in Kochi is being done by Sports Authority of India and we are financially supporting them for the development of the facilities there.



Rashmi Verma, Secretary Ministry of Tourism



As per our knowledge, there are no specific Golf tour operators in India as a whole. If the tour operators are not there to meet the itineraries and we do not have access to the tee time inventory, does it make the right sense to promote Golf for our travellers coming from across the world? Whenever they are coming, the real Golf courses don’t have the bandwidth to open up. What are your views?



Yes, Golf clubs have to look at these things but there are tour operators who are solely focussing on getting Golfers and promoting Golf packages. But this needs to happen on a larger scale and this is only feasible only when more golfer travellers make their presence felt in India. Largely, there are two ways of looking at it. One way is to attract Golfers exclusively for playing Golf here. But we are also trying to supplement their experience here. They might be coming on a business trip or they might be coming purely as a tourist or a Buddhist tourist. With the concept of Golf thrown in, their stay becomes a little longer and more experiential.



Yes, we agree with you 100%. But how do the travellers get access to the course?


No, but that’s happening. The states are now allowing these tourists and many of them are planning to set up golf courses near their iconic tourist sites.



For example, Rambagh Golf Course is situated right in the centre of Jaipur. Today, Rambagh Golf club is a course which is tourist-friendly and has members as well. But with the maximum Golden Triangle of the tourists coming, surprisingly most foreigners do not know how to access these Golf courses. Do they walk-in, do they call someone, do they book somewhere as there is no direct linking? 



The hotels guide them, many of them get in touch with the clubs, then they are able to go. But again, not so much is happening. But yes, we have asked many of the Golf courses to open up for tourists. But most of them allow to come and pay and play.



That’s agreed, Ma’am! Like, we manage Thailand and we have connected with almost 45 Golf courses under our own company. In Thailand, the process to connect, help tourists and to plan his itinerary which includes Golf is predefined. In India, we are taking a last minute step saying ‘Oh, you have already come, so we also have Golf which is in Golconda or we can also fly down to Srinagar and maybe play a round or two'.


Yes, this needs to be predefined and probably integrate with the regular tour packages.



Your candid views on the future of Golf tourism in the country.


I think Golf has a lot of potential and people play for various reasons – leisure or professional reasons. Golf is getting increasingly popular among the youth. There has also been a lot of interest from many State Governments to develop more Golf courses and upgrade the facilities. What I feel that since we have some very beautiful Golf courses in the hills and North-East, these can be used in making India a year-round destination.  You see a lot of potential but it’s just that a lot needs to be done and these things will take time.



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