Significant potential for Italian golf market, new KPMG survey finds
Italy is perfectly positioned to benefit from growing domestic demand for golf and international golf tourism, according to new research compiled by KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice. With the golfing world turning its attention to Italy for the European Tour’s BMW Italian Open, 13-16 September followed by the annual KPMG Golf Business Forum at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, 17-19 September, the report shines a light on a country that could be European golf’s sleeping giant.
With growing media interest in Italian tournament professionals including Francesco Molinari, who will tee it up with Team Europe at The Ryder Cup later this month, plus teenage sensation Matteo Manassero, a two-time winner on the European Tour, the number of golfers in Italy could continue to rise, while the established tourism market could convert more of the country’s 35 million foreign visits per year into higher-yielding golf holidays.
The report – prepared with the support of Fondazione Campus Lucca, and to be launched at the KPMG Golf Business Forum on September 18 – reveals the number of golf courses and golfers in Italy has doubled in the past two decades. Specifically:
- The number of golf courses has grown 137% in 20 years to 278, although only 232 of these are deemed standard 9 or 18-hole facilities
- The Italian Golf Federation (FIG) reports the number of golfers has nearly doubled in the same period to more than 100,000 affiliated players, although approximately 70,000 are believed to be regular golfers, including close to 600 PGA golf professionals
- Golf is concentrated in the north of Italy, with 71% of courses found here, 19% in the central region and 10% in the south and islands (Sardinia and Sicily)
- Piedmont and Lombardy regions host the highest number of golf courses, 43 and 39, respectively, followed by Veneto (28) and Emilia-Romagna (25). Tuscany and Lazio, located in central Italy, also provide a wide range of alternatives to play golf with 20 and 17 facilities, respectively
- Sardinia and Sicily host some of the most prestigious Italian golf clubs, more than half of which have been developed in the last 10 years. With the opening of five new golf courses last year, the central and southern regions show positive development trends
- Despite the economic downturn, more than half of the facilities surveyed reported an increase in the number of rounds played (2011).
However, the report also reveals that Italy is not realizing its potential:
- Membership fees in Italy are among the highest in Europe (EUR 1,950 per annum, on average), resulting in a low membership base at golf courses – 346 members per course, on average
- The game is also perceived as elitist in some quarters, and is dominated by male players (66% of registered players), although measures have been put in place to encourage greater participation among women (23%) and juniors (11%)
- Overall, the average golf participation rate is between 0.12% and 0.17% of the population, relatively low compared to established golf markets such as Great Britain (1.7%), Ireland (4%), Sweden (5.2%), the Netherlands (2.1%) and Switzerland (1%)
- 25% of rounds in Italy in 2011 were played by tourists
- Based on 2010 data presented by the National Tourism Observatory, the estimated number of foreign tourists who play golf in Italy is around 50-60,000. These golf tourists are mainly composed of adult couples (41%) and groups of friends (23%)
- In the same year, Italy recorded more than 35 million foreign visits, with the seven top source markets of inbound golf tourists accounting for over 46% of all visitors (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Sweden, Netherlands, UK).
To assess golf tourism demand potential, KPMG applied golf participation rates in these seven source markets. The results indicate a significant latent demand – up to 190,000 golf tourists – already present in Italy, indicating significant additional golf tourism potential.
Golf Benchmark Survey in Italy 2012