IAGTO completes a hat trick of 2023 international golf tourism conventions with its 14th NAC

26 June 2023

More than 300 delegates from 32 countries have helped global golf tourism organisation IAGTO’s convention season swing to a close in Florida at its third international event of 2023.

The 14th annual North America Golf Tourism Convention (NAC), which took place at Saddlebrook Resort near Gulf Coast city Tampa last week, was fully booked more than a month in advance.

It followed the return of IAGTO’s Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) in Japan’s Miyazaki in March and the new IAGTO European Convention (IEC) held in Marbella, Spain, in April. Both were also fully booked, attracting 300 and 630 attending delegates respectively.

IAGTO chief executive Peter Walton said: “We created the NAC event in 2009 as a direct response to the economic crisis in order to support our member golf destinations and suppliers predominantly in the USA, which was suffering the most at that time. NAC quickly became the most important golf tourism event in the Americas and it has continued to evolve in response to changing market dynamics.

“Over a decade ago, only 15% of IAGTO golf tour operator members in the USA and Canada sold domestic golf destinations, whereas now a colossal 75% sell golf vacations within the USA and Canada as well as to destinations worldwide.

“This has led to a steady growth in North American buyers attending NAC, with 53 of this year’s 114 buyers coming from the USA and Canada. This in turn attracts a lot of interest from golf tourism suppliers worldwide, interested in the American outbound market, with 38% of supplier delegates this year representing destinations outside of the Americas, including New Zealand, South Africa and Morocco, as well as European big hitters from Spain, Portugal and Ireland, among others.”

Remarking on the NAC venue, Peter Walton added: “Saddlebrook Resort is itself a long-time IAGTO member and knew exactly what to do to deliver the perfect North America Convention. Everything was on-site at the resort, including the meeting venues and the golf courses which allowed us to maximise both business and pleasure.

“As the partner tourism board, Experience Florida’s Sports Coast ensured that all delegates had the opportunity to experience golf, dining, shopping and nature in Pasco County, with Tampa International Airport providing a convenient domestic and international gateway for everyone involved.”

NAC 2023 saw more than 3,000 meetings take place over two days, with resorts including Pebble Beach, Treetops, Turning Stone, Sawgrass, Horseshoe Bay, Destination Kohler, Casa de Campo and Half Moon Jamaica in attendance.

The event received a massive thumbs up from both attendees and hosts.

It was the first North America convention for John Fanning, director of sales for US golf tour operator Fairways to Heaven. “I love it,” he said. “It’s great. NAC is very beneficial for us because a lot of destinations we typically don’t see come to this event."

“If it wasn’t for IAGTO and this convention, I wouldn’t be able to discover all these different locations to offer to our clients. I think the event is excellent and IAGTO does a great job. The meetings are very well set up, the turnout always impresses me and the venues that they select are always on point.”

Krystyna Rykovska, managing director of YouGolf Tours from Switzerland, was another first-time NAC attendee and was equally impressed. “I am very happy and it has been very successful for us,” she said. “I met some new suppliers we can work with and some that we already know. I think there are some really good products for us here.”

Destinations exhibiting at the show that Krystyna intended to offer to clients for the first time included the Dominican Republic, while “hidden gems” in the US she hoped to send customers to in the future included Wisconsin, Oregon and Michigan.

As for Saddlebrook, she added: “I love this place, I like the layout. I think it’s an amazing property with a lot of potential. It could be an option for the future.”

According to Saddlebrook Resort vice-president Pat Farrell, the resort will undergo a “top-to-bottom restoration” beginning in July with completion due by mid-2025 and costing “upwards of $50 million”.

He explained the work would include a reconfiguration of its current 36-hole golf facility to 27 holes with updating and refurbishing by top golf designer Rees Jones and his team. Practice facilities will be centralised and expanded to include a double-ended driving range and new short game areas. A new fitness studio will be added as well as pickleball and padel tennis courts, complementing its extensive tennis courts. New family leisure facilities will also be added. Meanwhile, all rooms at the 500-key resort will be renovated, as will public areas, with the addition of new food and beverage outlets.

Commenting on hosting NAC, Farrell said: “It has been invaluable exposure for us. It has also been great with our partners Experience Florida’s Sports Coast to be able to showcase the community and surrounding areas to really highlight all the things that are available to guests who come and stay at the resort within a 45-minute drive.

“And with a full slate of scheduled meetings throughout NAC, it has been extremely beneficial. A lot of buyers from Asian countries showed strong interest, Korea and China in particular. The positive response has been just astounding. I know this will generate significant business and exposure for our property, and it already has.”

Experience Florida’s Sports Coast tourism assistant director Consuelo Sanchez was also delighted with NAC, saying: “Everything has been above and beyond all our expectations. The quality of the tour operators that IAGTO brings here is something that is rare to find.

“I have had really good feedback from the tour operators. The fact that we were able to host a pre-fam tour really opened a lot of doors because we were able to showcase not only the amenities and facilities that we have but also our hospitality. And I feel that the tour operators are excited about working with our destination and our partners.”

Next year, NAC heads north to Boyne Resort in Michigan, taking place from June 17-19, 2024.

For photos of the event, please click here


Sharon Wingrove - Marketing & Communications
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8906 3377
Email: sharon@iagto.com
Website: www.iagto.com