Golf gives sports tourism a push
Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
JAMAICA's swing as a destination for sports tourism scored a hole-in-one this week when separate groups of travel agents from the United States and Latin America took part in Sandals Resorts' golf tournaments for its travel partners.
September 13-17 saw more than 100 travel agents from Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia and Panama being hosted at Sandals Golf and Country Club in Exchange, St Ann, as the resort chain reached out to the Latin American market for holiday, and, hopefully, professional golfers.
This weekend, it is the turn of 150 agents from the United States to strut their stuff on the greens of the picturesque course, the 12th year Sandals is hosting its travel partners from North America.
With Jamaica hoping to ride its track and field success in marketing the island as a sports-tourism destination, sports such as golf have the potential to once again attract not only leisure but also international tournaments and professional players.
Steve Simmons from Atlanta, Georgia, operates Honeymoons Inc with his wife, Debbie, and has been travelling to Jamaica for Sandals' United States travel agents' golf tournament since its inception.
Simmons is confident Jamaica can build its brand as a golfing destination, especially out of Atlanta.
"I think Jamaica could be an amazing draw," he said. "Just as it is, it is amazing," he added, describing the 18-hole strip, the only golf course in the greater Ocho Rios area.
The Simmons' utilise Honeymoons Inc's social media pages, Facebook and Twitter, as well as email blasts to put up posts and pictures about their Sandals Golf and Country Club experiences.
"Jamaica is in high demand for tourists in Atlanta. There are non-stop flights every day and the prices are reasonable," Steve said.
"It's only two and a half hours. People like a short non-stop flight, and Jamaica is in high demand in that regard," Debbie added.
Garth Laird, director, travel industry programmes, Sandals, said the tournaments' main goal is to expose golf to travel agents who have golfing enthusiasts as clients.
Sandals Golf and Country Club, Laird said, has a unique advantage.
"Our caddies play an important role as they are good golfers themselves," he pointed out, referring to the likes of Dane Bailey, Wesley Brown and Gifford Wilmot, who have all played on Jamaica's Hoerman Cup team in the regional championship.