Indonesia takes swing at boosting golf tourism as Singapore loses last 18-hole public golf course

by Admin
Indonesia takes swing at boosting golf tourism as Singapore loses last 18-hole public golf course

JAKARTA: Indonesia is taking a swing at boosting golf tourism as it looks to fill the regional hole left by Singapore, which is shuttering golf courses as it considers how to best utilise its limited land.

The Riau Islands hold the most opportunities as there are already 10 golf courses there, with more to be built, said Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno on Jul 1.

“We encourage the development of golf tourism because in Singapore it is getting more expensive and not affordable anymore,” Mr Sandiaga was quoted saying during his weekly briefing.

From three, land-scarce Singapore is now down to its last public golf course, a 9-hole venue. About a week ago (Jun 30), the curtains came down on the country’s last 18-hole public golf course, and analysts have told CNA they expect more golf courses to go.

Opening a two-day golf tournament at a Batam country club on Jun 29, Mr Sandiaga expressed optimism that the event – The Batam Golf Challenge 2024 – would position the Riau Islands as a prime golf tourism destination in Indonesia.

He noted that there are currently three golf courses in Bintan Regency, with another under development. In the city of Batam, there are already seven golf courses, with plans to add more in the future.

“This is a very good golf tourism destination in Indonesia,” Mr Sandiaga said. The tourism minister noted the strategic proximity of the Riau Islands to Singapore, adding that interested golfers from Singapore can access the islands by ferry. 

Mr Sandiaga also pointed out the progress made in other regions, highlighting how places like Jakarta, West Java and their surrounding areas already have numerous golf courses.

“We have mapped out every ‘super priority’ tourist destination which we want to promote too,” he added, referring to previously announced plans in March 2022 to develop 25 new golf courses in five “super priority” destinations by 2025.

These five destinations are: Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Mandalika in Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Likupang in North Sulawesi.

“We encourage at least five international standard golf courses. Golf has both comparative and competitive advantages. We have good golf courses, and our hospitality and service are an advantage for tourists or golfers themselves,” Mr Sandiaga said at the time.

Head of international relations at the Indonesia Golf Association (PGI) Bernardino Moningka Vega said the country’s golf industry has benefited from a surge in the sport’s popularity.

He pointed out that the participation rate among Indonesians has spiked by 20 per cent since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Speaking to local news outlet The Jakarta Post, Mr Bernardino noted that the pandemic’s restrictions on outdoor activities inadvertently propelled golf to the forefront, as it remained one of the few recreational options available at the time.

Meanwhile, Antara news agency, citing data from golf shop purchases, reported that the number of golfers in Indonesia has reached approximately 170,000, up from around 50,000 before the pandemic.

Even so, data suggests golf tourism in Indonesia remains significantly lower compared to other Southeast Asian countries and beyond.

A CNBC Indonesia report earlier this month citing data from a 2022 industry report stated that Indonesia would have 170 golf courses by 2022, lagging behind neighbouring countries such as Malaysia (244), Thailand (319), and India (296).

According to President Commissioner of Intra GolfLink Resorts (IGR) Darma Mangkuluhur Hutomo, Indonesia receives around 250,000 golf tourists annually.

The tally is significantly lower compared to its neighbours. Thailand usually attracts 6 million, Vietnam 1.5 million, and Malaysia 500,000 golf tourists each year, said Mr Dharma as quoted by news outlet Detik. 

Despite the growing number of players each year, land scarcity in many Asian cities limits the opening of more golf courses and thus drives up prices, said Mr Bernardino as reported in the Jakarta Post.

This provides a “golden opportunity” for Indonesia to promote its golf courses, which are “still affordable”, he added.

To bridge the gap, Mr Bernardino suggested that the Indonesian golf association propose to collaborate with its Southeast Asian counterparts to promote regional golf tourism and facilitate cross-country golfing excursions. 

“My plan is aiming in that direction,” Mr Bernardino said. “We can also collaborate with regional airlines like AirAsia or Singapore Airlines to combine flight schedules with golf tours.”

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