Auckland hosting LPGA a game changer for local visitor economy

Today’s announcement that Auckland is to host the LPGA-sanctioned McKayson New Zealand Open next year is a potential game changer for the region’s visitor economy – which is already Auckland’s largest and fastest-growing industry.

Lydia Ko 285x223The four-day tournament at the new Windross Farm course at Ardmore will play a key role in the growth of Auckland’s visitor economy, which is currently worth $7 billion to the region and is expected to grow by more than $2 billion in the next four years.

It offers an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Auckland to its three main visitor markets, China, the USA and Australia, and secondary markets including Korea, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

The LPGA event, led by Auckland’s own Lydia Ko, will showcase local golf courses, landscapes and tourism experiences – to the premium visitor and golfing market through broadcast coverage that will potentially reach 175 countries and more than 250 million households.

As the region’s economic growth agency, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is investing in the event on behalf of Auckland Council. Auckland’s investment will total just over $1 million per annum for three years.

Golf tourism to New Zealand grew to about $330 million in the year to August, and ATEED believes the LPGA’s presence in Auckland will help put its increasing number of world-class courses on the radar of international golf tourists from Auckland’s three most important markets – China, the US, and Australia – and two secondary markets Korea (home of sponsor sports leisure company McKayson) and Japan.

The event is expected to deliver up to 13,000 visitor nights in Auckland’s shoulder tourism season, and generate up to $1.3 million a year new money for Auckland’s economy, with additional significant international media exposure value. McKayson’s title sponsorship alone will inject new money into the regional economy.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says having star Kiwi Lydia Ko and 100 of the world’s elite women golfers in Ko’s home town will be fantastic for Auckland: “This will be a great showcase for Auckland, taking our city to millions of people in high-value tourism markets in China, Australia, the US and UK.

“Golf is a huge passion across Asia, the USA and Australia, and golfers are a priority special interest travel market segment for Auckland.”

ATEED’s focus on high-value visitors and investors from China is delivered via a golf, equine, marine and screen (GEMS) programme, and this includes a strong partnership with China’s largest golf resort operator – Mission Hills China – and also the Nicklaus Club in Beijing.

“As a result of our efforts over a number of years, Auckland now regularly welcomes large groups of passionate Chinese golfers who are also influential business people and investors,” says Brett O’Riley, ATEED Chief Executive.

“Many choose to stay in luxury accommodation and spend on luxury experiences, and ATEED introduces them to a range of investment and business opportunities while they are here.

“Conservative estimates show China will have 20 million golfers by the year 2020, and this tournament will allow Auckland to tap into this rapidly expanding market.”

ATEED will work with partners to develop business and investment showcasing alongside the McKayson New Zealand Open.

Brett O’Riley says: “We will look to showcase Auckland’s emerging advanced industries and reputation as an innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific, and promote engagement with Auckland growth companies.”

The tournament’s location in South Auckland is expected to have a positive impact on employment and accommodation providers in the immediate region, and showcase the level of new development in the city’s south.

“We have been working with Panuku Development Auckland and private land owners on opportunities for new hotels in South Auckland, including golf resorts,” says Brett O’Riley.

“The tournament will deliver thousands of international and domestic visitors in the traditional shoulder season, aligning with our work to expand the length of the busy season to grow jobs and infrastructure.”

Without public investment, this event could not be hosted in Auckland or delivered in New Zealand, he says.

The tournament week will incorporate ancillary events to maximise media exposure, event promotions, community and fan engagement and build legacy benefits for golf in the region.