Haikou, China: Leading golf visionaries and courses in Asia were singled out for honours in the inaugural IAGTO Excellence Awards for 2014.
The awards, sponsored by Etihad Airways and held at the gala dinner during the third annual IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention at Mission Hills Hainan, recognise the vision and contribution of golf tourism leaders as well as the outstanding achievements of golf courses in the Asia Pacific region.
They form a new addition to the annual IAGTO Awards, awarded each year at the end of the International Golf Travel Market.
The new honours comprise Diamond, Platinum and Pearl Awards. Over the past decade, IAGTO has carried out golf tourism audits of over 250 golf courses and golf resorts worldwide, assessing each course through the eyes of a first-time golf visitor.
Four Diamond Awards have been awarded to courses assessed by IAGTO which offer the best possible experience to the visiting golf traveller. “Therefore this is more than just an award,” IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said. “These presentations mark the beginning of a new IAGTO Certification programme through which we will identify, recognise and highlight the best golf travel experiences that every country worldwide has to offer.”
Winners of the new IAGTO Diamond Awards are sister golf resorts Mission Hills Haikou and Mission Hills Shenzhen which together offer 22 golf courses, the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort in Indonesia and Vietnam’s Danang Golf Club.
Explaining the new Platinum Award, Walton said: “We have designed the IAGTO Platinum Award to recognise truly exceptional achievement by golf tourism companies. To qualify for this award a company must clearly stand out from the crowd. Again, one of the finest examples of this not only in Asia but around the world, is right under our feet. The first-ever IAGTO Platinum Award for Exceptional Achievement goes to Mission Hills China for creating, here in Haikou, the World’s Outstand Golf and Spa Resort.”
The Pearl Award represents a new direction for IAGTO Awards honours, recognising the achievements of individuals in the golf tourism industry as opposed to companies.
Recipient of the first Pearl Award was Kullatorn Mesommont, President of the East Coast Golf Course Management Association in Pattaya.
Walton explained that the Pearl Award was presented to an individual who had made a ‘unique contribution to his community over many years’ and followed on from the Sustainability and Social Responsibility Awards that were launched at the 2014 IAGTO Awards last November.
“The recipient has made a tangible difference to the quality of lives of the working people of last year’s AGTC venue of Pattaya, Thailand, particularly with his wonderful Caddy Programme and for his selfless work for the golf tourism industry over the past 17 years,” he said.
The IAGTO Legacy Award has been designed as an occasional award, presented only to individuals who have made the greatest impact in the world of golf tourism. The first recipients of the honour are the Chu Family, whose vision has resulted in the creation of both Mission Hills resorts and the establishment of golf tournaments that have attracted the world’s best golfers to China.
Walton said: “In recognition of their pioneering vision and leadership; for quite simply putting China on the map as a golf destination; and for their continued dedication to shape its future and secure its destiny, the inaugural IAGTO Legacy Award goes not to just one individual but to a truly remarkable family.”
The award, shaped like a double helix, bears the inscription ‘Golf in their DNA’ and was received by Mission Hills Group Vice Chairman Tenniel Chu.
The third annual IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention attracted 194 golf tour operators from 32 countries, up by 30% on the 2012 AGTC event in Pattaya, Thailand.
Key tour operator delegations attended from China, Australia and Singapore, with buyers from destinations as far afield as the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Vietnam, the UK and the USA.
Almost 150 supplier companies attended the event from 19 countries, including Fiji, Mauritius, Cambodia, Vietnam and India as well as the established destinations of Thailand, Malaysia and host destination China. There were particularly strong turn-outs, representing an increased focus on golf tourism, from Sanya, Jakarta, the UAE, the Philippines and New Zealand.