November 2011 — A co-operative marketing group is being launched next week to promote Vietnam’s Central Coast as Asia’s best new golf tourism destination.
Golf Coast Vietnam — based on Vietnam’s third largest city, Danang — is spearheaded by two existing world-class golf courses that have opened between Danang and Hoi An in the past two years and a third near Hue due to open in second half 2012.
The three courses — Montgomerie Links, Danang Golf Club and Laguna Lang Co — were designed, respectively, by Colin Montgomerie, Greg Norman and Sir Nick Faldo.
Joining them as a foundation member of Golf Coast Vietnam is the country’s leading dedicated golf tour operator, Golfasian Vietnam, which has been bringing inbound golf travellers to Southeast Asia for the past 12 years.
Golf Coast Vietnam’s co-ordinator, Jon Tomlinson, the executive director of Montgomerie Links, an eponymous course designed by Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie that opened in 2009, is unveiling the group at next week’s International Golf Travel Market in Belek, Turkey.
“Golf Coast Vietnam brings together in one destination courses designed by three of the greatest golfers of the modern era,” he said this week. “Combined with the region’s wonderful leisure, cultural and historical attractions, it makes Danang the most attractive emerging golf destination in Asia.”
In October, Montgomerie Links was named by Vietnam Golf Magazine as Vietnam’s best golf course and Danang Golf Club as the best new course in the country. Last week, the same courses were named, respectively, by Asian Golf Monthly as the best course in Vietnam (for the second year in a row) and the best new course in Asia/Pacific.
“The timing of these awards couldn’t be more appropriate for the launch of Golf Coast Vietnam,” Tomlinson said after accepting the Asian Golf Monthly accolade at the Asia Pacific Golf Summit in Pattaya, Thailand. “It serves as independent assurance for inbound golfers coming to the Central Coast that they will be able to play not only the best courses in Vietnam, but two of the best in Asia.
The Laguna Lang Co course, which is part of a major tourism project between Danang and Vietnam’s former imperial capital of Hue, is expected to be equally appealing when it opens in late 2012.
The three course-destination means Danang, with its world-famous China Beach — rated by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 most beautiful in the world — new tourism infrastructure and nearby UNESCO World Heritage attractions at Hoi An, My Son and Hue will rival destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket in Thailand and Mission Hills in China for the title of Asia’s golf capital.
According to the International Association of Golf Tourism Operators (IAGTO), a three-course destination becomes appealing to 75 percent of golf travellers, whereas a two-course location is of interest to only 25 percent.
IAGTO also says potential visitors will travel up to 90 minutes from an international airport to reach their destination. All the Golf Coast Vietnam properties easily meet this criteria.
“It is a very exciting opportunity,” Tomlinson said. “We not only have three great golf courses as foundation members of our group, but are expecting several five-star hotels to join in the near future. Danang’s new international airport is scheduled to open in early 2012 and already there is a great choice of high quality accommodation in the region, with more to come.”
Vietnam currently has 25 golf courses with several more being built. The government has given in-principle approval for up to 89 courses by 2020.
Last month, Air Asia announced it was launching direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Danang, with services from Bangkok and Jakarta expected to follow. Singapore-based Silk Air also flies into Danang, while scheduled flights from Hong Kong may be launched soon.
Passengers originating in Australia can connect through Ho Chi Minh City to Danang on Jetstar, while Vietnam Airlines operates more than 20 flights a day from Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
Among many other attractions including world-famous China Beach at Danang, most visitors to the region head for the three UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites: Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary and Citadel of the Ho Dynasty at Hue.
Hoi An, 25 kilometres south of Danang, is a well-preserved ancient trading port, the only one of its kind in Vietnam. The My Son Sanctuary near the village of Tam Ky, 35km south of Hoi An, was the cultural, artistic and religious heart of the Hindu Champa Kingdom, established in 192 AD.
The Citadel at Hue, 100km north of Danang, was the headquarters of the feudal Nguyen dynasty established in the early 19th century that made Hue Vietnam’s national capital until separation in 1945.
“I don’t know of any other tourism destination in the world that is developing like the Central Coast or is as interesting,” Tomlinson said. “It gives us great confidence for the future of the region for Golf Coast Vietnam members as well as golfers and other visitors who come to the region.”