Golf in Spain: public administration as the driving force of the industry

the future of golf in Spain

Two decades of experience working with some of the most important partners in the sector have given Arum a good overview of golf in Spain. What are the main drivers of the industry in our country? Its principal challenges for the future? Golf has become an economic driver here, with annual revenues of €1.28 billion and providing more than 121,000 jobs, according to data from the report by the Instituto de Empresa and the Spanish Association of Golf Courses. Public administrations have begun to consolidate and further expand their commitment to a sport that requires the cooperation of government to achieve its full potential.

For Luis Nigorra, president of the Spanish Association of Golf Courses (AECG), the role of public administrations has been very important thus far, but there is still plenty of room to grow, because the true capacity of the industry is underestimated. “More support is needed to better understand how the golf sector works and translate that into better tax, phytosanitary and, in some cases, urban legislation.” In his opinion, Spanish administrations have not yet fully understood golf as a tourism product and not just as a sport. Among the facts he cites is that golf is not in the National Classification of Economic Activities (CNAE) as a tourism sector, which makes it impossible to access subventions, despite the fact that Spain is a leader in golf tourism.

“Golf in Spain is a tourism driver that attracts more than 1.2 million tourists each year, a generator of quality employment of more than 121,000 direct and indirect jobs, 94% of the former being full-time and 95% with non-temporary contracts,” points out Nigorra, noting also the quality of golf-related employment and the fact that golf is a year-round activity with a committed and quality tourist demographic.

After the coronavirus-driven freeze of economic activity, many regional governments have become more active with regard to their support for golf, and it seems that broader public sector engagement is beginning to take off through major sporting events. The Community of Madrid, for example, will host the Ladies European Tour (LET) tournament in 2022, for the first time in nine years; it was recently announced that Andalusia (which will also hold the Andalusia Masters at Valderrama in October 2022) will host the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin; and Catalonia has thrown its hat into the ring to host the 2031 Ryder Cup, with an investment of around €200 million.

The celebration of major golf events and tournaments is not the only support that public authorities can offer the sector, though. With the aim of demonstrating the potential of golf to other government administrations, Nigorra draws attention to a new golf product, “Discover Spain playing golf,” recently created by the Ministry of Tourism of Spain, and considered a success for the industry. This initiative was brought to fruition thanks to the joint work of the AECG and the RFEG, and the presentation of the studies they carried out, which have deepened the administration’s understanding of the golf sector. Increasing awareness of the economic significance of this sport and improving support beyond the sponsorship of the very visible golf competitions are two of the areas that still require work. Golf course planning and, indeed, the entire development of the industry of golf in Spain will depend in large part on the overall direction and approach the public sector takes regarding fiscal, business, and labor issues. Are the administrations up for the challenge? The most recent movements seem positive.