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Fraser Cromarty, chairman, Highland Golf Links

After a highly successful 2017, when record numbers of golfers visited the Highlands, the drive to build on this momentum will continue at the first industry trade show ‘major’ of the new year.

Fraser Cromarty, chairman, Highland Golf Links

Highland Golf Links (HGL), representing three leading golf courses and a trio of its best hotels, will showcase the area to a potential audience of more than 40,000 business leaders from 74 countries attending the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, from 24-26 January.

It is an ideal platform to further market the area at one of golf’s biggest gatherings, where Professional Golfers’ Association and Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association representatives, tournament directors and organisers, coaches, shop owners and managers meet to discuss the latest trends in golf equipment and technology, apparel and accessories.

With more than 1,100 interactive exhibits and the chance to meet face-to-face with golf merchandise manufacturers and distributors, the event offers a series of promotional opportunities, as well as educational sessions and advice on business growth.

The HGL delegation will promote internationally-renowned links courses at Castle Stuart Golf Links, Royal Dornoch Golf Club and Nairn Golf Club – as well as partner hotels, the Kingsmills and Culloden House in Inverness and the Royal Golf in Dornoch.

Royal Dornoch was recently placed second on the Golf Digest 100 Greatest Golf Courses list, while Castle Stuart featured at number 53.

The timing is right for the Highlands, and HGL, as in 2017 we enjoyed our most successful year ever.

We saw unprecedented numbers of golfers visit the area, generating in excess of £500,000 in off-peak income. For the sixth successive year we saw a rise in sales of Play and Stay deals to boost business during the ‘shoulder’ months of April, October and November – and advance sales for 2018 is continuing the upward trend.

Last year saw the number of deals rise by more than three per cent on 2016 and, with bookings for this year up 25 per cent, it means there will be more than 3,000 rounds played in the off-season months.

Our visitors get to play some of Scotland’s finest links courses. Castle Stuart has hosted the European Tour’s Scottish Open four times in the last seven years. Nairn, which hosted the Walker Cup in 1999 and the Curtis Cup in 2012, staged the 2017 Boys Amateur Championship; while Royal Dornoch will this year be the venue for the Boys Home Internationals.

All three courses feature in the annual HGL 54-hole Pro-Am, which in October attracted a record entry of 80 team and provided another late-season economic boost for the Highlands.

A factor in the increased visits is improved air services connecting the Highlands with Heathrow and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Last year’s addition of daily British Airways flights between Inverness and Heathrow, added to existing flights by other operators to Gatwick and Luton, greatly increased options for business and leisure passengers.

BA has also announced capacity on the route will increase from seven to ten flights a week, beginning in March.

KLM’s Inverness-Amsterdam service, introduced last year and is now twice daily, has further enhanced the Highland capital’s access to international connections.

This area has a lot to offer as a golfing destination and it has never been easier to get here and begin a golf trip in Scotland. It’s a very strong and positive message to be taking to Orlando and we hope it will be the start of another highly successful year for this region.

Meeting tour operators, as well as PGA professionals, gives us the opportunity to sell the Highlands directly to the companies and courses that form the itineraries for the visiting golfers. The overseas market is a key sector for us, and by working together in a coordinated group we can promote the area as well as the individual clubs and hotels.”

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