- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii Tourism Authority has started working with a golf course membership company to bring high-spending Chinese golfers to Hawaii.

The tourism authority helped Pacific Links Hawaii work through the visa process for its members, bringing more than 500 golfers and their families to the islands, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1u0n58c) reported.

Micah Kane, chief operating officer for Pacific Links Hawaii, said he aims to host 200 to 300 Chinese players in Hawaii each month.

Chinese golfers who have come to Hawaii have spent more than $550 per day. That’s more than double what the average visitor to Hawaii spends, which is about $200 per day.

David Uchiyama, the vice president of brand management at the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said this is the first time the agency has participated in a public-private partnership to bring more Chinese golfers to Hawaii. The tourism authority has partnered with Hyundai to develop the Korean golf market and with Sony to bring golfers to Hawaii from Japan in the past.

Pacific Links Hawaii’s parent company Pacific Links International has five courses in Hawaii. It also owns golf clubs in California, Nevada, West Virginia and China.

Golf in China has come a long way from the days when Maoists eschewed it as a bourgeois pastime. An estimated 300,000 core golfers in China today could grow to 20 million over the next five years, said Dave Erdman, president and CEO of PacRim Marketing Group Inc. & PRTech LLC.

Erdman said Hawaii will welcome Chinese golfers Liang Wen-Chong and Liu Yan-Wei to the Sony Open this week, giving isle golf media exposure in China.

Even though golf is a growing sport in China, regulatory reform has reduced the number of clubs by about 50 percent, Kane said.

“A lot of their golf courses were not built under proper regulation, and the government is clamping down and taking back property for agricultural uses to feed their people,” Kane said. “So we’ve got a situation where demand is going up and options are going down.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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