The visit was at the invitation of Mr and Mrs Michael Zhou and mineral water bottling and distribution company Ganten, who recently purchased Blairquhan Castle in South Ayrshire.
Also on the trip were Norman’s wife Katrina and daughter Clare, former Blairquhan Castle owners Sir Patrick and Lady Hunter Blair and members of their family, and Ayrshire business couple Jim and Meiqin McColm.
The objective of the visit was to further promote business and cultural links between China and Ayrshire.
Mission Hills is China’s highest rated golf and leisure resort, and the world’s largest golf club according to the Guinness World Records.
Winner of multiple international awards, the 20 square kilometre golf complex features no less than twelve 18-hole resort and championship courses designed by golf’s greatest legends and architects, including a top championship course by Jack Nicklaus.
Mission Hills is the cradle of golf in China and hosts the region’s most important tournaments, including the World Cup of Golf and the Asian Amateur Championship.
Golf in China is a growing industry, with numerous golf courses being established, especially in the province of Hainan. There are around 358,000 core players among Chinese population. That figure is projected to grow to about 20 million by 2020. For the general public, golf is considered to be prohibitively expensive. However, it is seen as the top recreational sport for businesspeople and officials.
Despite a ban that limits the number of golf courses in China due to environmental impact concerns, the number has more than tripled since 2004. At that time, only 170 courses existed. By 2009 there were almost 600.
Mission Hills China, owner and operator of Mission Hills Shenzhen and Mission Hills Resort Hainan, is a key player in the country's fledgling sports and leisure industry.
The Mission Hills brand encompasses several sub-brands, including Mission Hills Golf Clubs, Mission Hills Residences, as well as Mission Hills Hotels & Resorts.
It is also the host, promoter and underwriter of several major golf tournaments, including the Omega Mission Hills World Cup and the Mission Hills Star Trophy. The company employs approximately 14,000 people across its two operations.
Norman Geddes commented: “In Ayrshire we have a unique golf tourism offering, with Prestwick being the home of Open championship golf and current Open Championship courses Turnberry and Royal Troon plus other less well known gems.
“With the Ryder Cup being played in Scotland next year at Gleneagles, and the Open Championship returning to Royal Troon in 2016, we in Ayrshire have the opportunity to take particular advantage of the spotlight of publicity being trained upon Scotland and Scottish golf.”
At the time of the purchase of Blairquhan Castle, Mr Michael Zhou, owner and managing director of Ganten China, said: “Ganten wish to expand and diversify in Scotland with the aim of becoming a provider of top level accommodation and hospitality for elite Chinese and foreign tourists who desire only the best.”
Their aim is to stimulate business between China and Scotland and believe that they are the trailblazers, bringing valuable investment to Scotland.
The company are very sensitive to the cultural and historical aspects of Scotland and wish their move to be seen as promoting business here and culture in China.
Mr Zhou added: “It is the wish of Ganten to bring together the cultures of China and Scotland, by encouraging even greater tourist opportunities to the ever-growing affluent Chinese market.
“Ganten wish to become a pioneering, China-based organisation who shall bring to Scotland a sound and innovative platform for mutually beneficial tourist, cultural and commercial ventures.”
Norman Geddes concluded: “The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle will work closely with Michael and Amanda Zhou to maximise business, cultural and sporting relations between China and Ayrshire. We will be paying particular attention to the golf tourism market, but also looking at the wider picture in order to benefit the whole Ayrshire economy in general.”
THE ELITE AYRSHIRE BUSINESS CIRCLE
The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle is an association founded in 2007 by some of the top companies in Ayrshire.
Its purpose is to publicise its members, and to celebrate and promote the wealth and rich diversity of entrepreneurial talent and business excellence that abounds here within the county boundaries of Ayrshire.
Members include the Clydesdale Bank, Ayr Racecourse, Western House Hotel, Turnberry Golf Resort and South Ayrshire Council. Member company activities include broadcasting, building and construction, architectural practice, estate agency and land management, chartered accountancy, insurance broking, legal services, golf club management, marketing services and brand creation, web design and public relations consultancy.
Frazer Coogans Commercial Solicitors senior partner Norman Geddes is executive chairman of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle, and managing director is public relations consultancy Fame Publicity Services proprietor Murdoch MacDonald.
For further information about The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle and to apply for membership, e-mail eliteayrshire@
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