Report by Nick Hunter, Niche Marketing & Training
Interim Chairman of Golf Tourism Scotland
In last year’s Report, Chairman Gary Wilkinson stated that:
“Golf Tourism Scotland is now well into its third year, a year which I believe will be our most critical for some years to come. Looking back over the first two years a lot of what we have achieved has been done by many other trade organisations around the country...but what we seem to be lacking is a membership who actually want to be part of shaping the future of golf tourism in Scotland.”
This situation is obviously not the exclusive preserve of GTS, as many membership organisations report the same issue. Neither can it be said to be universal across the whole GTS membership, as in some parts of the country commitment is very definitely being shown at a local level. For example, Golf Tourism Ayrshire, steered by Ian Bunch of Prestwick GC, continues to make progress as a regional golf group sharing ideas and best practice.
However, at the risk of repeating ourselves, apart from a few members who regularly pass comment on all the issues we raise or respond to requests for feedback, we do still wonder if there is an appetite amongst the golf tourism sector to genuinely influence the future direction of the industry as a collective voice – or is there a preference or acceptance just to allow slippage back to the fractured and individualistic approach of the past? Given today’s economic and political climate, your Board firmly believes that an informed collective approach is the way forward, but to achieve this we must regularly hear your voice and secure your views!
Following the AGM last year, the Executive Board took to heart constructive criticism from the floor regarding the perceived lack of communication to the membership. As a result the following actions have been undertaken:
- a thorough review of the database completed, in order to ensure that future information is sent to the most relevant people in each organisation
- RSS newsfeeds instigated, enabling automatic downloads of information to members’ email inboxes
- weekly updates of the website
- a National Workshop, held in July, which was designed to be highly interactive and engage opinion from both floor and platform
- a newsletter issued during EXPO 2008, which provided up-to-date news on events and activities
However, as advertising guru David Ogilvy once said “good communication is a two-way street”. With the exception of the National Workshop, most of the communication has been one-way. We once again urge you to pass on your ideas and comments.
Your Board continues to press the private-sector case for golf tourism at government level and with the public agencies. In fact, most of the past 12 months seems to have been taken up by our efforts to ensure that the various organisations – purseholders of substantial public funds – benefit from our collective experience as an industry. Prior to our National Workshop in July at Ayr we openly expressed our frustration that for much of the past decade golf tourism has suffered from a series of badly thought-out promotions, communication structures and initiatives imposed upon it from above.
Since its inception, Golf Tourism Scotland has wanted to ensure that the public sector secures best value from the estimated £1 million annual marketing budget for golf, which should then leverage more private support (private sector marketing on golf in Scotland is conservatively estimated to be 3 times the value of public sector funding). GTS has recently taken part in the first planning meeting with VisitScotland, EventScotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Golf Union, aimed at establishing better lines of communication and joint decision-making that includes, rather than ignores, the vast knowledge and experience on offer from the private sector.
Key to the future success of this group will be the willingness of all parties to put aside past grievances, previous non-negotiable positions and any mutual suspicion. Progress is being made and already, there is a move to establish which international golf tournaments can be used more effectively to market Scottish golf; to make hard decisions about Business to Business events such the PGA Show at Orlando or the EXPO golf tournament; and develop a series of workshops around the country where key issues can be addressed and the wider golf community can meet and engage.
We’re also pleased to report that the 2008 National Golf Tourism Monitor (a crucial instrument in measuring visiting golfer data), commissioned by VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and supported by both the Scottish Golf Union and the Scottish Region of the Club Managers Association of Europe, is just completing its first season under new management. A total of 98 courses have registered to take part (far more than previous years). Where possible, preliminary monthly reports have been compared with 2007 and clear information is starting to emerge about patterns of business, which should help courses identify their market positioning and promotional effectiveness more accurately. The returns from courses will also be used to calculate the value of golf tourism more accurately than has been previously possible, a vital tool to assist the public agencies with their strategies and make maximum use of budgets.
Our association in the past year has achieved a great deal, but more remains to be done in what we are acutely aware are challenging economic conditions. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the AGM and Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday 13th November at the De Vere Cameron House. Please come along to add your contribution to the Scottish golf debate, then enjoy the company of your associates at what will be a cracking evening.
Interim Chairman GTS