In preparation for the 20th edition of IGTM this year, the team wanted to find out more about the industry and in particular the challenges and opportunities that are affecting golf travel suppliers.
We sent a quick ten-question survey to previous exhibitors asking questions including the biggest challenges they are currently seeing in their organisation and what advancements in technology they think will affect their business in the future.
It is no secret that rapid advancements in technology are affecting companies around the world. The travel industry, which exists to provide customers with unique and unforgettable experiences, in particular needs to stay ahead of these changes. The golf travel industry is no different.
The top challenges respondents listed they are facing now include how to successfully market their product and how to attract customers from new regions. Additionally, the technologies that golf resorts feel will affect their company the most in the next five years are social media and mobile. These technologies are especially key when it comes to engaging with customers to drive direct online bookings, another topic mentioned.
What is fortunate for the golf travel industry is hotels, airlines and other sectors of the travel industry have been grappling with these challenges for a number of years now, so there is a multitude of case studies from which to learn. Here are three top tips on how to execute an effective social media strategy (and they do not require huge budgets):
- Research the channels to focus on: There is a multitude of social media platforms available and the popularity of each differs greatly between regions and age groups. For example, research shows millennials are turning their back on Facebook and engaging more on Instagram (as it is used less by their parents). However, if your customers are baby boomers then focusing your marketing efforts on Facebook will probably be a better investment than Instagram. Including a question about the social media channels your customer uses in feedback surveys and talking to guests while they are using your facilities is a quick way to ascertain which channels you should be focusing your resources.
- Showcase what is unique about your venue(s): Images and videos are key on social media and golf resorts are in a fortunate position of having an abundance of easy to share content that potential clients want to see. Everybody with a phone can be a photographer these days so invest the time in getting unique snaps and videos of your facilities in action and post daily to increase engagement.
- Humanise your brand: Social media is no longer just a tool to drive engagement. It is a customer service platform as well. Customers are aware of the power of posting reviews and will be quick to share (negative) feedback, which can be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people. Responding to comments on social media, good or bad, shows you care what your customers think and can actually turn a bad review into a good one. Make the most of this opportunity to engage with your customers and you will not only drive loyalty but also new business.
Aside from the challenges golf resorts are facing we also asked if their bookings are increasing, decreasing or staying the same and where the majority of their bookings come from. What is extremely positive is that the majority of respondents claimed the number of visitors they are receiving to their golf courses is growing. This of course will vary depending on region, with certain areas affected by a decline in tourism in general, however it is encouraging that the interest in golf travel is still growing. In addition, tour operators are proving to be the most consistent source of business, seconded by direct offline bookings (phone, sales teams etc). This shows that the partnerships between golf resorts and tour operators are still paramount to driving growth.
Finally, the survey showed that most respondents think the quality of their facilities play the biggest factor when visitors decide whether to play on their course and this outperformed location, value for money and reputation. So, investment in facilities and showcasing them on social media should be a winning combination for golf resorts in 2017!