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Published on : Saturday, May 23, 2015
Forward bookings for European based golf tour operators are up 7.3% compared to the same time last year, according to global golf tourism organisation, IAGTO. The results of IAGTO’S first Quarterly Survey were unveiled at its second annual UK Golf Day at Watford golf resort The Grove.
A host of golf destinations, hotels, courses and golf resorts from around Europe linked up to help make the second IAGTO UK Golf Day a thundering success. Braving squally showers, hail, thunderclaps and nearby lightning, 44 golfers including 25 golf tour operators, six golf journalists and sponsors battled it out over 18 holes.
IAGTO Chief Executive, Peter Walton, expanded on the quarterly survey results explaining that: “Golf holidays taken were also up from January to March compared to the period last year, by 8.0% globally but by 8.8% when we isolate the figures just for European golf travellers. This comes on the back of three years of consecutive growth in European golf holiday sales of 9.4% in 2012, 10.1% in 2013 and 9.0% in 2014.
“This is reflected in what we have heard anecdotally from the participants in today’s industry Golf Day.”
At The Grove, the golfers were able to keep up with how their teams were faring as they played, thanks to the VPAR live golf scoring system which was being used to track scores in real time in an association between VPAR and IAGTO that dates back two-and-a-half years. And they were treated to wine and cheese from Italy’s Veneto region on one par-3 hole, provided by co-sponsor Golf in Veneto.
Prizes were donated by all the sponsors, who also included several golf resorts and a hotel from Gran Canaria, Scotland’s Trump Turnberry Resort, Aphrodite Hills Resort and the Cyprus Tourist Office, Pula Golf Resort and Club de Golf Son Servera in Majorca, and new IAGTO Partner, TaylorMade.
The golf day was one of five that IAGTO is holding for tour operators and golf media in different countries during 2015, with the others comprising one on 2 June at Malmo in Sweden, two in Germany – at Munich on 30 June and Frankfurt on 2 July – and one at Amsterdam in the Netherlands on 8 September.
IAGTO Director Giles Greenwood said the success of the day was down to the co-operation and input of the sponsoring companies and organisations.
According to VPAR Sales Director Jeremy Gray, since providing live scoring at the IAGTO golf tournament during the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Faro in 2012, the company has grown to having bases in 18 countries where teams can offer a live scoring service at corporate and charity golf days as well as pro-am competitions. It has also developed a smartphone app, for groups of golfers when they travel around the world.
“The fact that IAGTO gave us an opportunity to introduce our product to different clients and golfers all round the world is a great reason to support them,” he added. “To be able to show it to tour operators is very useful. These guys are introducing not only golf courses but also experiences to their customer base, so for us to be able to get our brand and the VPAR live scoring experience out to tour operators who in turn can talk to their local golfers and regions where people visit is a great way for us to be able to expand knowledge of what VPAR is all about.”
Golf in Veneto’s Laura Bortolato was delighted with the golf day and said: “We believe in doing this sort of event, to be meeting journalists and tour operators and other tourism boards like us.” She went on to say that tourist offices could not always depend on government funds for promotion, so Veneto was the first region in Italy to create a group of companies that would not only include golf courses and hotels but also wineries and fashion and shoe shopping outlets.
“We are creating a club, the Golf in Veneto Club, so they can join. So for us, these kinds of meetings are very important. We can really create a complete product.”
Francisco de Bethencourt, Manager of Gran Canaria’s Anfi Tauro Golf Club and Chief Executive of the Gran Canaria Golf Association said the island’s seven courses worked together under the umbrella of the island’s golf association.
“We work together and develop new targets we would like to have, and one target is the UK,” he told the tour operators. “We have a lot of UK golfers coming over in the winter but we would like to try and get more people at this time of year. We still have the same nice weather and the same quality on the golf courses but we are not getting that many players. So I encourage you to send us your clients. We will keep hosting and joining with IAGTO in following years because we think this is a great opportunity to be with you.”
Angus Watson, Account Manager at Trump Turnberry Resort, revealed that new owner Donald Trump was investing £200 million on regenerating the resort and its famous Ailsa golf course, which closes for eight months at the end of September, reopening in June 2016 in time for the Open Championship at Troon.
“It is very important for us to be here so that we can talk to the tour operators and let them know what is happening at Trump Turnberry,” he said. “We are sponsoring all the IAGTO events this year.”
Stefano Bortolotti, Director of Club de Golf Son Servera, said: “We are really here to promote something new. We sponsored this event together with the destination, which is Cala Major. In Majorca we have 23 golf courses, but there is a new area in the east of Majorca which is not so well-known. We have four golf courses within 15km and we want to give the tour operators the opportunity to offer their customers something new, something fresh; a golf region which also offers a bit of the original Majorca, not overbuilt and with four beautiful golf courses which have history. Son Servera is one of the few courses in Majorca that is right by the sea.”
Aphrodite Hills UK & Ireland Business Development Director, Andreas Vasiliou, said that the hotel had just undergone a £5 million refurbishment over the winter and added: “From our point of view we are happy that we are sponsoring this event for the first time. Certainly we will support IAGTO again. I think it is important because you have the audience here, the people who generate the business for Cyprus from the UK.”
Tour operators also gave the golf day their seal of approval. Your Golf Travel Product Manager Tom Macfarlane was also at the inaugural IAGTO Golf Day at Brocket Hall last year and said: “It’s fantastic. It’s an enjoyable day but it is very important for us to keep in touch with our suppliers, and it’s an opportunity to see them and have a fun day with them when they are over hosting us or sponsoring the event we are playing in. It keeps us in touch with them. We are talking to them over the phone week in, week out. But it’s very nice to see them face-to-face and discuss business with them, on the golf course as well.”
On VPAR, he added: “We have a good relationship with VPAR within our company. I find it a fantastic application to use. It brings a different dimension to the game when it’s a team format. You can tell exactly what is going on all the way round the golf course. I think it’s an absolutely brilliant idea.”
Sarah Forrest, Managing Director of Red Tee Breaks, said: “This is my first IAGTO golf day in the UK. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s good to put faces to venues. I have used VPAR a number of times. I like it and they do a good job. Corporates would use it on corporate golf days, everyday clients probably not.”
Allinclusivegolf.com joined IAGTO over a year ago but the golf day was the first IAGTO event for Manager Ben Johnson and he said he found it very useful. “It’s the first time I have used the VPAR scoring system,” he added. “What I saw of it I was very impressed. It is good system, useful for keeping your score and the score for your whole team. I think it would be something our clients would be interested in if they could programme it for all the courses we send clients to.”