JOHN COCKAYNE: Why golf tourism needs a good shake-up
To put golf estates on the map committees and boards need to put more effort into branding
This is the second and final part on effective marketing for golf tourism in SA.
1. The million dollar question — what do we do?
Market, market, market and then market again. This will not be easy, but it needs to be remembered that despite the effects of the pandemic, a brand never sleeps.
An added challenge is that golf is an industry that, in many cases, steadfastly refuses to step into the present. It is also one where marketing is seen as a “nice to have” and where in too many instances a golf committee or board will see a single placement, or review in the Compleat Golfer on GolfVistaSA, or in Estate Living magazine as being the club’s marketing done and dusted for the year.
How shallow these waters really are was illustrated when I canvassed 12 golf estates and asked how they ran their marketing initiatives for golf.
Of the first 12, 11 had no dedicated marketing budget for their golf course at all, and this though without exception for estates, the course is the largest single asset in the development and the most expensive element to run.
The change has to come from inside out, and I shall leave the final word on this to former US president Barack Obama who said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
2. How do we do it and what is the message? While the Obama quote sums up the need to self-start, it also underlines another key concern, which is that everyone in golf seems to be leaving it to everyone else.
The SA-based tour operators will certainly market the region, but only within the narrow confines (quite naturally) of their own interests. The same applies to those venues which have gone “out to market” at their own expense, to the international trade shows and fairs with their product, with Peter Dros at Fancourt and Jeff Clause at St Francis Links being examples.
There may be some collateral value for “you” and “your club” in other people’s activities, but this passive approach is a precarious foundation on which to build any business marketing strategy.
PR plays a key role in this exercise and in this region we have a great story to tell, but golf has been slow in telling its version.
Jeff Clause and Morné Botha at Pecanwood are always quick on to this, by pointing out the power of editorial and that it is a lot better to have someone else telling the market how good their facility is, rather than telling this same story themselves.
Elizabeth Comstock (former vice-chair of GE): “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything”.
Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”
The raw content for our region’s golf story is all there and the “how” in essence in simple; market and promote iteratively.
Marketing is something that you do each day. Therefore, every morning when you wake, be prepared to market.
This might seem to be blindingly obvious, but I was once talking to a client who did not seem to be getting this truism. I switched tack and asked if he would be happy if I only cut the golf course’s greens once a year — and sure enough all the lights went on.
Pecanwood Country Club GM Morne Botha put it succinctly when he described marketing as “the oxygen in the system”.
The “what” is also not too difficult: Apart from the golf-centric elements we have at our disposal the great golf courses, great weather, great players and great history. We just have to back golf into the other perennial key tourism driver — game viewing.
From this platform we can then accentuate all the other pluses such as how great this region is for a family vacation, the property investment options and the lifestyle.
Underlying all of this will be the need to develop a series of specific calls to action. It might be true that one picture is worth a thousand words, but to someone in the northern hemisphere sitting watching the rain and snow slanting across their back garden, showing the pictures in combination with a solution for how to get here, will be a much more compelling mix.
If travel and tourism is set to become as important in this region, as it is in the rest of the continent, and golf wants to get its share of the pie, then this is the proverbial 11th hour and to modernise Geoffrey Chaucer’s original quote; “it is better (for golf) to be late than never”.
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