The 18th hole on the Montagu course at Fancourt. Picture: SUPPLIED
The 18th hole on the Montagu course at Fancourt. Picture: SUPPLIED

Permitting interprovincial travel and the announcement that international borders would also be reopened was welcome news for the beleaguered tourism industry. However, international travel could not be without caveats.

A casual observer could see warning signs from Europe that with the revolving door of opening and closing borders and countries going on and off sanctions lists we would be in for a bumpy ride. Right on cue, the reopened borders came with conditions, which excluded travellers from two of SA’s traditional tourism areas, the UK and US.

My regular communications with the UK show that after postponed vacation bookings, and changing health protocols, many people have given up on any travel, even to Europe and are looking for staycation and local holidays. My guess has always been that we are in for the long haul with this virus and  we are going to need to social distance and wear face coverings for at least another 18 months.

To explore what challenges and opportunities this might bring for golf tourism, I am joined by Peter Dros who is head of sales and marketing at Fancourt on the Garden Route.

JC: Are there any silver linings or is the tourism sector in for another bought of belt tightening?

PD: I think the problems you mention with travel overseas were always going to be duplicated here. Coming back from vacation not knowing whether you can go to work or will have to self-isolate for 14 days is problematic. Add in expensive travel insurance cover and preapproved visas, and it all creates a huge amount of uncertainty.

This offers some potential stimulus to the local market where travel plans will not encounter the same issues. Venues are certainly going to have to be cautious with their budgeting and revenue projections and many, as you mentioned in the previous feature, have already rationalised their staff levels and operating protocols.

JC: Belt-tightening has applied to everyone and few people have the same pre-pandemic levels of disposable income. Rands normally spent by high-end travellers on overseas destinations might be spent here, but this gain might be more than offset by the fact that the middle, and or lower income vacationer, is going to find it hard to justify taking a vacation of any kind. Do you see any silver linings and what should travellers look for in parting with their limited rands?

PD: This is certainly a threat. Disposable income was being squeezed by an underperforming local economy before the pandemic, and is now under added pressure. The good news is seeing our international travellers “staying home and supporting local”. With planned overseas trips on hold for now, this “new” spend will go some way to plugging the hole in overall revenues.

Irrespective of the circumstances there are opportunities. Venues with operations geared exclusively to international travellers can develop their local market connections. In the same vein, travellers can shop around to see who is offering the best value.

JC: Like you, I am also a believer in value vs price. I use the analogy that in restaurant terms a R230 fillet steak is not necessarily costing R80 more than it would for steak at R150 at a run of the mill steakhouse, but is rather a case of my “wasting” R80 on the cheaper option, as the difference in quality is often so marked.

PD: I agree and feel that travellers are going to look for maximum value for their rand. This factor will be key for us as we target guests, who must also pay for a domestic flight, which is more expensive than on other routes. We have to offer value and great experiences, which are compelling enough to justify a flight to George for a family of four.

JC: Price, inevitably, will be a benchmark for many, so do you see any value in the tourism minister’s comments about having two-tier pricing for local and overseas travellers.

PD: For years Fancourt has successfully run a dual pricing strategy. We have had no choice in order to compete in the local market with marked seasonality along the Garden Route and our business mix, which relies on local domestic and business travel in winter.

JC: My experiences as a tour operator show that packages always offer better value for a traveller than buying various elements ad hoc.

PD: At Fancourt we market ourselves as a family destination, therefore packaging up elements is standard for us and this approach automatically offers better value. One particular aspect that appealed to me when we were discussing the international travel market opportunities, through Destination Golf Travel, was your understanding of this core principle.

We live our marketing, which is why, in a golf sense, we have developed inclusive packages for golf. For example, the Manor House Pro Package includes four nights, three rounds of golf and choice of Fancourt golf ambassador or golf pro to host you for the four days, play golf each day and provide any tips and lessons you may require.

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