I have previously commented on the challenges facing the golf travel industry and our business in particular. Whereas, 15 months ago, our typical client; the car dealer, builder, stockbroker, etc were embroiled in their own challenges of saving their businesses and navigating very dangerous waters, we are seeing a very different landscape in 2010. Let me be clear, the world has not returned to the old normal, but the view is very different today than the first half of 2009. That was a period when very few people were interested in thinking about travel opportunities, let alone committing to them. As a result, various suppliers, including hotels, golf courses, airlines and tour operators like ourselves were offering a wide variety of value pricing and value added incentives to try to lure potential travelers into making a firm decision.
As the economy has stabilized, we have certainly witnessed much of what the New York Times article discussed. Our core clientele has returned in some numbers to the golf travel marketplace. Their average spend may have decreased and some of the luxuries they took for granted before may have been curtailed but importantly there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that after a year long hiatus, many of our clients are getting back into travel.
One effect of this uptick in demand is a tightening of availability and price pressures. We have seen comments from travellers who declined to travel in 2009 and could not understand the increase in cost for 2010…this increase while modest would have been a function of suppliers raising rates, eliminating value added programs such as a free 4th night and other discounts. It also serves as a small window into their business as various suppliers begin to feel better about how their advance bookings look and are willing to take a risk by increasing yield….never an option in 2009!
One simple barometer of the travel climate is availability of frequent flyer tickets to Europe in the summer. Last summer you could have travelled with little effort during the peak summer months, using free tickets at generally the lowest mileage cost. I recall noticing Business Class seats were available departing Glasgow the day after the British Open at Turnberry for the lowest mileage option. Most definitely not the case this summer.
In summary, the golf travel industry is looking up, demand is improving but the deals that were available previously have mostly disappeared. Pricing however remains very good as compared to 2 – 3 years ago due to the relative strength of the US Dollar and a general resetting of prices at the destination.