A business that’s going places

Golf travel is a growing industry and one of the newest companies to enter into the market is the TGI Golf Partnership, who have launched a travel company – TGI Golf Travel. Andy Brown spoke to Neil MacRae, sales director, to find out more.

Could you briefly explain your career background?
I’ve worked for over 23 years in golf travel. I started off working for a company bringing Americans over to Scotland, Ireland and England to play golf and I did that for five years. After that I worked for a company called 3D Golf, who used to be the market leader in the UK and spent nine years there going through the ranks before joining a company called Golf Kings which I helped to build up. They are a travel company with a range of businesses and they were looking for someone with a travel and golf background. I quite quickly built it up and after I had been there for a year or so I struck up a partnership with TGI Golf, so I have worked with them for eight years, mainly on the Team Challenge, one of the biggest professional and amateur events in Europe.

You have been in the industry a long time – what are some of the biggest changes?
The emergence of the internet and sales increasingly being done directly to the consumer have been the biggest changes. In the early days people would buy a package for a fee and that was everything; it was your flight, transfers, hotel and golf. The way the web has developed it has been unpackaged, so people pick and choose different elements and there is more choice and flexibility.

How would you explain that ethos behind the launching TGI Golf Travel?
Initially it is something that we are providing mainly to the TGI Golf partners, but there are long-standing pros that I work with and I will continue to do so. There are three main parts to it: you have a pro who wants to take away friends or members for a playing break, then there are pros who go on a teaching break, so they will play a bit of golf themselves but focus on teaching with range time booked and the chipping green one morning and so on. The final one, and this has become really popular, are trips to events, so a trip to go see The Masters or the Players. I actually lived in Augusta for five years, I went to university there on a golf scholarship and caddied the course lots of times. Augusta is an amazing place and I have a good network of people there to help us with the trips.

What will the focus be on?
The main focus is on offering a really good service. We will offer budget trips, but they will be clearly labelled so people know exactly what they are getting. That’s another change in the industry – you see some trips being churned out and offered as four star when we all know they are not really four star, so it is important that customers know exactly what they are getting when they book it.

Has there been a big increase in the demand for golf travel?
Yes, it is a growing market. We get industry figures which come from retailers and golf courses and it is running at about 12 per cent year on year growth with people booking their travel through operators. I would always encourage people to speak to us because it doesn’t matter what hotel they book – we can always buy the room for less.

-Is this a financial opportunity for golf pros?
Yes, definitely. There’s a real opportunity for pros in the winter to make money by doing a teaching break over a week or even shorter. They get a break themselves and some income from doing it and we have full marketing support for this, so there are templates that they can use and all they have to do is distribute it. I’ve seen an increase in the number of pros doing this – it has been common for a while in Europe as quite a few countries shut down over the winter regarding golf. It’s harder to make as much money for the pro on the playing breaks but they can certainly get a trip out of it and it is a fantastic way to build relationships with their members. For TGI Golf partners any profit that the travel company makes gets put back into the profit distribution and those who specifically support it will get an additional benefit, such as credit that builds towards their own personal holiday