Insider: Iberian online tee time sales trends in 2017

By: Carlos Ferreira June 27, 2017

I have just had an interesting conversation with Carlos Ferreira, the CEO of Tee Times Golf Holidays Agency. During our talk, I was interested in his insights about the Iberian tee time sales trends. I hope you will find his insights interesting and useful.

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What are the trends in online tee time booking in Portugal and Spain?

The golf courses in Portugal and Spain are among the early adopters of online tee time booking. There are dozens of such type of software. Typically, the software assists the golf course owner/operator in taking reservations, controlling their customer loyalty base, managing rates, and blocking group reservations.

The opportunities for the Iberian golf course owners and operators were always very clear: greater tee time utilisation, the ability to locate and service new customers; and increased overall revenue and a better bottom line.

However, there are different scenarios in each country. A large percentage of the golf bookings in Portugal is located in the Central Algarve, around Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo and those courses are very reluctant to make their tee times available online for individual bookings.

Most of these golf courses exceed the 50 to 60 thousand rounds of golf every year as they are very popular amongst European tour operators that require availabilities for large groups. In other areas of Portugal like the Eastern and Western Algarve, Lisbon, Madeira and Azores the courses are much more open to taking those reservations.

In Spain, we find a different environment with the courses being much more flexible and open to online bookings, maybe because the occupancy rates are lower and partly because the most representative software company in the country has a better commercial approach.

In terms of demographics, our agency indicators show that the bookings are generally performed by mennearly 70% of all transactions – and the most significant age groups were 45yo-54yo representing 23% of the bookings, closely followed by the 55yo-64yo age group which accounted for 21% of the overall online bookings. Millennials represent nearly 17% of the golf bookings.

What are the changes in how people are booking their Portuguese golf trips or trips that include golf?

People are increasingly using mobile as opposed to desktop on their bookings. However, we must stress this is not the case for all age groups. The older clients still preferring to use desktop computers over telephone bookings.

During the previous years, particularly in the last 4 years when we experienced a worldwide crisis, the hotels and golf courses had last minute availability whereas currently peak season bookings can only be secured if performed with 12 months in anticipation.

The platform launched in June 2016 has proven a welcome breakthrough with its improved usability and a plethora of information on each golf course. This, coupled with a streamlined check-out process has granted Tee Times one of the best years so far.

In terms of technology we were surprised by the quick growth in the percentage of mobile users that conclude bookings in their very smartphones, in what we would call an ‘upcoming trend’.

Iberian online tee time sales background

How are Portuguese and Spanish golf clubs are prepared to Millennials?

This is not an issue for them right now as the golf courses are busy handling the current upsurge in demand.

We know golf has established a certain image over the time. Many still consider it an “old men’s game”. Others not-so-endearingly associate it with the well-to-do. Neither designation is flattering or constructive, especially when we consider the Millennial generation, which embodies the other extremes: young and skint.

Anyway, as Iberian markets are generally perceived as low cost – and therefore tend to attract younger golfers. As stated above the millennials represent circa 17% of the market and they are a valuable source of business, particularly to newer golf courses.

How can a company like compete against megabrands like Your Golf Travel or Marriott?

Tee Times Golf Agency was born in an era when the internet was still gaining traction, an era that created the first ‘independent’ clients, the boom in the low-cost airlines generating the market focusing exclusively on green fees. From our base in Vilamoura, we were the first agency in Portugal offering online bookings, based precisely on Europe’s favourite golf destination.

Our service was an immediate success and soon we sold 10 thousand golf rounds. We were soon asked to include Hotels, Resorts, Transfers and Club Rentals, among the other services. Today, with over 60 thousand golf rounds and 10 thousand room nights sold every year we are in a very good position to negotiate the best deals to our customers.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Tee Times Golf Agency is one of the preferred partners for Portugal’s Hotels and Golf Courses alike. In addition, we are very conscious of the importance of providing the best possible service to our customers, and therefore we receive compliments for our quality service very often.

Tee Times is, therefore, the brand of choice for the discerning clients that wish true attention to detail and a personal touch that the players mentioned above-mentioned companies just cannot provide.

What are the golf guest experience personalization trends in Portugal and Spain?

Apart from the sun and the golf, the clients became interested in the local culture and for unique experiences in the destination. Golf courses try to integrate as much as possible the cultural elements into their offers, in partnership with other tourist businesses or organisations.

Besides, they want to enjoy the experience and get away from social media for a while. You have more fun if you leave your phone in your bag. I like to think about what club I should be using instead of which friends will like my photos or videos.

How do Portuguese and Spanish golf resorts combine technology with customer service?

The Portuguese and Spanish golf resorts were among the early adopters of high-end software suites to manage their operations. This move granted them a competitive edge over most of the resorts worldwide and this is appreciated by the customers, who feel this quality transferred into their overall golfing experience.

We are living in the age of Big Data – a term that has come to refer to the massive amounts of information consumers give out every day. Every time a consumer posts a picture to Instagram, checks in at a location on Foursquare, or logs into an email, they’re sending data points to brands.

Millennials lead this data progression, actively broadcasting their personal information every day. More than half of them will give personal info to businesses if they feel they get something in return. This means that even though Millennials are less trusting of big brands, they will trade their data if the perks are attractive. Golf businesses continue to do a better job at capturing customer data.

Creatively using this data to deliver perks that offer value that goes beyond discounting prices will further engage this generation, especially if the perks can help to make millennials’ lives better, faster, more efficient, more fun, etc.

In short, enhancing golf experiences by combining the activity with other things that Millennials love, such as affordable adventures, technology usage or listening to music.

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How will the Brexit affect tee times sales in Portugal and Spain?

We sincerely hope the Brexit has little or no impact on the visits from the UK to the Iberian market. I wish all the best to the UK in their new commercial, industrial, financial and political organisation because that will be in Europe’s best interest, to have a strong UK.