Ireland’s stumbling golf tourism marketing – part 1

By: July 31, 2010

According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) the expected rebound of international tourism (arrivals, receipts, expenditure) is measurable. This recovery started according to UNWTO in Q4 of 2009. However this positive change will be seen mainly in South-East Asia, South Asia, North-East Asia and in the Middle East.  In Western Europe there will only +3% growth/change in comparison to the same period of the year (H1).

But what is happening in Ireland? The Irish economy is in recession since 2008 and it will stay there also this year, although the forecasted drop back will be much smaller than in 2009 ( -7.6%) "only" -0.5%. Some analysts say that the Irish budget deficit can reach this year to 20%. If this figures are not dashing than here come some KPMG research data: in 2009 in GB & Ireland region the number of round played decreased by 3% + operational costs increased at 43% of the golf courses they surveyed. The CEO of Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) Jerry Kilby says in the last 18 months there is a declining trend among young generations in golf club membership and the less frequency of play by casual golfers.

In light of these dire facts Fáilte Ireland (National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland) launched a massive image campaign (in spring 2010; including print media, online media and radio) to boost golf tourism and to show Ireland as an attractive golf playing country. Nice bunch of people from different organizations came together (Carr Golf, Killeen House Hotel, Helen's Bay G.C., Killarney G&F Club, NITB, Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland) in March 2010. They looked for ideas how to position Ireland Golf to win, attract more golf tourists over such countries like Spain, Portugal, Turkey and South Africa (…always the sun….do you remember this song?) and give potential golf tourists reasons to prefer  playing golf in Ireland. Hmm..well, really challenging job I must admit.

The golf weather is not in favour of Ireland (but it is not so pleasant to play in hot weather (30 Celsius +) either. The accessibility of Ireland is not so easy (only by air and sea). What is their communication strategy of their image campaign? They claim  Golf Ireland's  USP (unique sales proposition) is "Inspiring Golf & Genuine Engagement on & off the Golf course". Their insight (I have not found any reference to any kind of market research) what golf tourists are expecting from Ireland is "an authentic golf challenge with stimulating shared experiences &moments" (like from any other golf tourism destination country). I put in italic the phrase shared experiences, because it says to me that they started to grasp that social media is really important in tourism communication. The brand personality Golf Ireland was defined as friendly, welcoming, unassuming, infectious. Are they serious? Is Ireland the only golf country that can claim these values?? I am not sure. The bottom line was: tagline = Time to Play. They think it is  unique to Ireland (LOL).

In their presentation I could not find answers to my following questions (based on P.O.S.T. method):

  1. People: Who they want to reach? Why should we target them? What is the number of potential golf tourists?
  2. Objectives: what do you want get out of this campaign? what would you consider as a successful campaign? More number of rounds on golf courses or booked rooms on golf courses and hotels? etc.
  3. Strategy: how we will reach our objectives??
  4. Tools: What technology should we use? What tools would make sense to help carry out out our strategy and reach our objectives?

Since the target audience was not defined and these unknown people media habit is unknown it is questionable the usage of print media and radio. To utilize Irish tradition of storytelling is a great idea (I guess every nation has such tradition, but never mind) as we are collecting information and ideas via social media. It was great to read that Golf Ireland wants to utilize such social media channels as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook. But how about golf social networking sites such as,,,, or (there are many many more)? They also missed some well-known tourism social media portals such as,, and…

From the very same document it does not turn out how they would:

  • Define social media channels + who are the ideal social media channels?
  • develop content for social media?
  • participate in dialogs?
  • foster advocacy?
  • solicit call to action? etc.

In my next post I will give you answers how Golf Ireland could maximize Facebook. Till then here is Golf Ireland's Facebook page (!/pages/Golf-Ireland-Time-to-Play/103509856365026?v=wall&ref=ts). So far they have only 20 fans/"LIKE":