High hopes for the success of the 148th Open in Northern Ireland

By: April 16, 2019

Last week I had an interesting conversation about the possible effects of Brexit on UK golf clubs. I thought to share with you some of our worries/concerns before letting you know the high hopes of Royal Portrush Golf Club and Northern Ireland.

We agreed on the following concerns that are very relevant to the successful organization of the coming 148th Open:

  1. 15% of the UK hospitality industry rely on EU-migrant workers. This is cca. 400,000 migrant workers in the hotel & leisure industry.
  2. BIGGA is very concerned regarding the future of cca. 5700 greenkeepers.
  3. The weaker British Pound might be good for inbound tourism (from the US, EU, China, etc.) since golf thus can be cheaper in the UK.
  4. Golf clubs will need to refine their recruitment strategies, supplier and operational contracts. I am expecting that golf club employees will demand higher salaries in light of a possible increase in workload.
  5. Import costs of products are likely to increase as a result of the Brexit.
  6. Business investment in the hospitality sector dropped by 12% in 2018. It fel to £4.97bn in the first three quarters of 2018, down from £5.67bn.
  7. Depressed GBP and credit rating downgrades real estate investment in the UK.

Unfortunately, the Brexit seems like being inevitable. The good news that it has very small chances to happen before the 148th Open in Royal Portrush Golf Club between 14-21 July 2019.

Along with this, the organizers cannot be 100% sure and relaxed.

148th Open-Royal Portrush Golf Course-Northern Ireland

The 148th Open & the hopes

The 148th Open will be the second time when the Claret Jug will be contested outside Scotland or England.

The organizers are expecting:

  • 200,000 spectators to attend competition and practice days, many of whom will be from overseas,
  • The 148th Open is expected to be watched by a global TV audience of 600 million in 150 countries.
  • 80 million GBP – estimated economic benefit from hosting the event.
  • 80 million TV viewers
  • It will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland and a showcase for the country’s golf product and other attractions.
  • A huge spectator village with vending and refreshment outlets is being constructed for The 148th Open on what was formerly the closing two holes of Dunluce Links. They have been replaced by newly-created 7th and 8th holes “borrowed” from the sister Valley Course as part of acclaimed enhancements ahead of this year’s final Major.
148th Open-Royal Portrush Golf Course

Golf travel customer experience

Customer experience is a huge and crucial battleground for the golf tourism industry and particularly for golf clubs and resorts to be attractive and avoid sameness.

When I am talking about customer experience development in golf clubs in various golf business conferences, I recommend focusing on these TOP5 customer expectations:

  1. Personalization of services & products;
  2. Effortless/Ease actions and tasks (e.g.
    Disney made waves with its MyMagic+ band);
  3. Speed of service;
  4. Empowered employees;
  5. Customer committed company culture.

All these have any impact on how our golf tourist guests will feel like after interacting with us.

We should also get prepared to dynamic customer journeys. Today, customers/golf tourists/golf club members have got so many channels to interact with businesses.

This is the result of the rise & popularity of mobile technology, social technology, review sites, chatbots, and the Internet. However, the expectations will continuously grow.

Our customers want to interact with us on an omnichannel and always-on approach.

Golf destinations, golf clubs, golf resorts and golf travel agencies must find ways to gather real-time customer data and create feedback loops that feed that information into the Voice of the Customer program

Our task is to:

Inspire our golf tourists to have great fun and experiences and make lifelong memories!

I thought to highlight all these because they are important not just for the success of hosting and organizing the 148th Open, but for the future of the golf industry in Northern Ireland.

The 148th Open – CX initiatives

I compared the above-mentioned expectations and customer experience trends with the planned offering of the organizers of the 148th Open.

The Tourism Northern Ireland and Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council are taking this event really seriously and trying to help local businesses with such advice:

  • Has your business the potential to become more golfer friendly? – They prepared a Golfers Welcome Scheme to help local businesses to get prepared for the event.
  • What can you do to make it great and help people leave with fantastic experiences? E.g. Listen to what your customers have to say and act on it! or Encourage your staff to be your customers’ problem solvers and to go the extra mile to make their day run smoothly.
  • Two heads are better than one! – local businesses should cooperate with each other.
  • International thinking. Be prepared for food expectations (beyond the local cuisine). Make the guests feel at home.

The Tourism Northern Ireland differentiates 6 types of golf visitors based on needs, motivations, and markets:

  1. Trophy Hunters: Markets: USA, Canada, partly UK – want to visit famous golf courses, not price sensitive, looking for high-value experiences.
  2. Four Balls: Markets: Germany, Nordics. Looking for new experiences, book independently, pre-booked tee times, interest in other Northern Ireland experiences, etc.
  3. Couples Golf: Markets: GB, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia. Open to short breaks, emphasis on quality of parkland experience, hospitality & culture are important, memorable experiences, genuine Northern Ireland experience.
  4. Value Golf Seekers: Markets: GB, Ireland. Value for money, quality of experience is important, travel in groups, etc.
  5. Society Golf: Markets: GB, Ireland. Travel in groups + Pre-booked & flexible tee-times required.
  6. Corporate Golf: Markets: GB, Ireland. Not price sensitive, corporate meetings, the decision made by the senior management team, resort golf packages, etc.

As you can see, they are moving toward the right direction by recognizing the importance of golf tourists’ unique, personal needs and what local businesses and people can contribute to the success of the 148th Open.

I must tell you that these actions and initiatives should not stop after the event, but rather keep on trying to exceed local and international golfers’ expectations. There is no place for imitation or fake CX.

Photos: Tourism Northern Ireland