Friday, 4 September 2009

Old Course, New News?

Tourism Matters is not just about good news, it's about questioning what we're doing and how we're doing it and therefore when press releases come in that make your jaw drop they need commented on. Particularly when  newspapers all over the world just regurgitate the line without any addition, questioning or understanding.
So the headline "Influx of Old Course Bookings" was at first interesting. It went like this.
"A rapid influx of tee time applications yesterday (Sep 2) for play at St Andrews Links in 2010 suggests the outlook for Scottish golf tourism next year might be brightening. The Advanced Reservations process for play on the Old Course and The Castle Course opened at 10am BST yesterday and within 15 minutes more than 800 email applications had been received by St Andrews Links Trust.
Due to the continued level of demand, the Links Trust, which manages and maintains the seven public golf courses at the Home of Golf, invite applications for tee times a year ahead and at a specific time to try to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to secure a much sought after tee time on the hallowed Links.
Despite the difficult economic situation, applications flooded in from around the world to the Trust's Reservations Department. It will spend the next few weeks processing the forms which golfers downloaded from the www.standrews.org.uk website.
Alan McGregor, chief executive of the Links Trust, said, "It has been a challenging year for the Scottish golf tourism market so it is particularly pleasing to see that the level of interest in playing at St Andrews Links remains very high.
"We are fortunate that so many golfers aspire to play our courses and experience all of the history and tradition at first hand. We work hard to maintain its profile and to communicate to golfers round the world how they can come here to play. The support of our global partner, Allianz, has been extremely beneficial in that regard.
"Next year will see the Open Championship return to the Old Course for the 28th time and the spotlight of world golf will once again fall on the Links. We hope this will encourage even more golfers to come to St Andrews to play golf."
Now on the surface this sounds like really great news but does it firstly constitute news? The headline really was Old Course Tee Times available for 2010. The 800 emails? Is this up or down? What was the geographic spread? Is there anything that the industry can glean from the pattern. Is there a pick up in US enquiries? Is the money spent recently on golf promotion in emerging Far Eastern markets bringing an upturn? Has Drive it Home(VisitScotland golf promotion) had an impact? Has Homecoming been contributory?What is the seasonal pattern? How does the Old Course closure for The Open affect local tourism operators? How has the Libyan release situation impacted if at all? 800 emails is perhaps great news but the breakdown of the applciations would be great for the industry to start planning on?
Anyway hopefully the number of online enquiries is a positive for next year's golf marketplace for The Old Course but we've heard from golf tour operators who don't quite see it in the same light. And not only tour operators but hoteliers and even St Andrews club members and others involved in the industry who have concerns about pricing and distribution channels. There remain grave concerns about some of the strategic partnerships that The Links Trust continue to develop.
Of all of the things that you could blog about, the one that is most likely to generate heated responses is The Links Trust and their strategies.
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