Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) Vice-President David Townend has called on golf clubs in the region to avoid becoming embroiled in a price war on green fees when courses are re-opened in the weeks and months ahead.
“If I look into a crystal ball, I hope that everybody who is a golfer is anxious to get back out on the course once they can,” said Townend, who also acts as General Manager at Thailand’s Amata Spring Country Club and is Founder and Managing Director of Azalea Hospitality.
In the first in a series of podcasts with leading industry figures that are being broadcast on the AGIF’s revamped website in the coming weeks, Townend said: “I’d like to see golf courses encourage play as much as possible – but try not to do that through discounting.
“I don’t think that’s going to be the stimulus to get golfers back on the golf course. Motivate them through other ways, like upselling and offering other benefits to the facility. That may be a better way than reducing price.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this (discounting) in previous crises that have happened in Asia. We’ve seen that a lot of courses have spiralled down because they quickly went to the discounting model thinking it would drive more players through the door. But then it’s very hard to increase your price once you’ve reduced it.”
According to Townend, the golf industry can learn from how hotels are dealing with the situation brought on by Covid-19.
He said: “When things started to slow down during March, I noticed that hotels retained their prices. They didn’t go into a price war with each other because I think they realised that there’s no point fighting for a small handful of customers. Still try and deliver the same level of experience.
“Fingers crossed that straight after golf courses start opening, people will be lining up to play. But don’t take is as a method to try and discount to get them to your golf course.”
Wearing his AGIF hat, Townend said it’s a good time for the Federation, and the industry as a whole, to start looking at new practices.
He said: “Within the AGIF, we as a Board have all bound together and started communicating more than we may have in the past and we’ve started to look at new ways to do our business.
“We know that education is very important in our industry. As such, the Federation is looking at how we can do these things more through on-line courses because this is going to be beneficial to us in the future.
“Many of the more remote countries in our region may not have the funds to be able to send people to certain destinations to attend training classes. Looking at that is important for the industry, and for each of the facilities.”
Townend added that clubs should use the present down time to communicate more with their customers. He said: “Grab your databases or anything you’ve been building up over time that’s been sitting in the back of the house and the office. Tidy these things up and start utilising the many free applications and networks that you can get to expand your message.
“Send out positive messages. Use your golf pros at the club to do lessons. Use your chefs in the kitchen to do cooking classes. Post these things on social media. Keep doing it because your customer base is very important. This is a time where people don’t want to be listening to all the negative news day-in day-out from sunrise to sunset.
“There’s a lot of things we can be doing at this time. The most important is communicate more. Reach out to other golf courses in your area. I know a lot of golf courses within cluster areas where the general managers don’t know each other; the superintendents don’t know each other; the golf managers don’t know each other. This is a great time for everybody to reach out and say: ‘Hey, let me introduce myself to you’. We’re a stronger industry if we’re more united.”
*To listen to the full interview with David Townend, please visit https://agif.asia/agif-podcast/