GBN talks to Alex Ayling, Managing Director of The Elite Luxury Events, about preparation for the inaugural British Golf Show, which is taking place at Wycombe Air Park in Buckinghamshire from May 17-18
GBN: Consumer golf exhibitions and shows have been met with a mixed response from the trade and the golfing public over the years. What do you think will make the British Golf Show different?
Alex Ayling:The British Golf Show has been designed with everyone in mind. Consumer shows today need to offer far more for people’s valuable time. Why should I attend an event? What is there for me and the family to do? Modern shows need to evolve, especially in our digital age where everyone can review and buy online.
The British Golf Show is a dedicated show for golfers and enthusiasts, where the latest products, services and golf tech can be seen, sampled and purchased all in one place, from May 17-18 at Wycombe Air Park, Buckinghamshire.
Furthermore, our visitors not only get free access to the Golf Show, but also to the UK’s premier combined lifestyle event – namely The Elite Events – London (www.theeliteevents.com), which is co-located at the same venue during the same time. This event is now in its sixth year, and has a sister event in New York City each year.
In that show visitors will see the latest lifestyle brands (something for him, something for her) from luxury brands to the latest supercars, boats, aircraft, fashion, jewellery, travel, shooting, beauty and wellness… the list goes on. It is located within yards of the golf show, so visitors will essentially get free entry to two spectacular shows in the same place, at the same time.
Visitors will find a host of experiences, both golfing and lifestyle-related, from our 300-yard outdoor golf driving range and the ‘as-seen-on Sky Sports’ Zen Green Stage, to pleasure flights in helicopters, test-driving cars on the runway, clay pigeon shooting, fine wine tasting and much, much more.
With just over six weeks until the show tees off, how are preparations going and what has been the reaction from golf brands and golf‘s governing bodies?
Preparations are going very well. We are practically almost sold out in our British Golf Show Hall – we have our very few last remaining spaces left. There has been an excellent response to this from the brands as a whole. What we are hearing is that the golf industry lacks a dedicated consumer-facing golf show in England, and we feel that with a successful first show behind us, many more brands embrace it in year two.
We are particularly proud of the support we are receiving in this all-important first year from Howdidido.com and The UK Golf Federation – both of whom are strong supporters of the inaugural show.
With these final six weeks, we are busy putting the final touches to the event and making sure as many golfers know about the first event as possible.
Can you tell us about your cross-promotion with the UK Golf Federation?
It has been a delight to work with Doug Poole from the UK Golf Federation. We share the same view that we need to encourage newcomers to the sport, but that we also want to persuade lapsed golfers to return to the game.
The UK Golf Federation has provided a special offer to all who register to attend the British Golf Show and Elite Events – London. It works very simply: when you register to attend the Show, we give you receive a unique code whereupon you can head to the UK Golf Federation website, enter that code, and effectively get an online voucher.
Between May 19 and June 30, visitors will then be able to choose from a selection of free golfing experiences at a large number of UK Golf Federation member clubs. The range of activities on offer will give options for complete beginners through to experienced players. We want the max number of show visitors to get into the game, or get back into it.
And you are also working with HowDidiDo.com – what are you doing with them?
Howdidido.com was one of our first partners and supporters for the event. They see the value of such a show for the industry, with its unique setting and added value offer to golfers and other general visitors. HowDidiDo, which is the largest golfer network in Europe, will be key in promoting the show to their vast network of golfers in the UK.
Crucially, as well as being invited to attend themselves, HowDidiDo members will also be encouraged to bring along their non-golfing friends and family members, as clearly they themselves are already golfers.
‘Bring a non-golfing friend’ will be a key aspect of our consumer-facing promotion as we approach show time, and with the spectacle of The Elite Events – London right alongside the golf show, we think we have a very compelling double-attraction for those who haven’t yet tried golf.
Elite Events is used to operating in the luxury end of the consumer market, with events for supercars, private aircraft, boats etc. Do you think golf is luxury enough in the UK to qualify for this kind of event?
Let’s first say that the British Golf Show is not specifically aimed at golfers shopping for luxury. It is a showcase for the whole sport, and is aimed at a much wider demographic than The Elite Events – London.
I tend to feel that ‘luxury’ is a term which is often over-used these days, or at least used slightly carelessly without much thought being put into it. My view is that with most things in life, things can be as luxury as you want to make them. Generally, The Elite Events – London is a combined ‘Lifestyle Hub’ of different lifestyle interests all in one place.
Sure, people who have access to a fair amount of disposable income often either register their future interest in or purchase goods at the show. But golf needn’t be an expensive sport, and cost as a barrier to entry is becoming less of a factor over the years.
Golf can be as ‘luxury’ as you want to make it, and in my view it is as much a ‘lifestyle choice’ as flying, shooting and driving. No matter where you play, or what you play with, it’s all still golf, and the true essence of the sport is still the same – the feeling of a well-struck shot! Whether you pure the ball at Gleneagles or down at your local nine-holer, you still get the same feeling – and the desire to do it again and again.
So anyone can access golf – which is the key message of the UK Golf Federation of course – but it’s down the individual as to what represents their version of luxury. To many, simply enjoying a few hours away from the other stresses of life is the best luxury of all, and that’s what golf offers wherever you play it.
How will The Elite Events – London and British Golf Show co-exist alongside each other on the day?
There are three halls in total at the venue. Halls A, B and C are all positioned alongside each other in the same area. All visitors from both the British Golf Show and also The Elite Events – London will gain access to the two shows and all three halls. Over 170 different brands will be exhibiting, with a host of experiences to engage in whilst at the show, which you can pre-book tickets for online.
Do you think that The Elite Events – London show will also help to attract more golfers to visit the golf part of the show?
Absolutely. No doubt about it. The average Elite show visitor is more likely than the average consumer to be a golfer – we estimate somewhere around 20% of Elite visitors also play the sport, which is roughly twice the national demographic.
The purpose of the co-existing events is to ensure a fantastic day out for the whole family. There will be something for everyone at the event, and yes we do realise that not everybody wants to play golf, no matter how attractive we make it!
But if you’re a family visiting the show, its duality will allow for some members to enjoy the non-golfing aspects such as great-looking cars, planes and other lifestyle items, while any golfers in the family can indulge in their own passion at the same time. It’ll be a shared experience, and we think people will find it a lot of fun.
You are aiming to make it a family-friendly golf show, so how are you planning to handle the presence of children alongside The Elite London, where exhibitors are normally aiming at wealthy adults rather than young people?
In the six years it has been running so far, we have seen that our typical Elite Events – London visitors tend to bring along their children – so I don’t see things being any different this year, although given that there are many high price items for sale at the show, we do ask that all children are accompanied by an adult at all times.
Wycombe Air Park is obviously not a golf venue. What will you be doing to make it feel more ‘golfy’?
Although the venue is just a platform, as are the dedicated exhibition centres throughout the UK, it so happens that Wycombe Air Park is an inherently interesting place to walk around anyway. For many visitors, and especially the children, walking around an airfield environment will be a new experience, and our golfing Hall – which like the other two Halls is an aircraft hangar – will be transformed into a golf experience from the moment you walk in. It’s all about dressing the occasion to work for the purpose.
Working with the wonderful team at Wycombe Air Park also allows us to think differently. This is why we are able to provide not only an outdoor driving range at an airport but also a runway for test-driving cars, introductory clay pigeon shooting lessons with our partners E.J. Churchill, pleasure flights and so much more. Some how I don’t quite think you could do this at a typical golf course, and certainly not at a stand-alone exhibition space like the NEC, Excel or Earl’s Court.
What can golfers who visit the show expect to find? Will there be hands-on experiences and opportunities to try out equipment?
Golfers who visit the show will have access to around 60 golfing products and services on display in the hall. While there they will also have access to a host of golf-related experiences and also other lifestyle-related ones. We’ll have indoor and outdoor driving ranges, with demos from golf equipment brands, plus there’s an Indoor putting area, and some golf simulator experiences, and the Zen Green Stage will also be there for people to try out, and we expect this to be very popular. You’ll be able to take a helicopter pleasure flight, test drive a supercar, try clay pigeon shooting, enjoy a spot of fine wine tasting and a lot more.
How many visitors are you expecting to attend the entire show, and how are you going about publicising the event to golfers specifically?
We expect around 5,500 – 6,000 total visitors to attend the show over the two days, alongside 150 private visiting aircraft. That will be a mix of golfers and The Elite Events – London visitors. Of course, we have no way of knowing about the golfers as this is our first year, and we would be delighted to get many more. We will be promoting the British Golf Show in the traditional golfing media channels, as well as with our partners HowDidiDo and the UK Golf Federation, and we will also be giving stories to the local media to attract non-golfers.
What would represent a successful first year of the British Golf Show?
That’s a simple one: if our visitors come away from the event feeling like they have had a great time, and a truly different experience to the normal Golf consumer shows. I am sure that this will then translate into repeat visits in the following years.
I am not getting hung up on numbers at this stage. We are doing everything we can within our resources to make the show inaugural British Golf Show as successful and enjoyable as possible for our exhibiting brands and visitors alike. As long as our own team and our partners do everything we possibly can, then that’s all you can ask for.
But here’s one final thing, which we all know about: like any exhibition which takes place at least partly outdoors, the weather will always play its part! Naturally, we hope it’s a glorious two days in May for everyone. I am just looking forward to it!
In each month and year listed below every article that has ever appeared in golfbusinessnews is reproduced in reverse date order.