Industry Update
Opinion Article15 June 2020

The Growth of Golf and Other Socially Distanced Activities

By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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Prior to the coming of COVID, I had predicted a long, slow demise for golf. However, now that social distancing is a leading trend in the new normal, this sport as well as many other activities where human contact is scant may see a strong resurgence once travel resumes. And therein lies a lucrative opportunity for hotels.

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Let me know with some background on my previous forecast because many of the underlying motivations will carry forward into the post-coronavirus world. Compared to boomers and other older demographics, the younger generations - millennials and centennials, that is - have a few starkly different habits that would prevent mass adoption of golf.

Namely, they have less disposable income relative to real wages, which makes the prospect of green fees, club rentals, lessons and transportation all the more expensive. Next, the sport was being shunned in favor of more exertive forms of outdoor athletics like tennis, yoga or hiking. Thirdly, in today's more whimsical and easily distracted culture, taking a half or full-day for one singular activity is often out of the question. And finally, amongst our increasingly eco-friendly youth golf courses are seen as bad for the environment because most disrupt natural habitats and waterways.

Like it or not, COVID trumps all of those reasons. Groups of all ages are yearning for ways to start socializing again and golf may be just the ticket in the world where everyone is afraid of getting too close to one another.

So, if you are a hotel with a golf course on property or have a partnership agreement with a nearby operator, you're in luck. Once we enter the phase of lockdown for booking tee times is permissible, be ready to engage leisure guests across multiple channels to ramp up sales, all while still abiding by proper cleaning and sanitization protocols, of course. Business groups will take a bit longer to come around, but they too will be looking for pastimes like golf to fill their corporate meeting itineraries.

Moreover, the social distancing trend is not limited to this one sport. There are numerous other activities that are acceptable within the confines of social distancing. With a few other standard operating procedures in place, rural hotels or resorts may be able to capitalize upon guests looking for:

  • Yoga or meditation (where participants are six feet away)
  • Nearby parks for hiking or mountain biking
  • Onsite camping, glamping or yurts
  • Secluded or private forests or beaches
  • Canoeing, kayaking, fishing and any other form of boating
  • Guided nature excursions
  • Other forms of outdoor recreation (with limited number of participants)

While this may not appear to be directly applicable to urban properties, the key is to understand why guests will be specifically looking for these sorts of activities - primarily, getting away from other people and doing so on a budget.

This latter motivation - that is, not having as much money relative to the pre-pandemic days - will help generate a whole new market for staycations and drive market revenues. In this way, think of golf as a litmus test for these types of customers whereby if we see a surge in tee times come reopening then you know that people are looking for a quick getaway and it's time for you to ramp up your marketing efforts accordingly.

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