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Wed 28 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Meetings par excellence

Managing director of Golf Ireland and Golf Scotland, Gulf region, Angus Fraser, senior general manager for SNTTA's Emir Golf and Emir Tours, David Milican, account manager for Tourism Ireland GCC, Aiveen Ryan and director Gulf region Golf Ireland and Golf Scotland, Colm Bennett, talk to MIME about why planners should be thinking golf when booking their next meeting or incentive.

Managing director of Golf Ireland and Golf Scotland, Gulf region, Angus Fraser, senior general manager for SNTTA's Emir Golf and Emir Tours, David Milican, account manager for Tourism Ireland GCC, Aiveen Ryan and director Gulf region Golf Ireland and Golf Scotland, Colm Bennett, talk to MIME about why planners should be thinking golf when booking their next meeting or incentive.

SNTTA recently launched Emir Golf, which is a dedicated product for inbound and outbound tourism.

It will work in partnership with other divisions within SNTTA such as the incentive division and meetings division.

It's about finding the right combination and giving them something unique.

Managing director of Golf Ireland for the Gulf region, Angus Fraser and, director of the same company, Colm Bennett, have taken on the licence for Golf Ireland and Golf Scotland and are working with SNTTA in bringing golf to Ireland and bringing Irish golfers to the Middle East.

Who are you targeting with your campaign?

Fraser:Our intention is to attract the corporate market. As far as incentive tours go, a lot of connections will come from expatriates, corporations and locals, but the awareness of Ireland as a golfing destination will appeal to multinationals.

But it won't be just us doing that. We are working in close conjunction with SNTTA and Tourism Ireland to make sure that whatever initiatives we introduce are effective in getting to the corporate community in the Gulf region.

We are covering the Gulf and the majority will come from the UAE, but we want to spread across the Gulf.

Milican:We have quite a mixed range of corporate clients. Sometimes it's purely a golf, meetings and leisure programme. More often than not it's a meetings and incentive group that is going to a destination and there is an add on for golf, so there is a combination aspect to it. But we rely on the professionals from each destination to find the right product for each client.

Why should corporate bookers choose Ireland?

Bennett:We have more than 400 golf courses so the choice is fantastic ranging from lynx to championship. Ryan:The most lynx courses and three of the top five courses in the world are in Ireland I believe.

Bennett:It's also close to the UK and people can play at St. Andrews in Scotland or somewhere like that.

What is the average length of stay for groups?

Milican:Maybe three, four or five days, but it won't be totally golf.

We mix a bit of meetings and some leisure time as well. It's finding the right combination and giving something unique.

Do you find the courses in Ireland are able to take on the meetings ELEMENT of the trips?

Bennett:In Ireland they are very prepared for meetings and a lot of the courses are attached to hotels.

Added to this is the social life in Ireland after the golf. It's fantastic and a very good reason for people from this end of the world to come and try something completely different.

What has been the response from Irish nationals when given the option of Dubai as a golfing and meeting destination?

Milican:For inbound into Dubai we've done a fair amount of work in finding out where our source markets are coming from and it's primarily Europe.

We work with the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) in sourcing partners to work with and there's definitely a demand for Dubai as a destination particularly from Asia and Europe.

And then you have the Race to Dubai that happens in November 2009, so there is an immense amount of interest in Dubai.With all this in mind, I think the combination of golf with business, meetings and incentives is going to grow over the coming years.

Launching in the current economic downturn must be a challenge. How do you counter that?

Fraser:We are linking ourselves very much with an established golf tourism brand. Golf Ireland is part of the golf Scotland group so we are actually representing Scotland at the same time.

It is a business that has been operating for 20 years with a predominant source market from the US.

So what we are doing is extending the source market from the Gulf region and also talking about inbound to the Gulf, Ireland and Scotland from the Asian market - the high end.

We feel we are going to create a new source for incentive trips, that's going to be particularly important from the South Korean market which we are targeting.

Bennett:And we will be offering different packages from five-star to three-star.

How is Tourism Ireland assisting this drive to attract corporate golf business?

Ryan:Our role is very much to facilitate business between our partners here and our partners in Ireland.

We just do our best to help them get in contact with the right people and courses and maybe work alongside each other in terms of marketing support and promotions.

Obviously golf is a major product, it's a small part of the big product, but it's still important and people recognise golf in Ireland.

Is there a need to provide more than just golf?

Fraser:With the conference business, a lot of delegates bring partners with them who want extra activities such as the spas.

So a lot of these venues and hotels will have such things as stables for riding.

Milican:When we have an incentive group with partners then we would have two programmes, obviously the meeting attendees then the partners programme which could include all that.

Do you see the opportunity for much growth in the meetings and golf product?

Fraser:We are starting from scratch, but we see the meetings market giving us the opportunity to handle larger groups.

The average size group is probably no more than eight people, whereas with incentive groups the numbers can be indefinite, especially internationally.

Interest from our Korean contacts includes trips with 60 to a 100 in strength.

Milican:There are very few companies that actually specialise in golf and travel in this region so that is probably the number one key selling point in the sense we know what we are talking about.

Bennett:And it becomes a one stop shop. You go to SNTTA and from the ground onward we take care of Ireland.

What elements does Golf Ireland take care of?

Fraser:On arrival. From there on meet and assist at airports transfers to hotels, to courses, hotels, tee booking times, activities, conference facilities and meeting facilities.

We have an on ground team of about four or five, but then we bring in extras when needed such as transport, VIPs coaches or helicopter services.

Milican:That's why its great having someone here who know the different destinations. We know this destination and for our inbound we package things and sell, but for outbound we need people that know the destination and can put it together. It makes our job that much easier.

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