Ben Martin, Economics Practice Director at HKS Advisory Services, recently presented his ‘23 for 23 hospitality trends’ in an exclusive ‘Talks from the Tour’ event to the European Tour Destinations network.
The trends he identified centre on three prominent factors:
Elevated, Unique Experiences
Ben explains: “In this next five years, I think there will be a peak awareness that life is there to be lived and there will be people embarking on bucket list trips. For golf, this means golfers prioritising top tier destinations they’ve always wanted to play.
“But destinations can also target these consumers by giving people an add-on uplift to make their trip a remarkable experience. That’s down to the imagination of the venues to say, ‘how can we turn this into something really memorable for our customers?’. Experiences are hugely important for people.”
ESG (Environment, Social and Corporate Governance)
“The issues we’re facing in nature and the environment are leading to heightened awareness among consumers of sustainable travel and a wider concern for ESG matters,” Ben points out.
“The time has come to think about not only design elements involved in the development of high-quality destinations, but also in the operating elements too – for example, putting sensors in rooms, and making sure transport is all electric or hydrogen when you’re on site. Customers will scrutinise this and this can filter into online reviews.
“The S part of that – society – is also crucial. We need to engage in local society and recognise the vital role that employment plays in the success of the resort. So many people stepped out of the industry during the pandemic. The amount of thought you give to the design and care of your staff can have a huge impact in keeping them.
“For example, if you’re in a remote location and have a staff village, you should make that village feel like a real home for them and care about it. These people are an essential part to the delivery of your offer, making customers feel welcome and making them want to return again in the future.
“And the really big thing we’re learning is destinations need to be very mindful that they can’t just talk about it anymore; they have to be doing it.”
Technology and Media
Ben explains: “Utilising and capitalising on media consumption habits and technology are also important for destinations in this digital age.
“For media consumption, this is about how we communicate information through media and how we can take advantage of it. The Gen Z population is not necessarily looking at search engines for destination reviews; they’re looking at Instagram or TikTok to find real content from people who are at those destinations.
“We can also use technology, because it gives us the ability to work remotely in a way that we have never done before. The pandemic, in many respects, has accelerated this, with the need to reduce contact with services and devices. You can now even get voice-controlled hardware that’s specifically designed for hotels.
“There are many more places now with digital nomad VISAs, so you can be a global worker, moving your office from place-to-place. Creating so-called ‘work-ation’ spaces on your resort may not be much more than providing a comfortable workplace in a hotel room or suite, and ensuring your Wifi capacity is up to scratch, but the value perception to today’s working population is significant.”
Golf’s Unique Appeal
Away from the trends, Ben believes golf venues hold a significant advantage within their USP, which links to modern consumer needs.
“Playing golf allows people to have a shared experience in nature,” he said. “And, it’s different every time you do it, which is one of the great unique things about the sport – whether that’s the weather you’re playing in, the time of the day you’re playing, the different locations where you can play or the people you’re playing it with.
“So golf maintains its freshness in a way other activities can’t do, as well as the pursuit for nature. We were encouraged in the pandemic to go out for daily exercise in a recognition that nature has mental wellbeing power associated with it.”
He added: “If you look at the beautiful courses and destinations that are within the European Tour Destinations portfolio – the landscapes, the nature and birds, frankly, you might not worry too much about how many shots it’s taken you to get round.
“The idea of ambling down the fairways, surrounded by nature, early morning or into the evening, is such a good thing from a mental health perspective.”