Play Global. Stay Local.

Transforming Golf Travel with the Shared Economy and Crowdsourcing 

I spoke with a golf journalist recently who shared a story with me. When he visited the International Golf Travel Market 2013, IAGTO’s flagship travel trade show in Marbella – Spain, he wanted to try an experiment. He booked his flight and transfers himself, but then tapped into a Peer-to-Peer community via Airbnb and other shared economy platforms to plan and book the remaining golf / accommodation components of his show visit.

He ended up locating and staying in a private residence he discovered through one of the platforms, played a handful of rounds at top courses in Marbella that the host arranged on his behalf and made a life long friend that shared other insight on the golf destination he never knew about (no easy feat for a know-it-all journalist that prides himself on being fully informed).

The transaction was secondary to the interaction. That’s community in my mind.

There’s no doubt that my friend’s previous knowledge of the region as a journalist from countless years covering the destination armed him with enough knowledge, and more importantly comfort, to go about planning and booking his trip in a self-directed manner. Some in golf might call him a vagabond, while others perhaps just calling him a normal 30-something using the shared economy to cultivate his own unique, personal and downright simple to organize golf travel experience that offered so much more.

Whether staying in a private residence when traveling abroad to play golf is your bag or not, the story does beg the question:

Will golf travel transform from the current Tour Operator- led “Stay n’ Play” model who declare themselves to be “experts” on a particular destination when communicating with customers, and instead move towards a peer-to-peer marketplace?

Perhaps it’s the remnants of the bruised trust many feel in institutions post-recession where word-of-mouth now rules, or market factors at play with consumers seeking more cost effective alternatives to travel.

The fact of the matter is that it’s a bit of both, and boils down to simple communication that is more genuine and carries emotion that only humans can deliver, rather than businesses. This applies both on and offline. Human to Human (H2H), or in the case of the golf travel industry, Golfer to Golfer. That’s community in my mind with a hint of story telling.

Bryan Kramer, CEO of the Silicon Valley Social Business Strategy firm PureMatter recently wrote in Social Media Today in relation to the H2H phenomenon, “social and marketing need to work together to personalize individual conversations, as well as deliver shared global experiences that crowds of common values can benefit from. This is what our social and digital mediums have gifted us, and how humans interact and feel more compelled take action.”

So what would this look like in the $20 billion/ year golf travel industry dominated by Tour Operators where self-directed consumer to golf course bookings make up a tiny 14% market share?

A French based company in the more general travel space called Evaneos is a marketplace that connects travelers with selected local agencies all around the world. Travelers customize trips directly with local experts who give the best of their countries and save money. The movement has started.

Now, imagine for a second a platform where a local golfer in a destination looking to supplement their income provides recommendations on a golf itinerary for a would-be traveller, confirms their golf and accommodation through the platform, welcomes them at the airport upon arriving and handles ground transportation – all within a crowd-sourced community.

The local golfer puts a few extra bucks in their pocket to pay for their green fees, the golf course and hotel keep a higher margin on their wholesale rates through this more efficient model, and the international visitor has a truly personalized and custom golf experience, meeting local people with memories that last a lifetime.

The golf buggy might have killed the caddy in a traditional sense, but maybe the next generation caddy is about to be born?