BREXIT DRIVING A GOLF TOURISM BOOST FOR THE HIGHLANDS
Neil Hampton, general manager, Royal Dornoch Golf Club, a Highland Golf Links partner
Are there more American accents on our fairways in the last few months than usual? Anecdotal evidence is that more US visitors than ever before are taking advantage of the pound’s current weak position to look out the suitcases and the golf bag.
Since Britain voted in June to leave the EU, the currency dip and the uncertainty of what lies ahead has led to a rise in incoming tourism.
As we will no doubt hear during Scottish Golf Tourism Week, which starts on Monday (10 Oct), Scotland has so far reaped the rewards, with the Highlands, where the scenery and the golf courses are renowned, among the locations to benefit.
The US market is of course an important one for golf tourism in Scotland and any increase in numbers, along with those from the Far East and other parts of Europe as visitors make the most of the pound’s sharp drop, is to be welcomed.
The Republican presidential candidate and owner of the Turnberry resort Donald Trump certainly sees the Brexit vote in a positive light: “If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry,” he said. “I think it could very well turn out to be a positive.”
Other golf resort managers will be thinking the same. The depreciation of Sterling means the cost of travel, accommodation, food and drink and green fees can be 10-15 per cent lower for visitors, meaning it’s a great time to visit the Home of Golf.
Trade association UK Inbound reported last month Scotland has enjoyed a bumper tourism season, influenced by the post-Brexit Sterling fall, but also a positive reaction to our vote to remain in the EU in the referendum.
And a business survey by the Royal Bank of Scotland showed that business confidence had risen, including amongst tourism operators, with the Highlands and Islands having one of the most positive outlooks.
As well as American visitors, the Highlands may also gain from an increase in tourism from the Far East. A high-profile visit to Scotland by a Japanese delegation recently included talks with representatives from the golf industry as one of the main areas of interest.
With new air connections between Inverness and both Heathrow and Amsterdam starting this year, it makes the region more accessible than ever at just the right time.
At the same time, the low pound means overseas travel is more expensive, leading to a rise in UK ‘staycation’ business.
It’s all good news for the industry and for organisations liked Highland Golf Links and will hopefully further benefit our partners after a year of high profile events.
Castle Stuart Golf Links staged the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, Nairn Golf Club hosted the Fairstone Men’s Home Internationals and Royal Dornoch Golf Club was the venue for the Northern Open as well as the biggest gathering of ‘royal’ clubs ever organised as part of the celebrations to mark 400 years of golf being played in the town. In addition, the three clubs have just staged a successful HGL Pro-Am, sponsored by Blue Group, which attracted a capacity field.
It was welcome business for the HGL partners, the Kingsmills Hotel and Culloden House in lnverness and the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch.
The prognosis for golf tourism following Brexit may be uncertain, but at the moment we are enjoying an unexpected and welcome side effect.