|Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria|
1. MULTI-GENERATIONAL TRIPS
It used to be father and son trips were all the rage. Now, grandpa and grandma want to get in on the fun. The Baby Boomer demographic is what drove golf to its unparalleled popularity and growth in the 1990s. As a group, Boomers love to play golf and as more of them retire with no job to occupy their time and attention, the prospect of playing golf in an exotic destination with family members is just too great to pass up. In 2013, 40% of families went on a multi-generational vacation. Grandparents travel about 25% more than the average leisure traveler.
2. SMART PHONES RULE
More travelers will use smart phones to check-in to hotels and book reservations at restaurants. Mobile apps are essentially replacing the hotel concierge as the first place travelers go to for information and directions. In addition, a selection of great travel apps have hit the market making planning and coordinating trips easier. Some of my favorite trav apps include Four Square, Flight Track Pro, Packing Pro and Onanda Currency Converter. An increasing number of travelers, especially those under 45 years old use mobile devices for online research.
3. SURPRISING EMERGING DESTINATIONS
France–Host site of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Versailles near Paris, France is aggressively courting golf tourists with 550 courses, including four rated in Continental Europe’s Top 10.
Turkey–The Turkish Riviera on the southern coast takes the world stage with the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final at the Maxx Royal Course in the Belek region. A legitimate golf destination, the Belek area has 14 golf courses with designer tags like Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie and more than 30 four-star and five-star hotels.
Sweden–With 300 golf courses and native golfers like Annika Sorenstam, Henrik Stenson and Anna Nordqvist singing its praises, Sweden has arrived as a golf travel destination. It was recently selected the “Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year 2014” by the International Association of Golf Travel Operators (IAGTO).
Malaysia–It has more than 200 golf courses with several spectacular multi-amenity resorts in mountain, seashore and rain forest settings. Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed courses in Malaysia near its largest cities Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.
Bulgaria–Seemingly out of nowhere, Bulgaria has arrived as a golf destination. The Cape Kaliakra area on the Black Sea Coast is home to three dynamic courses–Lighthouse (Ian Woosnam), BlackSeaRama (Gary Player) and Thracian Cliffs (Gary Player). The inland Sofia destination offers play on Pravets Golf (Peter Harradine), Pirin Golf (Ian Woosnam) and St. Sofia (Paul McGinley)
China–Mission Hills resorts in Shenzhen and Hainan, which encompasses numerous golf courses by big name designers like Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye and Nick Faldo, dominate the golf tourism scene. China has gone golf crazy and there are are plethora of golf projects in the development stages.
Vietnam–There are 25 golf courses and more than 60 projects at different stages of development in Vietnam. The Danang and Hoi An area has spectacular beaches, a good selection of first class hotels and courses like the Montgomerie Golf Links Vietnam designed by Colin Montgomerie and Danang Golf Club, a Greg Norman design. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) both offer a good selection of courses.
4. SEE YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Increasingly, golf travel companies, resorts and coop marketing organizations are announcing package deals on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and other social media. Golf Travel companies, in particular, will put a greater emphasis on interacting with their clients to keep them up-to-date on special packages, trips and events.
6. RYDER CUP 2014
The globally popular event will put the spotlight on Gleneagles Resort in Scotland, the host site. Golf travelers will attend the matches (September 26-28) and play lots of golf in Scotland. Gleneagles is situated 50 miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow and about 70 miles from St. Andrews so world-renowned courses like the Old Course, Carnoustie and Gullane will get lots of play.
6. MIKE KEISER GOLF
This innovative developer has created amazing golf courses that golfers will travel long distances to play. Bandon Dunes on the southern Oregon coast has five courses oozing with “wow” factor. In Canada, Keiser’s Cabot Links in Nova Scotia is one of the country’s most talked about layouts. Scheduled to open nearby in 2015 is Cabot Cliffs, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design set high on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with a stunning par three similar to No. 16 at Cypress Point. At Bandon Dunes, an 18-hole putting course at Pacific Dunes called “Punchbowl Putting Course”is slated to open May 2014.
7. GOLF DESTINATIONS FOR NON-GOLFER SPOUSES
Savvy golf travelers are increasingly selecting destinations that include gaming, beach, mountains or theme parks. Gaming destinations with big name entertainment shows such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno/Lake Tahoe and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast feature an extensive menu of golf courses and casinos. Popular U.S. seaside destinations include the Monterey Peninsula in California, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Bandon Dunes, Oregon and San Diego, California. Mountain destinations drawing golfers include the White Mountains region in New Hampshire, western North Carolina, Sun Valley, Idaho and ski towns with golf course in Colorado such as Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail. Popular theme park destinations include Orlando, Florida, San Antonio, Texas, Williamsburg, Virginia, Tampa, Florida and Branson, Missouri.
8. FEES, FEES AND MORE FEES
When will they stop? Apparently, not anytime soon as hotels and airlines have fallen in love with this “additional revenue” producer. Get ready for more annoying service, parking and Internet fees from hotels and luggage and boarding pass fees from airlines.
Ireland is on a roll. The warm and friendly Irish people, a slew of great courses and other enticements continue to make Ireland appealing, especially to golfers who’ve already played in Scotland. The most popular courses include Royal County Down, Ballybunion, Royal Portrush, Old Head, Tralee, Lahinch, Portmarnock, Doonbeg and Waterville. Tourist sites like the stunning Cliffs of Moher and special events such as the Penn State vs. UCF football game (August 30, 2014) enhance the appeal.
10. CRAMPED AIR TRAVEL As airlines “right size” their aircraft, planes will be fuller with fewer empty seats. When was the last time you stretched out on some empty seats on an international flight? Like, uh, never. Most products improve over time, but airlines seem to be going backward. Some of my pet peeves (which are only getting worse) include: Cramped seating, crowded aisles with clueless passengers trying to stuff oversize carry-on bags into bins and overpriced snacks.