The ABC's of Selling Golf: A Winning Match

One of the basic issues agents must address in selling golf travel is whether to book a client's or group's itinerary by themselves or outsource the package to a wholesaler or tour operator.

In high-demand, sun-splashed markets like Florida, California and Arizona, a number of experienced wholesalers provide one-stop shopping that in addition to expertise about local golf courses and accommodations generally includes prices discounted from rack rates.

Besides price considerations, access to a top-tier golf course's tee sheets and the ability to make advanced reservations may be the most pivotal services a wholesaler can render. "As a tour operator, we have established relationships with our suppliers that allow us to guarantee tee times months in advance," says Mike Serifillippi, chief operating officer of Scottsdale-based Spectrum Golf, which either negotiates commissions with agents or offers them a net price that can be marked up. "A travel agent, or a consumer, wouldn't be able to call a golf course and have the same kind of access."

Agents with a client or group of clients whose golf vacation plans include several courses and multiple destinations may be well-advised to call in golf specialists.

"Freestanding golf is both highly specialized and difficult to administer," says Al Gasparri, president of World of Golf Tours, based in Apopka, Florida. "Say an agency has a business customer who's going to a seminar or a company meeting in a particular market and wants to play a round or two. For a travel agent, planning such a trip would be cumbersome, detail-oriented and not competitively priced. A company like ours can handle the packaging for that agent with relative ease."

Gasparri says World of Golf Tours pays a straight 10% commission to sales agents. "Tour operators like us are able to provide a variety of golf experiences to avid golfers at a reasonable price."

In finding wholesalers and tour operators with which to team up on golf, agents should look for experience and credentials. "I think it's important to do business with companies that have been around at least eight to 10 years," says Jeff Hamilton, president of Golpac, Inc., an Altamonte Springs, Florida-based company which has specialized in golf travel since the mid-1970s. "We are licensed and bonded. We belong to professional organizations including the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and Travel Industry of America (TIA), and we're a founding member of the American Association of Golf Tour Operators (AAGTO)."

Golfpac, like other tour operators, uses a Web site -- golfpacinc.com -- to give agents the price quotes they need to plan a client's itinerary and its software package shows the commissions agents will receive.

"Using specialists such as ourselves eliminates the learning curve," says Bill Hogan, president of Wide World of Golf, the nation's oldest golf tour operator, based in Carmel, Calif. "The amount of time it would take to research all the various markets, the golf courses and hotels, makes it more efficient to use a company like us. I think it's best for both the agency and clients."

For More Information

Golfpac: (800) 327-0878.
Spectrum Golf: (480) 425-1250.
Wide World of Golf: (831) 626-2400.
World of Golf Tours: (800) 729-1400.

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