Scotland Tours Company, Ltd., has been planning golf vacations to Scotland and Ireland for the last seven years. Managing Director Ronnie Pook took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his business and what they can do for golfers looking to play across the pond.
TG: How did your business get started.
Pook: I had a 20-year career in the financial services industry working as regional manager in one of Britain's largest building societies. I was well trained in all of the essential ingredients in running a business.
I have a relation who has a golf tour operators business focusing on the five-star/VIP sector. In 1994, he asked me to go and work for him as his operations manager, and I needed a change and was interested in the golf travel business. However after three years with him I wanted to expand and diversify his business into different sectors. Unfortunately he didn't, so we parted company amicably, and I set up my own company and called it -- Scotland Tours.
TG: What does your business do for golfers.
Pook: We prepare high quality golf tours looking after the golfers from the moment they arrive until they depart. We create fantastic itineraries, playing golf on a variety of great courses, recommend hotels we know they will enjoy, plan the routes, make dinner reservations in pubs and restaurants that offer great food and dining experiences -- you name it, we probably do it.
For the self-driven client we will supply all maps, and excellent travel directions. We will meet them at the airport, help them collect the rental van and lead them towards their first destination. Coming off an overnight flight and driving on the "wrong side" of the road can be a stressful experience. However by following someone who knows where to go is usually a better start to the vacation.
For the small or large group who has asked for a driver, we will reserve a vehicle they will be very comfortable in and include a few extras; like cold beers, golf videos, a few golf gifts -- balls or monogrammed hats. We try to make everyone feel special and individual.
TG: What makes your business unique to others like it.
Pook: The reactions of our clients tell us our service standards are exceptional, friendly and welcoming. We are prepared to go out of our way to ensure the client has a great time. The quality and quantity of information we supply in advance of the tour ensures the clients arrive prepared and ready for their vacation.
TG: Often, the strength of the staff and their experience is critical to success. Describe your staff and some of their abilities.
Pook: We have great staff who have a variety of skills. Some are dedicated tour co-coordinators who spend most of their time planning the tours, researching locations, communicating with clients and developing good relationships with them. They all possess similar qualities -- good with people, very knowledgeable about Scotland, Ireland and London, all the tour co-ordinators play golf and understand what makes a great tour, and everyone takes a pride in what they do for their clients.
TG: What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how have you dealt with them.
Pook: Persuading the golfers that we will create a tour as good as the itinerary suggests. Too many golf tour operators simply churn out itineraries which may not work, such as offering golf on courses that do not accept visitors that day, or they offer prices in sterling with U.S. dollars shown for example purposes using exchange rates that are nothing like what they will be paying.
Unfortunately there are too many companies offering Scottish golf tours without knowing the area in sufficient detail. I have come across some golfers arriving tired and sweaty at the airport who are facing a five-hour drive somewhere. Others have asked to stay in a central location and then find themselves driving 100 miles per day to play golf. I believe the travel industry has a responsibility to give clients well thought out routes, and with excellent golf planned along the way.
The Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic will be played April 28-May 2 at Fallen Oak, the exclusive course for guests of the Beau Rivage. "This is a significant step in becoming a tier one vacation destination," says Anthony Topazi, chairman of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic Foundation, Inc. "I hope this is the first of many events we can have that attract people to visit the Gulf Coast for its first-class golf, fishing and gaming."
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