March 25, 2013
Golf tourism: word of mouth vs word of mouse
Larry Gould is a Frenchman by birth, an Englishman by education and a South African by choice.
He is a former international hotelier, having worked in Europe, USA, the Caribbean, East Africa and the Seychelles. During this time in the hospitality industry he earned the nickname the "Golfing Hotelier" because of his passion for the game.
He came to South Africa in 1979 for a three-week holiday and never left. He told us: “I fell in love with the scenery, the beaches, the mountains, the people and, as a Frenchman, the wine!”
In South Africa he has been the General Manager of Fancourt in George, and with the advent of democracy and the impending tourism boom he identified the need for a guide to local golf courses for international golfers.
For the past 18 years he has produced his regional guides The Larry Gould Guides to Golf (where to play and where to stay).
I am so old-fashioned that I still believe that word of mouth is as important as word of mouse. My following my father’s advice that "you mustn’t be selfish – you must allow other people to meet you" of course enhances this!
A good example to reinforce this belief is that having returned from a recent golfing event in Dubai, where I was the MC for a charitable golf day to raise funds for autism and, yes, played on the superb Els Golf Course, I managed to slip in that we (and I included Ernie in this) would be delighted to welcome you to South Africa’s golfing wonders and I admit to showing my bias – to Cape Town and the Western Cape, in particular.
So it was my pleasure to welcome the first of the visitors from that golf day. Jürgen Teimans was my partner for two days in Dubai and though he had been to South Africa before, he told me of his reluctance to revisit. As he put it, "your PR isn’t that great at present". And this was even before our "Oscars" publicity.
However, here was Jürgen’s experience for his few days. Again I declare bias, as I did suggest he should stay in Franschhoek at "My Peggy’s" place, La Clé des Montagnes, the luxury villas owned by my host in Dubai who was the instigator of the autism charity.
An avid golfer of many years, his golfing has in recent years been curbed due to his wife developing a mysterious illness, requiring a dependency on a wheelchair. She nevertheless enthusiastically participates in the wining, dining and sightseeing experiences. Accompanying was Jürgen’s brother and his girlfriend. They stayed for seven nights.
They dined at the French Connection, Reuben’s (twice), Dutch East, Ryan’s Kitchen, and Bon Vivant restaurants, and the Common Room at Le Quartier Français, all within walking and wheelchair distance of La Clé des Montagnes.
Jürgen and I golfed at Arabella, travelling there via the scenically splendid Franschhoek Pass. This game was disrupted by rain, but we got the bonus of delightful toasted bacon, Brie and avocado sandwich, while sheltering from the persistent rain, which kindly stopped in time for us to conclude our round.
We also played the marvellous Pearl Valley, this time in glorious sunshine, and Mr Nicklaus’ layout was perfectly presented to us. We both rose to his challenges for a truly memorable round.
My assistance with their shopping sprees in Cape Town were not needed, so they departed for a seven-night stay at Fancourt, prior to stopping at Ocean's Eleven in Hermanus preceding their departure.
So a simple word-of-mouth suggestion in Dubai results in a change in perception for Jürgen and his travelling companions, to which I can add apart from Peggy having now received bookings at the end of March for two more couples resulting from my Dubai visit, Jürgen has booked for six people in November.
I know I didn’t meet the millions available on the Net, which I believe is a sensational tool, but you must admit this feedback and resulting confirmed bookings still have much merit! I also must add my thanks to the welcome and attention we received at the golf courses, and the wonderful reports the Teimans gave us on their culinary experiences – their word of mouth says it all: "It doesn’t get better than this."
But hey, we are also glad you are reading this – it’s word of mouse!