Building summer success with COVID-safe activities

Prior to the coming of COVID-19, I had predicted a long, slow demise for golf. However, now that social distancing is a leading trend, this sport as well as many other activities where human contact is scant may be seeing a strong resurgence during the summer months. And therein lies a lucrative opportunity for hotels that you have only a few weeks to properly take advantage of.

Let me start with some background on my previous forecast because many of the underlying motivations will carry forward into the post-coronavirus world. Compared to boomers and other older demographics, the younger generations – millennials and centennials – have a few starkly different habits that would prevent mass adoption of golf.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Namely, they have less disposable income relative to real wages, which makes the prospect of green fees, club rentals, lessons and transportation all the more expensive. Next, the sport has been shunned recently in favor of more active outdoor athletics like tennis, yoga or hiking. Thirdly, in today’s more whimsical and easily distracted culture, taking a half or full day for one singular activity is often out of the question. And finally, among our increasingly ecofriendly youth, golf courses are seen as bad for the environment because most disrupt natural habitats and waterways.

Like it or not, COVID trumps all of those reasons. Groups of all ages are yearning for ways to start socializing again, and golf may be just the ticket in a world where everyone is afraid of getting too close to one another. So, if you are a hotel with a golf course on property or have a partnership agreement with a nearby operator, you’re in luck.

Indeed, by this point in summer you probably already have some numbers to show whether this is happening (while taking into account physical-distancing limitations). Once we enter the phase of lockdown where booking tee times is fully permissible without any lengthy time buffers between groups, be ready to engage leisure guests across multiple channels to ramp up sales, all while still abiding by proper cleaning and sanitization protocols, of course.

Business groups will take a bit longer to come around, but they too will be looking for pastimes like golf to fill their corporate meeting itineraries. Moreover, the social-distancing trend is not limited to this one sport. There are numerous other activities that are acceptable within the confines of social distancing.

Rural hotels or resorts may be able to capitalize upon guests looking for:

  • Yoga or meditation
  • Nearby parks for hiking or mountain biking
  • Onsite camping, glamping or yurts
  • Secluded or private forests or beaches
  • Canoeing, kayaking, fishing and any other form of boating
  • Guided nature excursions
  • Other forms of outdoor recreation

While this may not appear to be directly applicable to urban properties, the key is to understand why guests will be specifically looking for these sorts of activities – primarily, getting away from other people and doing so on a budget. This latter motivation will help generate a whole new market for staycations and drive market revenues.

In this way, think of golf as a litmus test for these types of customers whereby if we see a surge in tee times from the June numbers then you know that people are looking for a quick getaway and it’s time for you to ramp up your marketing efforts accordingly. Get a plan together in the next two weeks for execution throughout August and September to take advantage of the late summer demand.