In 1985, after a 16 year career with Johnson and Johnson, I joined Travel Incorporated, one of America’s largest independent travel companies, as Executive Vice President. In 1988 Travel Incorporated was awarded the corporate travel management for the PGA of America, located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We still handle the travel management for the PGA. At the PGA’s request, we developed a division dedicated to golf travel that PGA club pros could refer their members. This golf travel division was initially called PGA Travel.
Shortly after, again at the PGA’s request, we created packages to the Ryder Cup, which included the ticket, accommodations, and ground transportation. The first Ryder Cup we managed and marketed was at Kiawah in 1991. We sent more than 2000 people to our first Ryder Cup and have handled every Ryder Cup, both home and away, since. 2016 will be our 13th consecutive Ryder Cup, having sent more than 30,000 people to golf’s greatest event.
In 2002, we created Premier Golf as a separate LLC corporation and I became President. In 2010, we acquired Wide World of Golf, one of America’s most respected international golf tour operators. Today, our average experience is more than 15 years with specialists in each of the areas we handle.
MW: What impact did the Great Recession ’07-thru’09 have on the travel business?
JW: The recession had a major impact on travel in general and most definitely golf travel. When you’re concerned about your job or meeting expenses, the first thing you’re going to put off is that golf trip. The good news is when things turn around, the first thing you do is take that long awaited trip.
MW: What lessons were learned by customers since then?
JW: Customers seem to have a better appreciation for the value offered by a given destination and the value of the services we provide.
MW: How have providers – destination locations – responded in the marketplace?
JW: Prior to the recession destinations, particularly international destinations were taking significant price increases. Since then, many have revisited their pricing to become more competitive.
MW: Describe the Premier Golf traveler? Preferences, requirements, pet peeves, etc, etc.
JW: Since 1991, we have been licensed by the PGA of America as the official distributor of Ryder Cup packages. By its nature, the Ryder Cup is a very high end event, appealing to fairly sophisticated golf travelers. Our clientele is generally high end and knowledgeable, expecting the best in facilities and service. If you can deliver on this, clients also tend to be very loyal. We have offices in both Scotland and Ireland and relationships with the top ground handlers all over the world to insure our clients receive the best in hands-on service.
MW: How do you solicit customer feedback?
JW: We follow up after each trip by e-mail and phone to evaluate the destination and ways we can improve our service.
MW: What impact does it have in the development of your future activities?
JW: Based on client feedback, we are constantly tweaking our itineraries, final documents and coordination with our destinations. We deal with a limited number of destinations so that we can truly be the experts when dealing with a client. We have discontinued relationships with destinations if they don’t meet our standards.
MW: What are the hot spots for golf travelers heading into ’16?
MW: What separates Premier Golf from your competitors?
JW: We have been the preferred travel company for the PGA of America for 27 years. We’ve handled golf travel for thousands of PGA professionals. We do not handle a wide variety of destinations. We have chosen to be very selective in order to provide knowledgeable service.
MW: Golf is facing a serious situation in terms of younger people gravitating to the game as past generations. What’s your take on this and what remedies would
JW: Good question. So far, I don’t think this has had much impact on our business. Although we may have to re-evaluate our trips in terms of destinations, trip duration and amenities offered, I personally believe the millennials will still be looking for good service and value.
MW: Since you are so involved in travel — what are your personal top four golf locations that provide the ideal mix between top tier golf, quality food and lodging as well as cultural and people dimensions?
JW: In the U.S, I have to include Pinehurst and Destination Kohler, But my favorite is still Bandon Dunes. Overseas I would say Northern Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland.