Case Studies >> Driveline Golf
Formed by Paul Melly & Paul Cowgill Driveline Golf started on the back of a promotion by the Daily Telegraph in 1988 headlining with ‘Golf in France’ from £19pp.
The £19 offer was a golfing daytrip that used a combination of ‘off-peak’ availability and ‘loss leaders’ to stimulate interest. They were confident that if they could get customers to call they would be able to sell-up the more profitable ‘short breaks’ that also featured in the promotion.
Despite a slow start to the promotion it finally kicked into gear and six years later they have a growing worldwide golfing programme carrying over 5,000 passengers to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
One of the reasons for the slow start was the fact that the lead in time for a golf booking differs significantly from that of any other holiday booking.
"We got a bit worried at first week when the phone didn't ring", recalls Paul Melly.
"In week two the phones started to ring - thank god. It was then that we discovered that most of our golfers only see each other maybe once a week at the most & therefore the lead in time for a booking is somewhat longer than we originally anticipated”.
Both company directors are avid golfers fitting in with the company motto
“Run by golfers, for golfers”. Director Paul Melly says: ‘We take very seriously the responsibility of offering quality to our clients. There is not a hotel or golf course featured in our programme that someone from our organisation has not visited or played’.
"Our customers are a discerning bunch and as well as a great price they expect a certain level of service. We enjoy the challenge of exceeding customer expectations even to the point where we now call every client within a week of their return to get detailed feedback from them on their golfing holiday”
Driveline Golf believes that high levels of service are imperative in the golfing holiday business. Director Paul Melly says: “Word of mouth is one of the most important marketing tools we have at our disposal. Golfers by their nature are social animals and are always keen to swap holiday experiences both good and bad. Our job is to make sure they can only say good things about Driveline Golf.”
From April 1 2004 Driveline Golf Ltd has run as a fully independent Tour Operator holding both ABTA and ATOL licenses. Prior to this the company was run in Association with Driveline Europe.
“It was always the intention from the creation of Driveline Golf that when the time was right we would become fully independent. Our Association with Driveline Europe allowed us to hit the ground running and at the time was a great deal for both parties” says Paul Melly.
Breaking away from Driveline Europe meant that a new reservation system had to be sourced by Driveline Golf. Previously they had access to the Driveline Europe reservation system powered by FSS Poweres.
“We needed something that matched our both our needs and our budget, after some negotiation Mars seemed to be our best option. As well as being able to service all the specific needs of golf tour operating it also offered a cost effective alternative to the out of date legacy systems that were around at the time”.
The initial contact with Mach Associates the suppliers of the Mars booking system came via a sales visit they were paying to Driveline Europe. The two Paul’s were invited into the meeting to see if the system could match any of their needs.
Paul Melly says: “One of the things that appealed most was the ability of the system to adapt to our specific needs. We also recognised that savings could be made by using the Mars e-mailing system to communicate with our suppliers”.
“By the time we were ready to go independent 1 April 2004 Mach had set the system up with all the basic requirements we had asked for. We had also put in place a development programme that is still ongoing with Mach to include things like electronic documentation and vouchers which is now up and running. We are also at the moment developing and integrated link for Galileo Web Services into the Mars booking engine”.
MARS’ flexibility means the booking can include, for example, party members playing at different courses and times than the main party, or might want different accommodation. It also offers the ability book specific tee times, and particular items such as golf carts and meals, all be email, thus greatly improving service levels. Another major advantage for golf operators is that they can produce multiple quotes for a package without having to make a reservation, until the customer is satisfied.
And then of course there was the issue of price. As Paul Melly says, “Most golf tour operators are not big companies, and have to consider very carefully before making major investments in any areas of their business to make sure there is a return on investment”.
The fact that Mars is Web based meant the large costs involved with installing a legacy type system and maintaining it thereafter just do not exist. MARS does not have the sort of up front, development or maintenance costs of those legacy systems. It offers a “credible option for a niche tour operator without affecting the bottom line too much”.
“Frankly if there hadn’t found a Web-based solution we would have had to have thought very carefully before taking on any other type of system. All the time and money associated with implementing and maintaining a legacy system, with their banks of servers and intricate networking would have cost us a great deal more money, and, I suspect, a lot more headaches”.