Interview with Ryan Dodds, Head of The Golf Company & Project Director of ABMO
MGT: Many people may not be familiar with you and the contribution you have made to nation’s golf industry… Give us a brief overlook at your background; how and why you landed up in Mauritius.
Ryan Dodds: My 17 years association with the world of golf began in 2002 at the Port Elizabeth Golf Club, where I qualified as an A-class PGA professional in 2005. I then followed this up with a Bachelor of Commerce degree with specialisation in Economics. Ten years later, while working at one of South Africa’s Top 10 golf courses, St Francis Links, I was very privileged to have been offered the role of General Manager at the prestigious Heritage Golf Club in 2012. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass, and have loved living in Mauritius.
MGT: Did you have a vision for developing Mauritius as a premier golf destination even before you came to live here, or did you see the opportunities once you were here, and what first struck you about its potential?
R.D.: Mauritius was not considered a golf destination (at least from a South African perspective) when I arrived. The issue was (and remains to an extent) accessibility to multiple golf courses which is what 85% of golf travellers seek. We have worked hard with the other courses, along with the Mauritius Tourism and Promotion Authority (MTPA) to break down barriers and change this reality. Although Mauritius is still comparatively an expensive multi-course destination, it is vastly more accessible than it was 7 years ago. Without doubt, the implementation of the Mauritius Golf Pass has helped this transition immensely. The island has huge potential as a golf destination boasting superb golf courses, clean air, a varied hospitality offering to suit all budgets, weather that is either good or great year-round (especially when compared to Europe); and, as a French/English bilingual country, it is easy to communicate with the people and navigate your way around the island.
Is there one specific aspect or niche of the industry that you spotted or identified, and decided to invest of yourself in, that has in the end proven to be the right choice for you, as well as the industry?
R.D.: I am a huge believer in the golf groups segment that is reported to represent more than 70% of the USD 25 billion global golf travel business. Currently, the golf groups market only represents 30% of the incoming golf tourist revenue for the island. This disparity between global and domestic trends, needs to be closed and represents the biggest opportunity for us in the sector. Through the Mauritius Golf Tours platform, we at The Golf Company hope to capture a large portion of this incoming business and to grow the segment for the benefit of all participants in this sector of the Mauritian economy. We have the expertise, a customercentric approach, and the strategic partnerships to be able to offer unrivalled, bespoke tours for the discerning golfer.
You have been rightly identified as a prime mover and shaker in obtaining the tri-sanction of 3 separate tours – Sunshine, European, Asian – for what has now become an annual event, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open (ABMO)… Can you tell us in a few words how long all this took before becoming a reality, and what were some of the hurdles that had to be overcome?
R.D.: It was in late 2012 that the ambitious idea to host an event of this stature was first conceived! It then took us almost 30 months to host the inaugural event in May 2015. We certainly had to jump a few hurdles along the way, including convincing the Tours to host the world’s first-ever tri-sanctioned tournament, involving the Sunshine, Asian, and European Tours, in Mauritius. This would not have been possible without the support of the main partners of the event, and we are grateful to, namely, AfrAsia Bank, Heritage Resorts, Rogers Group, CIEL Group, Sun Resorts, Alteo Properties, Mauritius Tourism and Promotion Authority, Air Mauritius and Jaguar for their belief and for sharing our dream and vision.
After 5 very successful tournaments, ABMO is now on the map… In your opinion, in what way exactly does this now annual golf jamboree contribute to the overall attraction of Mauritius as a golf destination?
R.D.: The best way to promote a golf destination to the world is through the hosting of a major international golf event. The 18-hour live television broadcast reaches in excess of 300 million households globally. Those pictures communicate not only the beauty of Mauritius but also the quality of the destination, as the professional Tours would not sanction an event in a substandard location.
MGT: It is quite evident that you are a person who thrives on challenges… What do you consider are the challenges facing decision makers in the golf industry in order to continue developing the potential of Mauritius as a premier golf destination?
R.D.: We have to maintain the quality of the guest experience, the condition of our facilities, and we need to encourage a more open model in our approach to the management of our spectacular golf courses. Our strength as a destination lies in unified promotional activities that showcase Mauritius as the multicourse destination that it truly is. Better allocation and pooling of resources will also help us reach out to markets that remain unaware today of the exceptional product we have to offer.
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