I’m looking forward to getting back on an airplane to visit as many properties as possible. Sitting at the top of my wish list will be Kawaii—golf’s ultimate island green.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more than its fair share of financial distress to the industry. From clubs having to cancel major money-making events like golf tournaments and weddings, to resorts seeing empty rooms week after week and month after month, no property has been unaffected.
That said, we’ve dedicated a lot of time writing articles and recording videos to highlight one of the most positive sides of this global pandemic—an increase in rounds played. That’s been a (very) welcome change after years of covering golf’s premature death.
Even with clubs losing several months’ worth of rounds in many states as COVID-19 precautions led to courses being temporarily closed, 2020 saw an increase of 13.9 percent in total rounds played over 2019, according to the National Golf Foundation. And that trend didn’t stop with the turn of the calendar. Numbers show total rounds in January 2021 were up 21.4 percent over the same period of 2020.
As I’m writing this, more than 128 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, with that number growing substantially each day. I’ve received my first shot and am quickly approaching the date for my second. Hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the coronavirus have fallen drastically and (God willing) will continue to do so.
I feel like everything I write about the pandemic comes with a caveat, however. This column is no different.
I sat in on my first virtual “FAM” (familiarization) tour recently. These have long been a staple for covering the industry, as clubs, resorts and destinations often host media members, in person, to show off their properties. We, in turn, write or talk about them, sharing their stories with the masses.
This virtual FAM took us to the island of Kawaii—a spot I’ve always wanted to visit but have yet to experience in person.
It’s no secret that Hawaii’s economy is greatly dependent on tourism. With airline travel remaining at unprecedented lows, few people have visited the islands since the pandemic began. And those who have visited were asked to remain in “resort bubbles.” As you can imagine, no tourists means no revenue—or at best, minimal activity from locals who are able to get out for a round of golf.
One property—the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa—took great pains to keep all employees on staff, full time and at full pay, while losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. From June 1 to December 31, 2021, the property was 75 percent below its 2019 numbers. In January 2021, the resort was 97 percent below its typical visitor rates. February 2021 saw similar numbers (down 95 percent).
Prior to the pandemic, discussions were centered on the “over tourism” of Hawaii, with critics contending that 10 million visitors a year was way too many. While proponents of fewer visitors may have enjoyed the unusual tranquility at first, it quickly became evident that tourism is vitally important to the state. Talk now focuses on the return to normalcy and creating a healthy balance.
I cannot begin to express how happy I am that golf has seen a resurgence, and I have complete faith that 2021 will see the return of indoor events, banquets and weddings. I’m also looking forward to getting back on an airplane to visit as many properties as possible. Sitting at the top of my wish list will be Kawaii—golf’s ultimate island green.