A Bright Start to the Year

Despite the economic doom and gloom that continues to surround us all, the new year has started brightly for us with, perhaps, encouraging signs that the inherent optimism of developers has not been completely lost.

Since the start of the year, we’ve reached agreements with developers in Turkey, Portugal and Morocco to assist with the master planning of new integrated resorts. The consensus among these groups is the thought that now is the perfect time to start planning the master planning process, together with the subsequent submission for planning approvals, will take 12-18 months by which time it would be reasonable to expect that we’ll have reached the bottom of the market and the graph of economic indicators will be climbing again. And, the logic further goes, if that’s not the case and we’re still mired in recession, then that will be a great time to start construction because build costs will be as low as they’re going to get.

The other common threads through each of these developments is that they are well funded, well located and are being developed by groups with solid track records of delivering returns on investment, all of which helps to ease the concerns of investors.

Out On the Road with EGD

Having attended two conferences over the past couple of weeks, it has been interesting gauging various reactions to the current trends. Some of the points of interest are as follows:

European Golf Course Owners Association, Berlin
– Traditional 7-day membership programmes are dying. People want more flexibility and wise operators are increasingly adopting membership structures similar to those in the health and leisure industries (ie no joining fees and monthly – as opposed to annual – fees).

– There is very little growth in the number of players.

– The national federations appear to be representing a decreasing minority of the golfers in Europe and have little, or no, success in attracting new people to the game which raises the question as to what they do with all of the revenue generated from the subscriptions.

– The slowing pace of play is killing participation.

– An increasing number of people are playing 9 holes rather than 18, to the point where some courses are now marketing themselves as having two 9 hole courses instead of an 18 hole course.

– Golf courses need to become mini-resorts with diverse leisure facilities catering for as wide a range of users as possible.

OPP Live, London
– Projects that are well located, well funded and well planned are moving ahead, despite the economic crisis.

– Developers with proven track records of delivering these type of projects are still able to source investment.

– Sales are slower than in recent years, but there is still interest for the right residential product(s).

– The economic situation is acting as an “idiot-filter” in that the speculative gambler attracted to property development by tales of easy money has disappeared from the marketplace, leaving only serious players, on all sides of the property development spectrum (investment, development, design and implementation).

Carbon Offsetting

As we launch our Environmental Policy (which can be found on the Environment Page), it seemed a good time to bring you up to date with our thinking on the whole carbon emission/zero carbon debate.

For a long time, we’ve wrestled with the dilemma that in order to visit our projects to ensure that the design and construction achieves environmental enhancement, we need to get on a plane and fly – with all of the inherent problems that creates with regard to our carbon footprint. So, we’ve been looking for some time at various schemes that could reduce that footprint. The one thing we’ve learned over the past few months is that there are a lot of snake-oil schemes that achieve nothing.

Half of the problem is trying to determine what kind of offsetting (actually, the better term for it is ‘mitigation’ as real one-to-one offsetting is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve) any programme is contributing to – it’s all too easy to say that planting trees, or giving low-emission light bulbs out in third world countries, will “offset carbon footprints” but it is just not that easy to work out – offsets are an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened.

We’re now investigating various schemes, with the assistance of Golf Environment Europe which might, in the long term, be a better ‘green pound’ spend than anything else.

We’re working on it, and will update the Blog once we’ve reached some conclusions. In the meantime, do take a look at our Environmental Policy Statement.