Pathways from the pandemic - Part 2

Home > Opinion > Pathways from the pandemic - Part 2
The "new" normal is a work in progress
Posted on
December 15, 2020
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Pathways from the pandemic - Part 2
Costa Navarino - The Bay Course

What steps have you implemented in terms of dealing with the loss of revenue -- not only in terms of golf rounds but also food and beverage and services / amenities you normally provide?

PASCUAL / LUMINE: As a club, we have done everything possible to provide our members and guests with a safe environment, both on and off the course. Despite having to comply to government regulations, we still pride ourselves on providing our customers with the same quality service in golf course presentation, F&B service and Beach Club experience as before the pandemic. Since our re-opening, the reviews received from our clients have been more positive than ever, a humbling and proud output from the hard work that has been put in over the last few months.

DENNIS / PGA NATIONAL: We are currently tracking ahead of budgets and were only closed for 10 days over the normal season, so financially the situation has not impacted us. I believe the golf industry globally, where play has been allowed, have seen similar trends. We focused on postponing events for later in the year, rather than cancelling, and now that events of a larger size are allowed here, we are able to move forward with hosting our corporate clients and member events successfully, while remaining socially responsible.

DARNELL / THE GROVE: The volumes of rounds we have had are higher than the previous year. Once we saw the demand of the leisure golfer and after talking to some guests, we understood that many were looking for a regular venue to play golf of the same quality as our venue, therefore we released a product that gave our guests the flexibility to play golf here at different times which redeemed different points depending on when they played without the tie into a membership as we do not offer a membership at The Grove.

Pathways from the pandemic - Part 2
The Grove

On top of ensuring we had the right product, we have ensured instruction, which was also in high demand, was delivered safely, after having to sell single rider buggies for some time we managed to purchase buggy dividers to aid the safe use of a two-seater cart.

We have also moved heavily into improving all technology from booking through to play. All bookings can now be made online. Food and beverage can be ordered online and delivered to your hole and your scorecard and GPS is also all through an app. This helps provide a seamless service for our guests in a timely manner. As you would expect around this time, we would have normally had a high amount of group business we have been able to flex our payroll and also our operating expenses by moving forward with the technology mentioned above.

SEPULVEDA / COSTA NAVARINO: We have followed a plan with the best possible cost saving actions, whilst, at the same time, focusing on capitalizing the resources provided by the Greek Government for the support of our employees.

How much of an impact has the pandemic caused overall staffing levels?

DARNELL / THE GROVE: We are currently operating with our Winter staffing level which means we are 15 staff short in total across golf course and operations. This is approximately 30% down on our standard structure for golf. The hotel has been affected closer to 40%.

SEPULVEDA / COSTA NAVARINO: Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic was tremendous concerning the staffing levels of our organization. Now, the majority of our departments work on a 70% lay off percentage and for the period of March – May the percentage was approaching almost 90%.

Pathways from the pandemic - Part 1
PGA National - Oaks Prague

PASCUAL / LUMINE: In our case we still have people working from home whose job does not require them to be active at the resort. In certain cases, this has started to make things feel a bit estranged and distanced, but in other cases it has also helped to make things more dynamic than in the past.

DENNIS / PGA NATIONAL: Because we have a small team, focused on delivering a very personalized and unique member and guest experience, we did not need to reduce manning at all. We were on ‘home office’ whilst the club was closed, but we quickly saw enough business even with smaller groups, and more spaced tee times, to keep the full team onboard.

How are you now communicating with guests and what role has their feedback played in your operations going forward?

DENNIS / PGA NATIONAL: We have a bi-monthly newsletter, but during the very restrictive times when we first re-opened the course, I was sending personal e-mails to our members on a weekly basis explaining the current government guidelines and how we are pro-actively working to provide as much of a normal experience as possible to them. The feedback in this type of communication was very positive -- in times of trouble the personal touch goes a long way.

PASCUAL / LUMINE: We are always communicating with our members and guests. During the lockdown period we tried to call our members one by one at least once to check on their health, which is something they greatly appreciated. Since re-opening we have continued to update our website, as well as sending out regular newsletters, emails, and social media posts to keep our members and guests up-to-date. It has been one of our main areas of focus.

SEPULVEDA / COSTA NAVARINO: Our guests’ feedback has always been a crucial part of our hospitality approach and especially now, we take our guests’ comments into very serious consideration more than ever. We are very proud that in these unprecedented and challenging times, the feedback we received was extremely positive, having a great percentage of repeaters visiting Costa Navarino for one more year. The communication with our guests has been effectively maintained through the communication channels of Marriot and Troon, as well as through our emailing and mobile app notifications.

Pathways from the pandemic - Part 2
Lumine Mediterránea Beach & Golf Community - The Ruins Course

DARNELL / THE GROVE: We communicate as we have done through our social channels by videos, photos and news-letters. Our main messages are now brand building rather than offer led so that guests can see what is available to them at the resort more than what price they pay, as we feel the feedback received is that guests just want to come back out and have memorable experiences with their family and friends.

The biggest challenge -- short and long term ahead - is what?

DARNELL / THE GROVE: The not knowing if a second wave will hit and the uncertainty of our group business not just now but for next year, currently until the furlough scheme ends at the end of October in the UK, we do not know what further damage is yet to come in certain industries that may not be able to stay afloat.

We are just about to move into our winter months which are harder to manage in general due to weather in the UK and limited daylight hours, therefore there could be a huge risk to revenue through the next 5 months. Guidelines are changing frequently at the moment, so we need to remain on our toes and flexible in our approach as staff and with guests to ensure we can keep revenues coming in.

DENNIS / PGA NATIONAL: Long term, we see there being an impact on our in-bound golf travel, as this was a big piece of our strategy for 2021 and onwards. Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe, and we really saw an opportunity to tap into this untouched market here. Whilst we will see many visitors from European countries near to the Czech Republic, we see a reduced volume from further away destinations.

Short term, the impact has been minimal, other than the increased volume of traffic and the restrictions that were originally placed on us. We have been very fortunate in the Czech Republic, in that the pandemic has been handled well by all and life is almost back to normal here.

The Grove

PASCUAL / LUMINE: To improve what you are doing right and learn from your mistakes. We are proud of the many things we have done right over the past few months, but we also know we would have made other decisions differently if we had a second chance. These are the sort of decisions we need to learn from and make sure we do better in the future.

SEPULVEDA / COSTA NAVARINO: The upcoming year may be one of the most challenging we have ever faced. At the heart of our business philosophy lies a strong commitment to sustainability, continuously aiming at tourism development in harmony with the natural environment. So, sustainability is and will be a continuous challenge for one more year.


PGA National - Oaks Prague

The Participants

Anna Darnell
Director of Golf & Leisure
The Grove
Hertfordshire, England

Began her 15-year career at The Grove in 2005, joining as an event coordinator, before becoming the estate’s PGA Head Golf Professional two years later. She was subsequently promoted to Director of Golf, and has since broadened her role to include leisure, with additional responsibilities which include the management of the hotel reservations team including revenue management, clubhouse food and beverage and the development of the estates activities team.

Nuno Sepulveda
Golf & Sports Business Development Director
Costa Navarino
Messina, Greece

Has managed a variety of exciting teams, across multiple golf organizations and venues in Europe over the past 20 years. Nuno’s CV includes management and director positions at some exceptional venues in Portugal, including Penha Longa Golf and Hotel Resort as well as Dolce CampoReal Lisboa. His position as Director of Golf at Costa Navarino is one of the most exciting to date, a venue which offers one of the most picturesque golf landscapes in Greece, and a golf course to match.”

Paul Dennis
Director of Golf, PGA
PGA National
Prague, Czech Republic

Originally from England, Paul has been a PGA professional golfer for 25 years. After joining Troon Golf in 2004 and a tenure at The Grove in London, Paul moved to the Middle East to manage clubs in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and then Muscat. Asia then beckoned with a move to Langkawi in Malaysia, before returning to the Middle East as part of the opening team at Troon's new flagship property and European Tour venue Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia. Paul is now in his 15th year with Troon and has joined the Oaks team as Director of Golf.

Agustin Garcia Pascual
Chief Business Officer
Lumine Mediterránea Beach & Golf Community
Tarragona, Spain

Current Chief Business officer of Lumine Mediterránea Beach & Golf Community. His professional career in golf management includes; General Manager of PGA Golf Catalunya in 1999, General Director at the historic club of Real Golf de Pedreña in 2009, where he helped contribute to the creation of The Royal Spanish Golf Federation, and a former Director of the Seve Ballesteros Foundation.

Furthermore, since airlines keep changing their flight schedules and routings from week to week, it is quite tricky and difficult for our guests travelling from abroad to plan their visit to Costa Navarino, especially for elder people that play golf and are afraid of the contagion of Covid-19. So, until the borders are completely unrestricted, and a vaccine is distributed, golf business will probably be kept relatively low as it was previous spring and this fall.

The only differentiating point from this year to the next, is that bookings made for spring 2021 are being cancelled throughout the whole year, in contrast to last spring and upcoming fall, that cancellations were made mainly in a 72-hours time period.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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