Pathways from the pandemic - Part 6

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Phoenix and Scottsdale push ahead (Continued)
Posted on
April 3, 2021
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7

Pathways from the pandemic - Part 6
The Wigwam Welcome Arch, Courtesy: The Wigwam

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes


Facilities with golf offerings saw a clear spike in usage. What steps are you taking to continue to reap such gains going forward?

POWERS: Our creativity did not end with our food offerings – we also came up with some creative programming for the greens, even though our property is home to three of the top courses in the USA. New programs that make the game fun for everyone include golf buddy trips where our team will help guests plan a group golf trip and Taste on the Green.

LASKEY: Golf has been a very popular way for people to safely enjoy outdoor recreation during the pandemic. While Wyndham Destinations does not own or operate golf courses, we have several great partnerships with regional courses allowing us to offer a seamless experience for owners and guests. Some of our golf course partners even provide discounts on rounds of golf and at their associated restaurants just for staying at a Wyndham Destinations vacation club resort.

MCCAHAN:  We are making sure that our greens stay in great shape, always refining and enhancing the experience both on the course and at Rusty’s, and operating with the best protocols in place.

MCANLIS-VASQUEZ: Talking Stick Golf Club is a leader in player development and our partnership with Vision 54 and LaBauve Golf, really has elevated those efforts. That, paired with the spectacular mountain views of the valley, allows the Salt River Indian Community to offer a golf experience unlike any other in the valley.

BARR: Not only are established golfers booking and playing more, but there’s also an enormous spike in new players and juniors. Making a good first impression is among our highest priorities. Our goal is to turn an introduction to golf into a lifelong love of the game.


Mountain Shadows - The Short Course Putting Green, Courtesy: Mountain Shadows


Customer feedback / service represent two central components. How does the pandemic shape that dimension going forward and what new strategies will need to be developed accordingly?

MCANLIS-VASQUEZ: Each of our District properties does their best to deliver on our Heritage of Hospitality promise which includes keeping guests happy and safe. Although the health climate has changed, our commitment has not. We welcome guest feedback at any time, as creative ideas come from everywhere and feedback helps us better understand a perspective we don’t always get to see. 

BARR: Our guests have different needs now than they did just a year ago. We’ve adopted better listening and customer satisfaction tools like mystery shopping services that allow us to identify points of interest or potential areas of improvement and quickly address them. 

POWERS: We take pride in the personable experience we provide to all of our guests. Any guest staying or dining at The Wigwam will be treated with the utmost respect and will feel taken care of – pre-, during-, and post-pandemic. We will continue to make our guests feel comfortable by adapting our procedure as needed to ensure the health and safety of all of our guests.

LASKEY: Wyndham Destinations has a dedicated Consumer Insight team helping us stay on top of consumer sentiment and trends. We also get feedback from every owner and guest who stays with us immediately following a stay. We use this data to identify trends helping us improve our customer experience. For example, we heard from a number of our guests how much they enjoyed getting RFID wristbands in place of regular room card keys. We make them part of our check in experience across our portfolio.

MCCAHAN: Safety and mask protocols may be a challenge due to different points of view as we come out of the pandemic. With international travel mostly paused, it may benefit the markets like Phoenix that have practical safety protocols and many attractive outdoor activities. Players at our course are not required to wear a mask while playing, or while seated outdoors at Rusty’s -- where our tables are socially distanced -- so the impact of the protocols is quite minimal to the experience.

Scottsdale Pool, Courtesy: Wyndham Destinations

Much has been written about consumers having pent up demand to travel. What steps are you taking to separate yourself from your competitors in order to stand apart and be noticed?

POWERS: With 440 acres of wide-open spaces and a variety of outdoor recreation, our property naturally lends itself to travelers looking for a safe and memorable getaway to spread out and spend time with loved ones. The Wigwam is Arizona's only resort with 54 holes of championship golf, offering unmatched diversity.

MCCAHAN: Our location at the base of Camelback Mountain is breathtaking. The 18-hole, par-3 course is fun and fast. Every hole is unique in design and golfers can play all 18 holes in under 3 hours and still have time for other activities, which is a major differentiator and definitely a growing trend in golf.

BARR: The golf space Phoenix/Scottsdale area is extremely competitive already and latent travel demand only increases competition for visitors. We believe our golf experience is among the best in the area, certainly, but it’s extremely important to increase and add value to the experience whenever we can through special events, value-add packages and the promotion of our adjacent world-class gaming and dining options.

LASKEY: We are absolutely seeing pent-up travel demand in the Phoenix / Scottsdale area. What sets our resorts apart are apartment- style accommodations featuring separate rooms, dining spaces, and fully-equipped kitchens -- perfect for a group golf trip or family getaway.

MCANLIS-VASQUEZ: We are a small community with big heart and one of the strengths that has stood out in the last 12 months is our support of one another. Our businesses continue to cross promote one another and collaborate with local hotels on stay and play packages and we are really celebrating those community partnerships right now.


Pathways from the pandemic - Part 6
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club Saguaro Course #4, Courtesy: We-Ko-Pa Golf Club

The biggest remaining challenges -- short and long term -- is what?

BARR: Uncertainty always brings challenges. As things get back to normal, it will be important to be in a position to meet demand without damaging or downgrading the overall experience. Simply meeting the bare minimum requirements is not acceptable. The long-term future of the game of golf depends on using these opportunities to elevate the entire golf experience and the game itself.

MCANLIS-VASQUEZ: The impacts of the last 12 months are going to be felt for years to come, but the hospitality industry, the state of Arizona and the Salt River Indian Community have one universal thing in common- a love of visitors and a desire to elevate their experience, and we look forward to seeing everyone again when they are ready.

POWERS: Adapting to ever-changing procedures to provide a safe and comfortable stay for our guests.

MCCAHAN: Thankfully, the vaccination rate is increasing, but that does not mean COVID is fully behind us. We will continue to monitor the situation and be prepared for any protocol changes that are needed. Thankfully, with golf being an outdoor activity and based on Arizona regulations, we do not anticipate a dip in business levels on the course anytime soon. Short term, our biggest challenge is fully staffing up our team.

LASKEY: Short term, is the ongoing uncertainty the pandemic has put into the minds of many travelers. It is our job to put that uncertainty at ease and demonstrate to our owners and guests we have the proper protocols in place as they get back to vacationing. Long term, our focus remains on maintaining the same high standards of cleanliness and safety standards at each of our nearly 250 resorts across our portfolio, especially as we see more of our owners and guests return to their favorite destinations.

Talking Stick Oodham Golf Course #7, Courtesy: Talking Stick Golf Club


The Participants


Director of Golf and Club Operations
Mountain Shadows Resort
Scottsdale, Arizona


Joined Mountain Shadows as part of the grand reopening team in March 2017, overseeing the resort’s fitness center, gift shop, membership, golf, and golf course maintenance operations. Prior to working at Mountain Shadows, he spent 25 years at The Boulders Golf Resort, where he most recently led the golf operation and membership of the 5-diamond facility. While at The Boulders, he was named Manager of the Year in 2003 by the resort as well as Manager of the Year in 2008 by the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association. He has been a PGA Member in the Southwest Section since 1989.



PGA / General Manager
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Arizona



Has been employed by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation since May of 2005 and has held a variety of positions at the golf club during his tenure, including; Assistant Golf Professional, Head Golf Professional and General Manager.  He has been in his current position since May, 2013.  He also serves on a variety of committees within the Tribal Nation, such as; the Resort Destination Tourism Committee, the Policies and Procedures Ad-hoc Committee and the Fort McDowell Casino Steering Committee.



Regional Vice President of Resort Operations
Wyndham Destinations



Jonathan Laskey oversees properties across Las Vegas, Arizona, and Mexico. Originally from Hawaii, he started working in the hospitality industry in Waikiki over 25 years ago. Since then, he has held various leadership roles in both the hotel and timeshare divisions that has taken him from Hawaii to the East Coast, before joining the Wyndham Destinations team 4 years ago.



Tourism Division Manager 
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
Scottsdale, Arizona



Has served nine years as Tourism Division Manager and is also an enrolled member with the Community. Vasquez is an Arizona native and graduate of both Arizona State University and Grand Canyon State University. Vasquez believes her Community has a vibrant story to tell and wants to help control that narrative so the story stays true and is one her children will celebrate as they grow.



Managing Director and General Manager
The Wigwam
Litchfield Park, Arizona



Joined The Wigwam in 2013 as Director of Food and Beverage and saw an impressive rise in dining outlet revenues and profitability throughout her tenure. Two years later, promoted to Resort Manager to oversee a wealth of responsibilities including full management of the property. Now serving as the Managing Director and General Manager of The Wigwam for the last three years.

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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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