Just as with the rest of the hospitality world, golf resorts have been turned upside down by the global pandemic. In this era of disruption, golf resorts want to make sure they meet their guests’ expectations and needs. That means adopting the right tech to improve the guest experience and operational efficiency while balancing the traditions of the golfing experience that guests expect. The technology strategy for golf resorts in 2022 and beyond is not the same as it was 10 or even 5 years ago.
Quinta do Lago, in the Algarve, Portugal, is a great example of a large golf resort applying a tailor-made IT strategy across their massive property that includes 13+ F&B outlets, three golf courses, and much more.
We sat down with Sónia Moreira, Quinta do Lago’s CRM Manager, to learn about the IT strategy that guides their golf and resort operations, as well as best practices to share with other organizations out there, whether large or small and how the lockdown period caused them to reshape their plans to be more futureproofed.
Tell us about Quinta do Lago.
Quinta do Lago is a very established resort in the Algarve and is renowned both in Portugal and outside of Europe. We have a very particular ecosystem because our resort is focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and environmental consciousness. So, that’s pretty much our mission – to be a very sustainable and environmental resort. We do have our primary golf courses, but we are also expanding into having a high-performance center that offers a lot of sports like rugby, tennis, football, and a rugby camp. We have real estate, of course, property management, and a selection of restaurants that are very unique to the place. There’s a strong sense of community here among our members and residents.
How many golf courses do you have on property?
We have three golf courses and they’re very different from each other. Playing one is not playing all three. We have the South Course, which is our championship course where we hosted several Opens and tournaments. We have been a part of the European tour circuit, which we still belong to now. Laranjal, our newest course, was built on an orange grove and a bit away from the resort, so it’s more secluded and is very well received by our guests.
How do you manage all of your different customer profiles? How do you keep them organized and create personalized service for each?
To be honest, that might be the biggest project that we have had to date because we see it as something that is always growing. In 2017, we implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM across the resort and we’re still in the implementation process today. It continues to evolve and is something that will always be evolving.
We want to know, “That’s Mr. Smith. How many times has he been to our restaurants? What’s his favorite dish? How many times has he stayed at our hotel and how many times has he played golf? Does he have a preference for playing in the morning on the South Course?”
We’re still gathering all those insights, which will be crucial in delivering better service.
What is your philosophy on using technology to improve the guest experience?
There are a lot of ongoing projects at the moment. We always try to keep on top of the newest trends that our partners are developing and delivering. Last year, at this time, we were talking about web clients and how that could fit into our resort. We were also considering payments and how they could be better integrated into the guest experience. So, we started building a roadmap, and to be honest, it’s quite extensive as you can imagine since we have different software with different solutions. We’re now in the process of using these roadmaps to build a framework that is synced to the customer’s profile, essentially creating a single guest profile to share among all our systems. We want the guest experience to be completely available to them on the app. We are now finalizing our mobile app to be integrated with our point of sale system, which will allow the customer to make purchases within the stay experience, reducing transactional friction.
Do you think the members’ and guests’ expectations have changed since the pandemic?
I think our world has changed. For example, we are now looking more at how to turn our resort into a fully contactless guest experience. A lesson learned from all of this is that we want our guests – regardless of being a member of the resort, a resident at our hotels, or a one time visitor – to have access to a mobile application that will unlock all the services for them as soon as they step foot onto the resort. We’re talking about contactless payments or booking a treatment or tee time,-basically booking anything that we provide all in one place. Obviously while still providing our high level of quality service, we want to enable the guests to explore the resort in a more digital sense and at their pace, wherever they are. Excellent service isn’t just having someone ready behind a desk, but having service available whenever the guest needs it.
In terms of the golf operation specifically, have there been any changes?
We are slowly changing. The level of service in golf is very traditional where the customer still likes to go to the pro shop and have in-person contact. It’s still the same level of attention that the golf customer would like to receive. While we have seen an increase in online bookings, a lot of customers still reach out to us in the traditional ways – by phone or email – because they like the level of attention they receive through these channels. From an operations point of view, we, of course, always try to look into being more efficient and delivering better service. We will certainly still change a few things, while always keeping in mind that any changes made need to increase service and quality for our guests.
What are some things that you think more golf course owners and operators should pay attention to in the near future?
In the near future, to be honest, we will all be moving to more digitized experiences and complimentary services that will enhance the overall guest journey. Everything is now moving towards cloud services and needs to deliver fast information to guests. We need to make the most amount of information possible available to them, in order to customize experiences and personalize services by knowing exactly who they are and what they’re looking for.
What would you say to a golf resort that wanted to achieve a similar level of personalization? Is there a mindset they can have or a certain way of approaching it?
You don’t really need a powerful CRM when you’re just a golf resort or don’t have the expansion plans that some resorts have. You already have a good idea of what your customer behavior is and by understanding that behavior, you can start segmenting, and slowly start adding more personalized touches in your approach to the guests. You can also start measuring, too. We always measure what we are doing, the results that we’re seeing, and the changes that we’re introducing.
Be aware of the market and technology because, ultimately, everything will be very digital in the future. So, it’s better to just start thinking about it and getting in that mindset by truly focusing.