This is why I thought to ask Ben Styles (Vice President of Golf at Hoiana Shores Golf Club / Hoiana Integrated Resort) about their business challenges.
How will you design & develop customer experience for your future guests and members?
Creating a refined customer journey is a challenge in any developing market due to the lack of a highly skilled workforce.
In our case, there are some, but not nearly enough potential staff who have been trained on the job at other Danang-area courses.
There are several local and international vocational colleges in our region that specialize in hospitality curricula, but there was no golf-specific course or curricula on offer.
So we took matters into our own hands here at Hoiana. We secured a long-term pipeline of trained staff by creating our own training facility.
We founded the Golf Operations and Maintenance Class, as part of our core-training program at Quang Nam-Hoiana Vocational Training College in nearby Quang Nam, where we invested in modifying a former textile college.
We then wrote the syllabi for Golf Operations, Caddies and Golf Maintenance and had the Vietnamese government notarize it and offer a seal and signature for all graduating students.
We currently have 40 maintenance staffers and 54 caddies joining Hoiana Shores Golf Club since this program started in January 2019.
In addition to a one of its kind training facility all students from this program are guaranteed employment at Hoiana Shores Golf Club.
How do you want to provide a stimulating and helpful environment for your future employees?
Let’s go back to the vocational education path that we’ve created.
These degrees are accredited with the government, which is so important here; without that, golf course workers in Vietnam are not recognized as professionals with legitimate wage-earning positions.
Right now, due to the lack of accreditation, golf course workers cannot do things like get a bank loan, for example.
This accreditation is a huge development for Vietnamese nationals who work in the golf industry. That is why we are hopeful that this approach is replicated around the country.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the huge investment Hoiana has made in a state-of-the-art, 960-room Staff Village that includes sports field, gyms and restaurants right on the resort grounds.
Residence here is a significant benefit for Hoiana employees.
What are your biggest challenges to attract great talents to your team?
On the service and course maintenance side of this business, our challenge was finding people with golf-specific training. Hence, the measures described above.
On the professional and managerial side, there are always challenges in retaining talent in the hospitality sector, especially in a vibrant tourism destination like Central Vietnam.
There is often movement among staff, across the region, it is just the nature of the industry.
In fact, 10-15 years ago, it was far more difficult to attract capable chefs, directors of sales & marketing and general managers to Vietnam.
It was more of an unknown place, even in Asia. Well, that has changed. Vietnam is seen today as a wonderful place to work: affordable, safe, culturally rich and home to some of the best brands in the business.
Attracting that sort of talent has not been a problem.
How do you want to serve various generations (e.g. Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, etc.) to fit their lifestyles?
Vietnam is so demographically young — and golf is still so new to the culture — that we are obligated to serve its specific needs.
That means an active junior golf program with aggressive outreach. It means catering to young families and making it possible for them to play together.
Given our Integrated Resort will cater for all the segmentations above, we believe this golf course will be an excellent host to traveling golf enthusiasts as much as families on vacation.
The design here allows for 3-hole loops and 6-hole loops, which is great for kids and new couples just starting the game.
We intend to leverage that flexibility in getting young golfers and families to our resort and out on the course.
Do you want to become GEO Certified? Where are you in the process? Give examples of your sustainability efforts!
In Southeast Asia, there are no other golf development at this stage of construction that are going through this program, as far as we’ve been told.
All others are in the planning or design stage.
So, it’s our understanding we’ll be first to achieve that GEO accreditation. Now, with GEO, construction and operational accreditation are separate things.
We’ll get to the latter; a lot of what we’ve done already has laid that specific groundwork. But first things first…
This effort has really been the purview of our course superintendent and our course contractors. Our grass choices were integral to the sustainability mandates, as well.
The greens here are Tif-Eagle Bermuda, but all the fairways and tees feature the Zeon Zoysia, a relatively new, drought-tolerant turfgrass strain specially developed to provide firm, fast conditions in equatorial regions like this one.
This choice was both sustainable and strategic:
Many “tropical links” are built entirely on sand; several more feature the properly flamboyant contour associated with links golf — but few (especially those seeded with Bermuda, which is typically overwatered) have delivered the requisite bounce and roll that links design requires.
Zeon zoysia will deliver that bounce and roll, which is something of a game-changer.
But it’s also an upright grower that thrives on limited irrigation.
How do you see the future of the Vietnamese golf industry and golf tourism industry?
There is little doubt that Vietnam is the most active golf course development market in the world right now.
There are some 20 new projects in various stages of development. That’s more than you’ll find in mature markets like the United States, Korea, or the United Kingdom.
There are dozens of golf courses being refurbished in those markets, of course, as there are in China.
But new course development has traditionally been the key indicator of market strength, and if that’s the measure, these are surely booming times in Vietnam.
Once upon a time, golf really was something foreign to most.
Now, however, it is the trend for many business people to play golf — for pleasure but also for networking, much like it progressed in other countries beginning of the ‘90s.
Vietnam is a truly wonderful country and a must visit golfing destination now. We can’t wait to see what is next in store for this country.