Fancourt – the Montague Course with the Outeniqua Mountains in the background. Picture: SUPPLIED
Fancourt – the Montague Course with the Outeniqua Mountains in the background. Picture: SUPPLIED

This discussion, with Peter Dros (PD), the director of sales and marketing at SA’s iconic Fancourt, focuses on the value of a venue being or becoming a destination.

JC: My first visit to Fancourt, courtesy of the original developer André Pieterse, was in 1989 for a walkabout on the staked-out version of the first golf course’s layout. It was a muddy hike in gumboots for some kilometres and though the setting was superb, you would have needed to be a real visionary to see down the line to what Fancourt has become today.

The bones were good, as was the setting, but it takes a lot more than that to become what is widely recognised as the region’s No‌ 1 resort.

PD: It certainly does, and in one of your features you referred to marketing’s iterative nature, and this applies in many ways to Fancourt’s development. The core structure was fine, but [Hasso] Plattner, who took over ownership of the estate in 1994, really followed through, to use a golf analogy, and the results now speak for themselves.

JC: The facilities are fantastic, but successful destinations are so much more than just the bricks and mortar. I feel that though golf is a central part of the experience at Fancourt, what underpins it, and the venue’s perennial success with such things as the World Golf Awards, will be a real understanding of hospitality.

PD: If the venue’s facilities are the bones, then what breathes life through them and makes them work is hospitality, which is what makes the guest experience. While elements such as location, facilities and things to do are key elements in what makes a venue successful as a destination, understanding and delivering the hospitality element will be the glue that holds the entire customer experience together.

JC: I have been working to getting client golf clubs and golf estates in this region to acknowledge, when it comes to the activities around the country club, that what the business must actually deliver is hospitality, with golf as one part of the broader mix. This realisation is slowly taking hold, but we still have some way to go to achieve the levels of professionalism required to be successful in these areas, while those clubs that have crossed over are still the exceptions.

Traditionally, your role would be occupied by someone with golf management experience. However, your background is in business and hospitality, which makes sense, though is not the norm. Therefore, did this make you a “perfect fit” as being someone with the right skill sets, to help to continue to develop and deliver Fancourt’s vision.

PD: As you have pointed out, Fancourt’s product offering is very mixed and is one in which golf forms a part, admittedly a very large part, of the total offering. This offering encompasses a wide range of products and services, which includes property ownership, as Fancourt is also a residential estate in the truest sense.

The need to see all of this in a hospitality management context, as opposed to from the narrower golf perspective, just makes good business sense. As to my being a “perfect fit”, I would very much doubt it, because you cannot be in this type of role and live the same year 30 times. As the venue develops, so must its personnel and management. They should be growing by constantly improving and widening their skill sets and, as a result, every day becomes a new experience. In this process, neither the venue nor staff are ever quite a finished product.

JC: This pandemic will certainly have broken a few 30 years’ strings, and we shall, as this discussion on the business of golf progresses, delve into what actually “makes” a destination and how to achieve it. In the interim, and given that travel has been loosened up with the opening of interprovincial and leisure travel, what steps have you been planning to get Fancourt “on the move” again.

PD: A full stop of this magnitude means an almost complete loss of traction. Therefore, we have been working hard to regain critical mass in terms of marketing initiatives, including a continual flow of news, offers and positive public relations messaging.

We shall need to refocus on our core values and goals, and this will also mean ensuring we are operationally up to scratch, in terms of our own high standards, but also as required by the new health protocols.

Then we shall need to reopen those “shop windows” that have been effective for us in the past to reinforce the fact that we are “back” and a destination in our own right. The key messaging here will be on Fancourt having something for everyone and perfect for a family vacation.

However, all this needs to be seen in the context of Fancourt being a part of two other larger destinations: the Garden Route and SA.

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