INTERVIEW WITH TIM HADDON, GENERAL MANAGER AT BA NA HILLS GOLF CLUB
Managed by IMG and designed by former World number 1, Luke Donald in association with IMG, the stunning Ba Na Hills Golf Club is set in the foothills and forests of the famed Ba Na Hills, only 25 minutes from Da Nang City in Vietnam.
The course is surrounded by magnificent scenery that offers spectacular views on every hole. Playing to a par of 72, this highly regarded championship layout, offers a great test of golf and a wonderful golf experience. A world class driving range and magnificent clubhouse add to the excellent facilities.
Recently awarded for the fourth consecutive time “Best Golf Course in Asia” and “Best Golf Course in Vietnam” by the World Golf Awards 2020, Ba Na Hills is ranked 89th in Golf Digest magazine’s highly acclaimed World Top 100 Courses ranking.
In an exclusive interview, Tim Haddon talks about Ba Na Hills and how the Club is adapting to the current global situation.
1 – Despite the challenging year, 2020 has once again been a successful one for Ba Na Hills in terms of awards. The Club has been awarded Asia’s and Vietnam’s Best Golf Course at the World Golf Awards for the fourth consecutive year. How does it feel to lead such a successful Club?
I am extremely lucky here to have not only a great product in terms of golf course and facilities, but also in the team that we have and to be so well supported by the ownership group.
Most of the senior management have been with us from the very beginning, since opening in 2016. That helped us ensure the continuity of the IMG brand standards and delivery of a high-quality service at all times. In essence, it’s the whole package that keeps the awards coming to Ba Na Hills.
2 – Ba Na Hills was designed by Luke Donald in association with IMG, and today you continue to be an IMG managed Club. From a business and marketing perspective, how does it benefit you to be associated with these two strong names in the game of golf?
To stand out amongst the many golf course in the market, you need to have an edge or an advantage that can set you apart from the crowd.
We were lucky enough from the beginning to have IMG involved from the very early stages of the project, helping us with overall master planning design, clubhouse setup and pre-opening procedures.
This turn-key involvement meant that the IMG message in terms of quality and branding was carried through to the ongoing operations we see today. Secondly to have the support structure that comes along with being an IMG managed club is invaluable, as we are able to tap into their considerable resources which not only include operational support and material, but an extensive worldwide media reach thanks to the IMG Prestige global network.
3 – You are committed to offer a 5-star service at the Club and Ba Na Hills has also been recently recognized by TripAdvisor as a 2020 Travellers’ Choice award-winner. Which challenges do you need to overcome to achieve that?
Social Media allows anyone to share their thoughts about a business or service publicly.
As long as it is used to help gauge how your product is being perceived by guests, it is one of our most powerful tools to measure how you are preforming.
For us is really important to find the right balance in what we offer to golfers visiting our destination. We notice that their expectations vary from simple things such as tee-time intervals, pace of play or selection of menu items on offer.
4 – What would you say were the main changes in your business model, since the start of the pandemic?
We had a particularly hard time as we were 90% reliant on international inbound business and when our borders were shut in early March, our whole business model had to quickly adapt. We went from a destination of 7 courses and doing an average 220,000 rounds a year, to having access to a local market of only 500 active golfers.
Our strategy had to change quick and we started to concentrate mainly in the Vietnamese market, adapting our offer to them. We feel the local market is driven mainly by the greenfee rates, so having attractive packages is key to convert business.
We are no-where near the 2019 business levels, although can see already a monthly growth in the national market.
5 – Based on the current situation in Vietnam and Asia, how is your business plan looking like for 2021?
Whilst it is hard to predict when and where business will come from in the near future, we have strong hopes that we will see a return of regional Asian inbound business from next July. We also expect to see golfers from Europe and the US returning in Q1 2022.
Our fate is dependent on each countries’ ability to control the pandemic and to which countries the Vietnamese government will open boarders over the next few months.
To date, Vietnam has kept good control measures in place with just over 1,000 cases recorded and 36 deaths since the beginning of the crisis.
With the chance of a vaccine being rolled out very soon, we are optimistic that 2021 will be a much better year than 2020.