Upcoming intersections with PGA of America and NCAA
by Matt Ward
In the last several years the rising stature of Omni Hotels and Resort has been both noticeable and striking. Headquartered in Dallas, TX, the company was founded in 1958 as Dunley Hotels, and operates 50 properties in the United States, Canada and Mexico — totaling over 20,000 rooms and employing more than 23,000 people.
Golf is clearly front and center with several properties providing top tier offerings. Among the more noted courses are Omni Bedford Springs, in PA; Omni LaCosta Resort & Spa in CA; Omni Mount Washington Resort, NH; Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in TX and The Omni Homestead Resort, VA, among several others.
In March 2020, plans were approved for the PGA of America’s Omni Hotel & Resort in Frisco, TX — just outside of Dallas. The hotel will be located on just over 30 acres of land with 500 hotel rooms and more than 45,000 square feet of meeting space.
The PGA of America will be moving from its national headquarters in North Palm Beach, FL and basing its central operations out of Frisco, TX. Plans to stage major golf events are already in the works.
36 holes of golf will be included with the project and the main championship course will be designed by renowned architect Gil Hanse. Plans to host the 109th and 116th PGA Championships are scheduled for 2027 and 2034 respectively. The hosting of a possible Ryder Cup Match in the near future is also expected.
Omni Hotels & Resort is also moving forward in showcasing its Carlsbad, CA, location at LaCosta Resort & Spa. The original 36-hole design by Dick Wilson was a long time stop on the PGA TOUR and will feature an updated Champion Course by Hanse commencing in 2022. The facility is already signed to stage the NCAA men’s and women’s championships from 2024-2026 and could very well become the permanent site for collegiate golf’s preeminent event.
To better understand the momentum generated by Omni Hotels & Resorts, an interview with Dan Surette, Chief Sales Officer was completed.
Dan Surette is chief sales officer at Omni Hotels & Resorts where he leads the brand’s sales strategy. Appointed to the role in 2019, Surette is responsible for creating and driving innovative sales, branding, communications and business development strategies to increase awareness, capture market share and build revenue for the brand.
With more than 30 years of experience in the industry and 20 years of senior-level sales leadership experience, Surette worked at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc, for more than 15 years — most recently as vice president of North American sales and field marketing. Surette previously worked with Hyatt Hotels Corporation for more than a decade — serving in various sales and marketing roles of increasing responsibility.
You wake up in the morning — what’s your driving passion?
Today, I am focused with our teams in growing our business again post-COVID. The hotel and travel business was decimated and Omni Hotels & Resorts was no exception. We are excited to see some leisure and group begin to come back and having the vaccines available this early is positive news for our business.
All golf facilities worldwide have been impacted by the pandemic — how did 2020 fare for the various Omni golf properties?
As mentioned, COVID-19 swiftly and significantly impacted the hospitality industry. We temporarily suspended operations at 44 hotels within a portfolio of 51. With very low volumes in group and business travel, we’ve seen a rise in leisure travel — albeit still significantly down due to the pandemic.
Resorts lend themselves well for leisure travel, and as such, our golf resorts were some of the first to reopen in May and June. Additionally, with new social distancing measures and activities on the rise, golf became a very popular sport this year. That said, our golf rounds have remained strong for the last 7 months.
What key lessons have been learned given the circumstances all properties are facing?
We’ve learned that we can pivot very quickly, and we’ve had to do that quite a bit this year. We’ve shifted our focus drastically from group and business travel to leisure and it will remain that way for the next 18-24 months, most likely. We also believe in safe travel, which is why we created and put a lot of effort and training into the Omni Safe & Clean initiative.
Who is your ideal customer?
Because of the great function space and features we have at our resorts, we have always had a nice balance of leisure and group guests. We find a large percentage our meeting and catering event attendees take advantage of the tremendous golf, spa and other amenities while staying with us. We love that we have a wonderful repeat percentage of families and multi-generational groups that will return year after year.
What strategies are you implementing marketing wise to both keep your loyal customers and to capture those who may have interest in what Omni is doing?
As previously mentioned, we’ve shifted our marketing focus from group and business to leisure. We’re creating unique, individualized experiences for small groups. For example, micro-weddings are on the rise and our team is executing those flawlessly. Two other examples are Here Comes Omni: Road Ready RV and a Platinum Status upgrade offer with Select Guest (Omni’s loyalty program). The Road Ready RV gave us an opportunity to meet with clients in various cities, give back to Feeding America AND demonstrate that you can host groups safely. With the Platinum Upgrade offer, we aimed to capture and engage consumers who were (hotel) brand-agnostic.
Plenty of companies routinely tout the importance of service. What defines the essence of service to you and the approach followed by Omni?
The “Power of One” is our service philosophy and is one of the things that distinguishes Omni from the rest. This simple philosophy is our belief that every single guest interaction is an opportunity to delight a guest and deliver a memorable experience. And, we give our associates the power to determine what this means for each guest because it’s different for everyone.
Omni will play a central role in the forthcoming Omni PGA Frisco Resort — how will that involvement add to the company’s overall profile and brand?
Omni PGA Frisco Resort is a game-changer for Omni Hotels & Resorts, adding to our incredible portfolio of golf courses across the country. Having architects like Beau Welling and Gil Hanse creating these championship courses, this resort will be one of the best in the country.
This resort and its golf facilities will be the new modern home of American golf and we’re working directly with PGA of America to appeal to golfers of all levels. Omni’s involvement in this project really solidifies our long-term commitment to the game of golf and our leisure guests and clients who are looking for this offering.
In the short and long term for Omni what are the biggest happenings for Omni and how does the company expect to handle each? What potential challenges do you foresee?
Next year is a big year for Omni. We’re opening two hotels, and recently opened another this past October. Omni Oklahoma City Hotel opens in January, following by Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport in the summer. Opening hotels during the middle of the pandemic is a challenge, but we are well-suited for success given our ownership structure.
In the long term, we are looking forward to travel fully rebounding. When it comes to golf, definitely looking forward to Omni PGA Frisco Resort and also the Gil Hanse redesigned Champions Course at Omni La Costa where we will host the NCAA Championships in 2024-2026.
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