What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
First and foremost, our concern lies with the people around the world who are sick and or struggling to provide for their families. Because our business and destination are tied to tourism, all of our team members and partners have been significantly impacted. All resorts within the Solmar Group closed on March 23 and the golf course closed in early April. We had just celebrated the official grand opening of our new Greg Norman course in February and were nearing full occupancy at the resorts for March and April. We need for the containment to get to a better place so that the borders open back up, flight routes resume, and people feel safe traveling again.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
The health and prosperity of Los Cabos is deeply intertwined with the vision of Solmar, so we have been working to support the community and our employees through the Solmar Foundation. Created in 2011, the Solmar Foundation is putting all its efforts behind educating and safeguarding small, poverty-stricken communities in the Cabo area that don’t have access to electricity, much less accurate news of Covid-19 and the current world situation. The team has been working to prepare these communities for any possible spread of the virus, sharing hygiene instructions and providing food and paper goods. Solmar hotel workers are also providing self-employment tips (teaching jewelry design, carpentry, etc.) and donating 100% of the necessary supplies so these people can start their own micro-businesses and get ahead in these times of need. Additionally, the Solmar Foundation is also supporting employees that need help during this difficult time.
It’s important that we take care of our employees without jeopardizing the integrity of the project and the bottom line. The Solmar Group was very proactive in closing down all seven hotels in the collection, including Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas, prior to the government mandate at the end of March. We have kept our finger on the pulse of American directives, specifically California, as that drives a big portion of our business. We are working to stay abreast of travel trends and forecasting for the future so that we are prepared for the comeback as opposed to operating from behind.
To keep the Solmar brand top of mind, the resort is engaging guests and owners through consistent communications across newsletters, blogs, and virtual content on its social media pages. We’ve been sharing recipes and have a golf tips series with our pro, Mario Navarro, launching in late April. We’re also hosting a virtual Cinco de Mayo fiesta across Solmar’s social media channels with an “avocado apprenticeship” coming up. Flexible travel and golf packages have been created to encourage hotel bookings for a later date and can be found here.
Along with promoting the Norman Estates and The Villas at Rancho San Lucas, the real estate team is focused on unveiling a price-sensitive real estate product for golf aficionados seeking privileged, convenient access to the club while being mindful of the overall costs. In addition, the Rancho San Lucas Golf Club has recently acquired a fleet of Skooza golf scooters, a self-balancing, 100% electric, zero emission fat-tire scooter designed for single-rider mobility—perfect for social distancing.
Along with promoting the Norman Estates and The Villas at Rancho San Lucas, the real estate team is focused on unveiling a price-sensitive real estate product for golf aficionados seeking privileged, convenient access to the club while being mindful of the overall costs.
In early April, we were looking at a two-week shutdown. The quarantine in Cabo has now been extended through the month of May. While we were initially meeting in person, albeit at a safe distance, currently everything is online and over the phone. Our team is in process of developing and implementing a plan of action to weather all direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic, short term and long term. It’s important that we mindfully manage the day-in and day-out needs, but with multiple auxiliary plans in place so that we can pivot accordingly in a timely manner.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
I believe it will come back slower than we would all like, but it will come back. I think we will all have to step up our game, as the competition will get tougher. Travelers and buyers will be more discerning with their spending as it pertains to vacations and buying real estate. I believe people will be looking to support those companies that are doing good in the world, whether that be through eco-friendly initiatives or charitable contributions. I’m proud to work with a company that has long prioritized these movements.
Now more than ever, it is important to continue with marketing to share key messaging and differentiators in order to remain top of mind for buyers and guests when the market comes back.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
In Cabo, we have had to deal with a few significant natural disasters, that not only shut down businesses, but in some cases, required re-building them from the ground up. Specifically, during Hurricane Odile, Los Cabos took a catastrophic hit. It was an overwhelming disaster that impacted both small and large businesses. Families were devastated and displaced. Our initial priority was to do our best to assist and care for our employee base, many of whom lost everything. This was especially difficult because of the numerous psychological and physical hardships involved.
Thereafter, we had to rebuild the business before we could receive guests and clients. We were once again reminded of the value of loyal employees—many of whom showed up to work for the rebuild, when they themselves had lost everything. The lesson learned was take care of those that take care of you. Fortunately, from a humanitarian position, this was our initial instinct. From a management position, it was key not to panic and overreact; leadership was needed and necessary more than ever. In the end, the message that prevailed was that hard work, resilience and determination pay off when you come together for the greater good. We are coming from that same position during the current crisis, doing our best to lead with both intention and compassion.
We’re currently looking to avoid relying on others to have the same mindset/priorities as we do and waiting for others to bail us out; it is not productive and it costs valuable time. During this crisis we have had the opportunity to be proactive and plan accordingly. We are using this time to tend to tasks that would otherwise be on the back-burner.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I am innately a disciplined person; my routine is one that brings me both peace and joy. I get up early, walk my dog, feed my dog, and then do some sort of exercise—and this is when I do some of my best thinking and planning. I shower, grab coffee, eat breakfast, and sit down to attack my emails. Thereafter I work from my list, tracking and moving tasks and projects. I like to time block and stay on a schedule, even when working from home.
I am not a big TV person, but we received a list of programs from our kids and we are watching some good documentaries: The Pharmacist, The Keepers, and we are playing a lot of cards.
Books: Mind Gym—An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack with David Casstevens; Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss; The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz; and Ninja Selling by Larry Kendall. Digitally, I’m looking at the trade magazines and The Financial Times.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
My wife and I are cooking a lot together and creating more of a ritual with our meals, which has been very nice. It’s amazing what you can create in your own kitchen with an online video. We are also working on training our dog, and that has been fun. We are watching documentaries, reading, playing cards, and making plans.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Prior to the pandemic I did Pilates, played golf, and hiked etc., so exercise is an important component to my daily routine. Now I exercise at home the old-fashioned way and walk our dog, a lot. I listen to both motivational and meditation apps and have taken the opportunity to do some online courses. I have to say that the one good thing to come out of this travesty is that we now do a lot of Facetiming with our kids. Prior to the shut-down, it was a weekly call and delayed responses to our texts—now we are communicating every day and more importantly having meaningful conversations. We even do a family “happy hour” once a week and get the extended family involved.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
First and foremost, we plan to visit our kids; thereafter our parents and siblings. Since they are all scattered across the United States, a family vacation and/or reunion is under consideration. We are discussing different locations, but we all agree that a nice hotel, with great spa amenities, and a golf course are at the top of the list. We all enjoy good food and wine, so we will be eager to hit some great restaurants. As for extended travel, my wife and I have a big anniversary coming up, and a trip to Greece is still on the bucket list, but we will have to see how things shake out on the world stage.