Behind the Scenes with David Fine at PGA National: Guest Engagement is the Key to Success

To say the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida is a unique destination is an overwhelming understatement. Opened in 1982, this 34-year-old gem has played host to celebrities and dignitaries from around the globe.

Recently, I had a one-on-one conversation with the property’s Senior Vice President, Sales and Market Development, David Fine. This 36-year veteran of the hospitality industry was honored in 2015 as one of The HSMAI Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization – an honor which is greatly deserved. He and the PGA National team bring a unique perspective to their brand.

David: “I love this property and this market. It’s a very stable environment.”

Bill: “Let’s talk about the PGA for a moment. As most everyone knows, PGA National hosts The Honda Classic each year as part of what the Tour calls its Florida Swing. What are the challenges involved in hosting an international event like that?”

David: “I don’t want to diminish the complexities related to such an event. However, each year we get a bit better, and at this point we have it down to a science. It’s the pinnacle of our year. Over the four-day tournament we will play host to over 220,000 people – tour pros, VIPs, more than 300 people from the international press, and, of course, our hotel guests. The event provides us with an international stage on which to highlight our brand. It’s very important to us as we are an independent hotel, so this exposure is crucial in our marketing efforts.”

Bill: “This brings up a good point. As many people may not know, PGA National is also a private country club. How do you balance member satisfaction against the hotel’s sales and marketing initiatives? Do the members complain about having to give up their club to the tournament, or, for that matter, to the resort guests on occasion?”

David: “Believe it or not, the vast majority of our members love to have the ‘bragging rights’ that go along with hosting a tour event. You can hear members talking about the fact that, ‘Tiger Woods used my locker and I have the glove to prove it!’”

As far as their feelings toward resort guests, David is quick to point out that it is a symbiotic relationship.

David: “The members know that the resort guests enable us to provide a far superior facility than that of a typical private club. The brand new, 33,000 Sport and Racquet Club, or our world-class spa, simply couldn’t exist without the resort guests and vice versa. The key is to always provide them with protected ‘member-only benefits.’ We’re lucky as we have 5 golf courses, of which we reserve two every day for members only. It is a delicate balance.”

Bill: “Since you’ve been in the business over three decades, what are the most influential changes you’ve seen?”

David: (Picking up his cell phone.) “This thing. Nearly 80% of our guest interaction takes place on a cell phone or a tablet. It places a tremendous amount of pressure on how we engage with people. We have to continually think about our website content and structure, as well as our social media channels. It’s difficult. Our challenge is how to translate what we have to offer into a 5” screen. We constantly analyze our metrics to see if we’re meeting the desired objectives.”

Bill: “You’ve mentioned guest engagement a number of times. How do you evaluate guest satisfaction?”

David: “A few years ago, I would have told you that we were only interested in ‘brilliantly executing the basics.’ A person I worked for early in my career used to refer to it as ‘blocking and tackling.’ Make sure the rooms are clean and up-to-date. Make certain the staff is pleasant, etc. Now, we have to be much more thoughtful and insightful. Where many hotels place revenue at the top of their marketing pyramid, we place our staff at the top. If we have happy, motivated, and satisfied staff, then they will treat our guests as the priority. If our guest satisfaction is high, revenue will follow in kind.”

This commitment to the guest is something the PGA team takes very seriously – literally tracking more than 100 different metrics on guest satisfaction. So, while most everyone in every consumer-based industry is concerned with their ‘digital and social’ image, PGA National is still very interested in the brilliant execution of the basics. The success of the resort proves that onsite guest experience still trumps ‘virtual perception.’


About Bill & David

Bill Rubino is Partner, President at Panzano+Partners, and a member of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board.

For more than 37 years, Bill has worked in both marketing and management positions in the worlds of real estate development, retail, media, and advertising. For the past 27 years, he has applied his knowledge and expertise to making Panzano+Partners a leader in the field of retail and hospitality marketing.

Prior to joining Panzano+Partners, Bill spent 10 years working with a Syracuse-based real estate organization, The Pyramid Companies, which develops, owns, and operates regional shopping centers throughout New England.

Bill resides in Southern New Jersey with his wife and their three children.

David Fine is Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Revenue Development at PGA National Resort & Spa with responsibility over group and meetings acquisitions, brand management, marketing strategy, and revenue development.

Prior to joining PGA National Resort & Spa he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for the five star, historic Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs for 4 years. With over 35 years of sales, marketing, revenue development, and communications experience, he has been successful leading the Sales and Revenue teams at several other notable Florida luxury resorts including Sonesta Hotels, Doral Golf Resort & Club, The Sheraton Bal Harbour and Key West Resorts. 

Currently, David is on the Board of Directors for Discover the Palm Beaches, a Sales and Industry Relations Committee Member and immediate Past Chair of the Meetings and Travel Trade for VISIT FLORIDA, Vice-Chairman of the Visitor Industry Council, MCVB Chairman of the Marketing Tourism Committee and a prominent member of Meeting Planners International (MPI).

In 2015, David was recognized as one of The HSMAI Top 25 Extraordinary Minds In Hospitality Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization.

Categories: Marketing, Digital
Insight Type: Articles