Now is not the time to cut back, hide away or panic; it's the time to be creative.
That's the view of both our main interviewee, Donna Kenyon, recreation manager at Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi and Michael Monsod, spa and recreation manager at The Palace, The Old Town in Dubai, as they contemplate coping with the challenge of client retention during the current economic climate.
And by being creative, they explain that there are several routes leisure managers can take to address this issue. Kenyon is focused on forging networking links with other recreation teams in Abu Dhabi, proving that sharing information is better than keeping secrets in tougher times, and also on establishing regular meetings with the other Rotana leisure managers in the UAE, thus making the most of the resources available.
Her aim, she says, is not to introduce lots of new projects, but to focus on relaunching what they already have at the impressive Beach Club at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi. As she says, "we have a really good product; it's just communicating that across to people".
A similar thing is true for Monsod, who is focused on rebranding and relaunching The Spa at The Palace, following the property's management takeover by Emaar Hospitality Group from Accor's Sofitel brand last year.
Again, he has an advantage because the spa is a fantastic facility, but Monsod is focusing on capitalising on its USPs and making sure people know about them, something he won't be shaken on, budget cuts or not.
And it seems marketing experts in the region are thinking along the same lines as our recreation and spa managers. A positive vibe runs through our marketing roundtable, with marketers working to realign their strategies to the current climate and all agreeing that now is the time to be in the public eye, not to shy away from it.
The more savvy marketers will be looking at cost-effective forms of e-marketing, with the advent of social media providing new opportunities.
The main challenge for some leisure operations in the region, however, is that not all of you benefit from the knowledge and support of an in-house marketing team. According to ITP Business Publishing's Destination Marketing Survey, 16% of you have no marketing team at all.
Therefore, the roundtable on the print issue of Leisure Manager is concluded with some invaluable advice from Diamond Advertising's Piers Bracher on how to establish your marketing priorities in 2009.
His conclusion is to be flexible; with no-one knowing how the impact of the economic downturn will pan out, a creative approach to communication will be your best bet.
Louise Oakley is the editor of Leisure Manager.
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