It has its advantages and is not without its difficulties, but to manage one of Europe's most comprehensive and major golf resorts is unquestionably a great challenge. And Sean Corte-
Real is not one to shy away from that challenge - far from it. The experienced tourist industry management professional took over the reins of La Cala Resort a few months ago.
Located in the Costa del Sol municipality of Mijas, the complex comprises three 18-hole golf courses designed by North American Cabell B. Robinson and an academy located next to a six-hole par-three course. It also has a soccer pitch and sports facilities in accordance with FIFA technical specifications, and it is the only golf resort with an eight-kilometre running circuit. The hotel has 107 rooms, three thematic restaurants and a spa extending over more than 1,300 square metres, among other services and facilities.
Smiling, affable and with a commendable grasp of the Spanish language, Portuguese Corte-Real is an industry professional with a prolific career that has taken him to various continents. He has 18 years of experience managing renowned international golf resorts and an IE masters degree from the Business School of Madrid, is a recognised expert in the management of high-end facilities around the world, and complements this knowledge with a new vision of the hotel and golf industry.
Corte Real began his career as a tourism professional and spent four years competing as a player in top tournaments throughout Europe before finally moving definitively into hotel management. His first major position was at Vila Sol Spa & Resort in Vilamoura in the Algarve (Portugal), where he eventually was promoted to golf director. While there, Corte-Real laid the foundations of his future career, achieving numerous awards for the complex.
In his quest for new challenges, he headed to Iguassu Golf Resort in Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), where he was responsible, as project manager and golf director, for promoting sports facilities in one of the country’s most important emerging destinations. From there, he moved to Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, in Alicante, where he took on the position of operations director at a complex considered to be a standard-bearer in the European golf industry. Now, managing La Cala Resort is a new incentive for him as he further develops his successful career.
"I have found a fantastic product here,” he says, "with three fantastic golf courses, an extremely interesting hotel, a great clubhouse, a wonderful spa, which has been nominated for ‘Best Spa in Spain’… There are very few resorts in Europe, and around the world, with three golf courses."
What objectives have you set yourself at the helm of La Cala Resort?
It is important to always reach the top. So a resort like this, with three golf courses and their location on the Costa del Sol, must aim to be one of the best golf resorts in Europe, a reference point for European golf.
The three course at La Cala totalled about 90,000 rounds last year. What number would you like to reach in the future?
The really important thing is that golfers who visit us enjoy themselves. Of course, the more players who come, the better, but it's also essential to maintain a level of quality and service so that they leave satisfied. There are two important aspects - quality and number of golfers - and the important thing is balance, so we have not set ourselves a goal or total in that sense.
What nationalities predominate among La Cala Resort’s golf clientele?
As on the whole Costa del Sol, the British and Irish make up the majority, with 50 per cent or so, and then there are the Nordic countries, a very strong market for us, Germany, France, which over the past two or three years has grown a lot, the same as Belgium…
Would you like the Spanish market to grow more?
Certainly, we are in Spain and the more we can do for this market, the better. I know that in the past La Cala’s course had a bit of a reputation for being very difficult, but the truth is that in the past
three or four years, with our greenkeeper’s good work, we have opened up the fairways a lot and rectified past difficulties. The reality is that now they are more like what we could describe as resort courses, more friendly for players. We would like Spanish golfers who previously played at La Cala to come again to see that the courses have really changed a lot.