#Happy45, interview with José Asenjo: “It’s time to start the next phase: to step on the gas with big investments”

José Asenjo, CEO and general director of La Manga Club

October is a month for celebrations as La Manga Club turns 45. José Asenjo, the resort’s general manager, joined La Manga Club four years ago on a mission to transform it into ‘a theme park for sport’. It also happens to be his 45th birthday. Coincidence or destiny?

La Manga Club, 29th of October, 2017. 

How has LMC changed in the last four years?

There have been two main changes. The first and most important change has been a cultural one, and it is still ongoing. This is having an impact on our service and customer orientation. The employees are crucial to this change. Secondly, we have been upgrading and investing in infrastructures as much as possible. This has mainly involved improvements to the greens, the cricket centre, our catering facilities and energy efficiency. All these changes have been made to prepare us for the near future, and we are now working on bigger investments to improve all areas.

What were your initial thoughts when you joined LMC?

I thought it would be easier, but less rewarding than it has been. The last four years have been tough, but very positive in that I have grown enormously both personally and professionally.

A key moment from this period.

There have been several, but I would point to three: the insolvency proceedings at the end of 2014, which gave everyone peace of mind and stability; having a thoroughly professional management team with the power to speed up the process of change and the repositioning of LMC, with new products, such as cricket, and new markets, like Scandinavia.

The first four years are over. What are you expecting from the next five?

I would like to continue at La Manga Club and establish the club as Europe's Best Sports Resort. We have come through a very tough, yet very productive, initial phase, preparing the company for the future, fine tuning everything for what is to come. In the coming phases, we must step on the gas with bigger investments to grow more quickly and create more value.

Are there any significant projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

The most important project, and the one we are working on now, is to take LMC to the next level. That is why we need to make investments in all the products provided by La Manga Club (Hotel, Lomas, catering, golf, tennis, football...) to position the resort as the “Best Leisure and Sports Resort in Europe”, for the middle-upper and upper classes. So far, we have only been able to make modest investments, because of the company’s situation (37 Spike & Sports Bar, The Village, golf courses, cricket centre...), but from now on, these changes will be more ambitious.

We are always hearing about how hotels should be an experience for their guests. How is LMC doing on this front?

We have just formally introduced some Customer Orientation or Customer Experience Programmes and Employee Development Programmes, which put customers and employees at the heart of the strategy. These are designed to give customers unique experiences, which means we have to surprise them and exceed their expectations, so that they will visit us again and recommend us.

Tourism has come a long way in recent decades. These days, customers want more than sunshine, the beach and sport (playing golf, tennis...) as separate activities. We can offer today’s holidaymakers what they are looking for. We are a multi-product company, and we can and must optimise our customers' experiences. Our experiences are sport-leisure based, and enhanced by gastronomy, health and well-being, culture and environment.

My mission is to make LMC a theme park for sports: that’s why I came here. I was recruited to turn the resort around. When I first got here, these products were managed independently, but now we manage them together and this has transformed us from a resort with golf into a resort with a golf experience, or a tennis resort into a resort with a tennis experience. Our other products, such as catering, wellness and other sports and cultural activities, are all part of the final equation. We aim to surprise customers with unique experiences, as all theme parks do, to get the WOW effect

What do you think LMC employees appreciate most about you?

I think they value my humanity. Leaders are valued for their knowledge, skills and attitude, but without humanity, nobody can be a good leader.

What is the first thing you do every morning?

I take an hour for myself. I give myself time to think. I need it to face the day. I don't get much sleep and I am an early riser. I get to the office at 8 am and from then on, it’s non-stop. That’s why I have to start the day quietly. A refreshing shower, a good breakfast, watching the news...

How about the evenings?

I spend some time reading, watching an interesting documentary, and I try to think about something positive so that I go to bed with a smile on my face and feeling good. It can be difficult, but I always try to think about something positive so that I wind down with good thoughts.

Where was the last place you went on holiday?

Fuerteventura, because I needed to switch off mentally. I choose my holiday destinations depending on my mood or needs. My next trip will be to Rome or Florence. I’ve already been there, but I’d like to go back.

In which period of history would you have liked to have lived?

The Italian Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the reign of Felipe II and the Spanish Empire, the Industrial Revolution... Any era when mankind made progress and that marked a before and after in historical terms.

A film

I’ve just seen two new films: Blade Runner and Victoria and Abdul. I also saw a police drama last year that I liked a lot: The Infiltrator.

A book

I tend to read several things at the same time, not just novels. Right now I am reading ‘The Prisoner of Heaven’, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

A song or group

I like music in general, so I listen to everything from classical music like copla, Italian music, current pop like Rihanna and Sia and Spanish artists like Manolo García. When I’m in a pub or disco (which isn't very often), I like house.

An unfulfilled ambition

To be a commercial airline pilot or an architect. They say it’s never too late.

How would you describe LMC to an outsider?

La Manga Club is a very complicated complex, which is full of surprises. It has enormous potential and many people still haven't discovered it. It’s a marvellous, unique place for enjoying unforgettable experiences.

 

Lastly, have you improved your golfing technique?

No, that’s still on the cards. I need to take it up again, but my golf clubs are always in the car, just in case. There are always two things in my car: my sports bag in case I get the chance to go to the gym at the end of the day, and my golf equipment, in case I get the urge to play, which I am sure will happen soon.