Lead Stories

A Longer Look At Guest Loyalty

Acqualina Resort Leverages Unique South Florida Location Following Pandemic

By Steve Pike | June 17, 2021

It’s easy to get carried away with praise and hyperbole when describing South Florida luxury hotels and resorts. Acqualina Resort & Residences, however, surpasses even the most effusive of praise.

The Sunny Isles Beach, FL resort has been awarded a Forbes Five-Star Award for nine consecutive years (including 2021). Its Acqualina Spa by ESPA, this past February, was also awarded a Forbes Five-Star rating.

Set on 4.5 acres of beachside property just a few miles north of Miami Beach, Acqualina Resort & Residences, which features 98 guestrooms and suites, 88 residences, three restaurants and three swimming pools, represents a blend of South Florida luxury and lifestyle.

Anchored by two sister luxury skyscraper residences—the Mansions and the soon-to-be-complete Estates—Acqualina has helped transform Sunny Isles Beach from a sleepy area of mom-and-pop hotels along Collins Ave. into one of the more desirable addresses in South Florida.

“A lot of the guests who stayed here bought into the Mansions. Now they are buying into the Estates,” said Mauro Pinho, Acqualina’s director of sales and marketing. “I think Acqualina has been a fantastic postcard for this area. This is an area that’s really beautiful. Even the color of water—neon blue—is different from other areas.”

And Acqualina is its centerpiece. The resort is a haven for guests who might want to escape the South Beach hustle—even for a night or two—in exchange for unpretentious charm.

For Pinho success relies on two fundamentals: Team members and loyalty.

“The success of Acqualina is about respecting others’ efforts,” Pinho said as he sat at a table between the resort’s new Latin-Japanese Ke-uH restaurant and the beach’s summer sun. “At the end of the day, if you put everything into that optic—if you take care of team members and really do walk the talk and have a clear line of communication—that makes all the difference.”

As a manager, said Pinho, it’s important to be close to his team members and understand their personal struggles.

“Work, life, balance. What can I do as a manager? What’s the piece that you need to feel good about your life? I need to deliver to a team member what he or she needs to succeed and let the process work in a long enough period of time that it generates success. That’s a culture that generates a desire to serve. There is a lot of happiness here to serve.

“Accommodations are beautiful, but accommodations can be replicated. But the culture we have is really unique.”

How unique? Pinho said 33 percent of Acqualina’s team members have been with the resort since it opened 15 years ago. That kind of loyalty and culture helped Acqualina seamlessly re-open in June 2020 after a three-month closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We brought back team members as fast as we could,” said Pinho. “It was really great to see. The first weekend we were open we had 98 percent occupancy, so it didn’t take long.’’

Didn’t take long because loyalty is a two-way street. That is, approximately 50 percent of Acqualina’s guests are returning customers.

“We never lost touch with our guests, which I think was very important from a marketing perspective,” said Pinho. “From the first day we were closed, we maintained weekly communications with our guests. We kept them up to date on what was happening on the property.”

While not ideal, the closing gave Acqualina’s management team time to learn more about its guests.

“Before the lockdown, we didn’t understand—in depth—who are customer is,” said Pinho. “We always had some information, but never had the time or opportunity to drill down into it. What do they really like—from a preferred meal to what times they like to go outside? What really makes them tick? One of the things we got out that [lockdown] was to work on loyalty in ways we didn’t do before.

“Loyalty is very important. We owe so much of what we have to our guests and wanted to pay it back by understanding them. We now see loyalty in a different light,” Pinho concluded.


Steve Pike

Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than 25 years ago and has covered all sports including Major League Baseball, the NFL, NHL, NBA, as well as beat writer for nationally ranked collegiate baseball and basketball teams. As a travel and golf writer, “Spike” has climbed volcanoes in the Canary Islands, ascended the Great Wall of China, teed off in the Austrian Alps, and shared single-malt scotch with Sir Michael Bonallack at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland. A die-hard baseball fan, Pike named his son Zachary Seaver after his childhood hero, New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver. Pike lives with Zachary, daughter Keilly, and wife Brenda (an ovarian cancer survivor, trained journalist, master teacher, and an active member of the DAR) in the South Florida village of Wellington.

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