While other companies were being forced to furlough staff, SandyBlue were instead hiring this season, to keep up with the demands of their growing client base as the team used technology, innovation and their unwavering level of customer service to attract new visitors to the Algarve.

Set up by Erika Mountain in 2006, SandyBlue operates primarily in the Golden Triangle of the Algarve with the team now standing at 21 permanent members of staff and is now co-owned by operations director Anastasia Takield.

“I first came to the Algarve with my grandparents in the 1980’s when they would come to golf and fell in love with the area,” explained Joe. “When it came to looking to buy a holiday home with my wife and three daughters, we looked all over Europe but we focused particularly on Portugal and the Algarve.”

After initially putting down a deposit for a property in the eastern Algarve it was on the way back to the airport that Joe and Erika stopped to view a place in Vale do Lobo, which culminated in moving the couple not only in a different direction for a holiday home but also becoming the basis for the SandyBlue business.

After purchasing a property in the resort Joe then sold businesses in the UK that allowed the family to invest in further properties, which organically led to the couple beginning a villa rental and marketing company.
“Initially Erika built the business around our personal portfolio but soon she was having enquiries from other property owners who were seeing the occupancy rates our properties were having and wanted to be part of this success too,” said Joe.

The organic growing of the company has, in no small part, been due to the combination of offering expert advice about the Algarve, a dedicated team of professionals, a bespoke service for villa owners and rental clients and also due to the company harnessing the power of online marketing, essential for the market today.

“We are different from other companies because we do all of our own in-house tech and development as well as our extensive online marketing,” said Joe who revealed that the company currently has a database of more than 21,000 regular guests, “this allows us to have self-generating leads”.

Sandy Blue has grown to having a portfolio of 150 properties in the Algarve (75 of which are exclusive to SandyBlue), with almost 60 percent of guests being return visitors. “For many of our guests they are not having a holiday in a specific villa but are instead choosing a holiday with Sandy Blue,” said Joe.

As the business has grown, so too has the expertise, with the important introduction of Anastasia Takield in December 2018, who has since become operations director and co-owner of the company.

Originally from Latvia, Anastasia has a rich background in hospitality after graduating from a renowned Swiss hotel school and then proceeding to travel the globe throughout her 20’s, working in Asia, the United States and the UK before returning to Switzerland.

“We initially bought a holiday home in the Algarve and loved the region so much we moved here in 2015,” said Anastasia who first worked in the Algarve in the opening of the Monchique Resort & Spa as guest relations manager before joining SandyBlue.

While Joe is the driving force behind the sales and marketing, it is Anastasia who delivers the final service to both guests and property owners.

“The SandyBlue team is a fantastic team who always goes above and beyond for guests’ experiences and this is shown in the number of guests who choose to return to us,” said Anastasia. “We have the local knowledge, the expertise in hospitality and also understand how to manage expectations – by always trying to exceed them.”

With everything in place, the future for SandyBlue is looking bright, despite the situation which began to rear its head in February.

“In some respects, the situation with Covid-19 has actually been good for the business,” says Joe, “we saw the issue and then addressed it with our owners and guests.”

“Typically, our market would be 85 percent guests from the UK and Ireland but at the end of March we changed all of our marketing to target the wider European and national market. We have adapted our strategy and implemented long stays as a means of tackling the problem head on, and have coined the phrase ‘SandyBlue longer stays’ ” said Joe.

The change in tactics has helped the company to expand their team over the summer to meet the needs of clients from non-English speaking countries while also avoiding the furloughing of any staff. “We decided early on that we would keep on all of our housekeeping team to keep them in work while also offering our property owners the peace of mind that their property was being cared for during a time of uncertainty, they could be certain of this,” said Joe.

“Joe really was amazing during this time,” said Anastasia, “every day we would come in to the office and there would be another issue but Joe would always be positive and that has kept us all positive as well as our guests and property owners.”

And the positivity continues with the team expecting continued growth for SandyBlue in 2021: “People are feeling confident about the Algarve and also about staying in a private villa, here they can enjoy a better quality of life,” concluded Anastasia – and at a time of such uncertainty who could ask for more?