Rob Jenner first came to Vilamoura for a holiday in 2004: “I remember it vividly,” he says, “We came over at Easter and flew in from Gatwick and I just couldn’t believe that a place like this existed such a short flight from London – it was mind blowing”.The variety of activities available, from the sailing, the equestrian centre, the golf and the beach, and the combination of Vilamoura having the comforts of a resort while being close to the more traditional Portugal, meant that Rob and his family would return frequently until he bought a property in 2010 and then moved to the resort permanently in 2015.
While Vilamoura is far from the embodiment of rural Portugal, it has been designed for people who are looking to stay somewhere comfortable, with amenities close to hand, the airport only a short distance away and the knowledge that “things are taken care of for you.”
“The value of Vilamoura is in understanding exactly what it is. If you want to find the ‘real Portugal’ then you only have to travel a few kilometres to discover the history of Loulé and the inland villages. Travelling around Portugal is also fabulous and we are only two hours from Seville with all it has to offer,” said Rob. “The country has a very rich history and of course, its ties to the UK, but it also has a vastly varied climate and environment to explore in such a small area.”
Despite being a Vilamoura regular visitor and property owner for some years, Rob has only recently taken up the role of CEO, with him initially beginning as a consultant in July 2019 before then taking on the role as CEO full time in the October.
“Everything was all going really well and then Covid struck which meant that all business plans went out of the window”, says Rob candidly. While this may have been daunting to some, Rob has drawn on his long history within real estate and investment to analyse the market and approach the current situation with care.
“The Covid crisis has been a crisis on more than one front; it has been a health crisis, an economic crisis and also a crisis of confidence.
“There are now two types of buyer in the market; those who are looking to speculate and those who are looking to buy as an investment. The investment buyers are committed to this lifestyle and are looking at real estate for a change in lifestyle, exactly as I have,” said Rob.
Vilamoura was first conceived in the 1960s with a master plan for the 1,700 hectare site, including the equestrian centre, the marina and the golf courses, and because of the sheer size of the project they are currently two thirds of the way through the initial plan.
Currently Vilamoura has 11,000 permanent residents and provides jobs for some 5,000 people but it is not owned by one single person, instead it is a collaboration between partners, residents and local authorities, with Vilamoura World working to follow the master plan.
“I feel a real sense of responsibility in this role,” explains Rob. “The job comes with a lot of challenges but these are mainly positive ones and we see ourselves as stewards of Vilamoura.
“I look at my time here as being an opportunity to put a modern twist on the original idea - which still remains relevant today and even more so in the design of Vilamoura being ideal for social distancing – but with looking to bring in further sustainability.”
Rob sees that the new property owners of Vilamoura, Millennials, have a different profile compared to those in the past, and it is important to him to meet the needs of buyers looking for sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions.
In the past there have been considerable challenges when it comes to accessible renewable solutions but a combination of a push in technological developments and lower price points means that bringing renewable solutions to a resort the size of Vilamoura is becoming increasingly possible, particularly in the field of solar energy.
“I look at my responsibility as being holistic and addressing the use of water is something that I care about not only as a property owner here or as the CEO but also as a citizen,” said Rob.
“I will do as much as I can to support the environment and already we are using new technology to make changes”.
All of the properties built now by Vilamoura World have A rated energy certificates and new projects include the Quintinhas development. Working with Portuguese architect – Atelier de Arquitectura (ADA), Quintinhas Vilamoura allows people to build a home using the Passivhaus concept which allows homes to save 70 percent on energy when compared to traditional housing, has a faster construction time with an estimated build time of just six months and offers home owners a significant improvement in indoor air quality with a reduction of between 87 and 93 percent in dust, mites and spores.
While the environment, sustainability and renewables are priorities for Rob and Vilamoura World, he also highlights the need for all homes to still remain comfortable as well as accessible.
“I want to be able to work remotely with super fast internet connections and to be comfortable where I live”, said Rob who believes that living in Portugal should not ever mean compromising on your needs to live and work.
“Sustainability really is key,” continues Rob but it is not just the sustainability of the environment for the future, it is also the sustainability of the resort as a whole and for all the people who live and work in Vilamoura.
“People are really suffering right now and I want to be able to provide a place where workers can have dignity in their jobs and wages through encouraging business.
“I lived in Vilamoura long before I took up this role and because of that I truly care about Vilamoura and I want to do what I can to make sure that it lasts and remains a great place to live well into the future.”