Around 115 professionals and other interested parties, connected to the Resort and Residential business, gathered at The Fundação Oriente to meet with like minded and to listen to the various programs, organised by APR – The Portuguese Association of Residential Tourism and Resorts.
During the day, many different aspects of future developments were discussed in the panels. Further down in this article, you can find the list of the panel members and subjects. One of the big questions posed was; is Sustainability an essential part of resort development? I will let you know the answer shortly.
APR - The Portuguese Association of Residential Tourism and Resorts
APR is a nonprofit private organisation that “gathers carefully selected real estate developers, promoters, agents, consultants, lawyers, and financial institutions that offer the best second home products and services nationwide”, as they present themselves on their website.
The visitors of the conference were welcomed by APR’s president Pedro Reimão. He is also the CEO of Vilamoura. I had the opportunity to talk to him before the event and I asked him about his expectations for the conference.
- First of all it’s an important opportunity for all the people who are working with the resort industry to get together and talk about what’s going on, what challenges they are experiencing and how to find solutions, Pedro Reimão explained.
Only a couple of days before the conference, the prime minister of Portugal had to step down. Adding this to the recent ending of the Golden Visa and the announced termination of the NHR-program, the residential business is experiencing a general worry in the market. President Pedro Reimão commented on the situation:
- Every time there is a certain instability in the world or in Portugal, the first reaction from the market is to take a step back and wait with investments but after thinking a second time, the people who really want to move here or have found a good investment, will buy anyway.
- Compared to the general real estate market, resorts have the unique possibility to offer a more secure investment and safer environment, so even with all the changes in law affecting us, we have a good market to work with, Pedro said.
Numbers, data and analyses
Today, more or less all businesses are driven by data and need the numbers to be able to see trends and predict the future. Eduardo Abreu, CEO at Neoturis and Ricardo Guimarães, CEO at Confidencial Imobiliário, presented detailed data to show where the residential tourism and resort business are heading.
The tourism and real estate sector in Portugal has a huge impact on the economy and affects more or less everyone directly or indirectly.
Here are a couple of numbers to reflect on:
● It creates around 13,000 job opportunities every year.
● Investments in resort properties reach the number of 678 million euros per year and on top of that 212 millions from indirect sales.
● The global impact of Portugal's economy is 6 times the value of every purchase.
● Tourism accounts for 14.6 % of GDP in Portugal. Real Estate accounts for 12 % of GDP.
The development projects and the construction going on do not meet the number of requests from people who want to invest in Portugal. The laws regarding construction projects are also restrictive and sometimes the licensing and paperwork delays the projects. At the same time, the restrictive policy is what makes Portugal unique with so much untouched nature so there are always two sides to balance.
If you would like to dig deep into the numbers of prices, trends and every angle of the real estate market in Portugal, you can find the statistics in the “SIR - Residential Information system. https://www.confidencialimobiliario.com/
Challenges and opportunities
Chitra Stern, Owner and CEO of Martinhal, was one of the members of the panel discussing “New products, new markets, new opportunities”, together with Daniel von Barloewen, Regional Vice President, Accor One Living, Paula Sequeira - Head of Consultancy & Valuation Savills and Pedro Reimão - CEO Vilamoura
During the coffee break, where we could enjoy traditional Portuguese pastries, I asked Chitra Stern what she considered to be the most important resources to be developed in the resorts to attract the market even more.
- First of all we need to work more to increase the awareness of Portugal, she says. We also need to link up with the international market in every way. The global competition is strong.
- The most important thing for each resort is to offer unique experiences. This is what people want. For example, Chitra continued, instead of having a restaurant in the resort just because there has to be one, we need to offer something more to give the guests a unique experience. Always be ahead of the guests' requirements.
Portugal has a lot of unique experiences to offer. Many of them are connected to nature. Also many resorts are focusing on locations with stunning views close to nature. This creates another challenge that Chitra pointed out:
- It is Important to not forget about the logistics and services needed to be able to offer the lifestyle people are asking for. We need to be able to offer international schools with different languages, public transportation and other services. Martinhal started a school during Covid and now it has more than 600 students.
This is also a topic the panel are discussing. Today some of the resorts have more than one hour distance to the closest hospital and the important market for senior living will demand qualified health care closer. For the Algarve, direct flights to more destinations are crucial and of course, everyone agrees about the fact that a simplified bureaucracy is an important key to keep Portugal as an attractive relocation option. The boom of residential tourism could not be forecast so the infrastructure has a hard time to keep up.
Portugal is a lovely country to live in and the Portuguese people are known for their warm and welcoming attitude. After Covid more and more people have taken the opportunity to work remotely and with the Digital Nomad Visa offered here, Portugal is attracting this group. This is changing the ages of people who move here. They are younger and have higher demands on facilities that match their lifestyle. Also, these nomads will settle down later on and could be the next generation for residential living.
Daniel von Barloewen, Regional Vice President, Accor One Living talked about this matter. Before, resorts were focusing on the luxury market only. A new increasing trend over the last years for branded residences is for wellness facilities, work spaces, family areas - a home away from home and a place to live the nomad lifestýle.
Technical tools with customer satisfaction and sustainability in focus
Jorge Antunes, Head of Digital Solutions for the MEA Region at Hitachi, told us about the opportunities to increase efficiency and client satisfaction through technology. These are not new tools but many Portuguese companies still have a long way to go regarding digital development compared to many other countries. This is why there are so many opportunities “hidden” in these apps and programs where you for example can monitor the guests' experiences and simplify the information and communication with them. This is not replacing the personal interaction, it’s a useful complement to get a better overview of what’s working and where the development areas are.
Technical platforms can also be an important tool to work with one of the most difficult challenges in the tourism sector - the climate footprint and sustainability. The resorts in Portugal have in many ways been in front of the development of sustainable solutions, for example regarding water savings.
The future of resorts: Sustainability first?
The last panel of the day discussed the future of Resorts. Is it all about sustainability?
Joaquim Goes, Administrador, Blue & Green, José Cardoso Botelho, CEO Vanguard Properties, José Roquette, Chief Development Officer, Grupo Pestana and Patrick Freeman, CEO at Ombria Algarve form this panel.
Before it started, Patrick Freeman gave me his top tips to keep and increase resorts attractiveness, appreciated by both the guests and the people around:
- Authenticity is everything! If you are authentic, sustainability comes with it. You need to be the DNA of the resort and make it memorable. If you can’t remember a resort and talk about it years after your visit, they have failed, Patrick emphases. He explained what this means in their daily work:
- We, the staff and management at Ombria, try to integrate with the community as much as possible. It’s not hard, you just need to do it! Talk to people, show that you care and show your guests and clients all the authenticity the Algarve has to offer. Our American clients are overwhelmed and when we asked our many Dutch clients why they chose Ombria, they said that our focus on the community and the feeling of authenticity were the important parts.
The panel agrees that there are continuing developments needed to refine the environmental friendly solutions and people need to get used to changes over time. For example, landscaping with native trees and plants instead of palm trees and plants needing a lot of water could be a change that people first are questioning.
Sustainability is so much more than environmental respect. It’s a mindset and includes everything you do in a project. Today it’s taken for granted by the clients and not actually a very useful selling argument anymore. A sustainable way of entrepreneurship is expected.
Residential tourism is definitely here to stay and seems to have a bright future to look forward to.
Themes and panel members not mentioned in the article:
Pedro Fontainhas, Diretor Executivo APR
Eduardo Abreu, CEO Neoturis
Pedro Fontainhas, Director Executivo APR
Ricardo Guimarães, CEO Confidencial Imobiliário
Redefining Customer Experience and Diluting Seasonality
João Madeira, Head of Real Estate, Sonae Capital
José Fortunato, Administrador Royal Óbidos
Nuno Sepulveda, Presidente CNIG
Sean Moriarty, CEO Quinta do Lago
Overcoming legal obstacles
João Torroaes Valente, Sócio, Morais Leitão & Assoc
Madalena Azeredo Perdigão, Sócia, CCA Law Firm
Renata Silva Alves, Sócia, Legal Latin Advisors
The agenda of the Tourism profession
António Pinheiro, Director RH, Viceroy at Ombria Algarve
Catarina Paiva, Administratora, Turismo de Portugal
Miguel Cordeiro, Head of People & Culture, Troia e Editory Hotels
Resorts - traditionally this is a hotel for tourism
Residential tourism/Branded residences - you invest in and own your property in a resort and are using it as much or little as you want. Often, the investment includes part-time usage by the owner and during the high season, the property is rented out by the hotel. The owner gets a return on investment and the brand takes care of everything.
Residential living - this is a common name for properties where you are the owner but the property is maintained by a branded company or a resort.
Elise Slotte has lived in Portugal since 2020. Apart from her profession as a writer, she is also an entrepreneur in tourism and a relocation guide. She has a passion for the authentic Algarve and believes that shared cultures and knowledge about the same is the key to Portugal as the perfect place to live, both for the Portuguese people and the foreigners who has chosen this country as their new home.
Elise Slotte har levt i Portugal sedan 2020. Förutom att hon är skribent, så är hon också egenföretagare inom turism samt guide för människor som vill flytta hit. Hon har en passion för det autentiska Algarve och är övertygad om att delandet av kulturer och kunskap om varandra, är nyckeln till att Portugal är perfekt att leva i, både för Portugiser och för immigranter som valt det här landet som sitt nya hem.