Margarida Almeida is Founder and CEO of Amazing Evolution, Portugal’s leading third-party operator. She shares her experiences of the Portugal hospitality market ahead of her participation to the Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) taking place in the Algarve in October.
Portugal : an attractive market for hospitality investment
Margarida Almeida : There’s a great appetite for Portugal as an investment destination, and some transactions are starting to appear. It is also true that prime locations like Lisbon and Porto are still very hot, and prices still don’t translate into interesting returns for investors.
But overall, the fundamentals for an attractive market are still here: Portugal is going to continue to be one of the most relevant destinations in Europe. There are very good quality hotel products, both in city centre and resort locations, which with the right strategy (both capex and positioning) can generate interesting returns. Also, as the majority of the market is still family owned and managed, there are many opportunities for professional management to come in and create profitable products.
Amazing Hospitality’s growth in Portugal’s hospitality market
Almeida : Amazing Evolution is leader in Portugal in the white label / third party operator space, delivering bespoke solutions to different type of owners and investors thanks to our portfolio size and cross-functional team. Amazing Evolution is not a brand or group, neither is it in our plans to be one, however if we compare ourselves with major hotel groups in Portugal, we would be in the 9th position in the national hotel group ranking with just over 2,000 rooms.
In the past years we have been growing our portfolio of managed hotels, both Hotels & Resorts and Boutique Collection, with properties in several stages of development, either already in operation or still in the development or construction phase. Our clients are developers, family offices or institutional investors. Previously, properties in financially distressed situations were less common but we are now starting to see the return of financial institutions with properties on their hands needing to solve operational or financial distress, covid-related or not.
The impact of Covid-19 on hospitality
Almeida : The biggest impact was the huge reduction of revenue for the majority of the hotels, and the challenge was to minimize the losses to their owners: adopting measures that simultaneously reduce costs and create value and brand awareness to each property so that they would be prepared and stronger when the market opens again.
With the hotels closed we were confronted with two main challenges: (i) Cost saving strategies and (ii) Keeping the operational teams focused and aligned with the project. With regards to costs we immediately implemented several strategies in order to reduce fixed costs such as monthly regular fee with external suppliers, utilities and payroll costs. For the reduction at payroll level, all the programmes set up by the Portuguese government were crucial to allow us to keep all of the non-term contracts and avoid massive unemployment. We also set up an internal team to deal specifically with all the other financial support put forward by the Portuguese authorities to support the tourism industry. In order to keep the teams focused and aligned as much as possible, our training team organized and conducted a vast programme of online training and forums which allowed the hotel team members to keep connected with the project and with Amazing management principles and procedures.
Focus on service to support recovery
Almeida : For a long time, Amazing Evolution’s strategy for the managed hotels has been to clearly define a differentiated positioning for each hotel, leveraging its unique characteristics and creating competitive advantage within the competitors and the market. A great effort put on service quality, whatever the hotel segment, is crucial for guest satisfaction and loyalty, thus creating more resilient properties.
Sustainability from concept development to the guest experience
Almeida : In our opinion, sustainability starts from the very beginning of concept development. Nowadays we all must install reduced consumption equipment, use eco-friendly operating supplies, but also go the extra mile. In fact making our projects sustainable in a broader point of view means that we all have to think from the beginning about how project design needs to incorporate what could be our guests’ needs. The pandemic obviously led us to spend more resources on protective equipment and cleaning supplies, but also led us to think that we need to develop hotels and resorts where people can somehow have more space and privacy but also more flexibility when using services and facilities.
During the pandemic and considering the new hygiene requirements, the major challenge is to continue to adopt the environmentally sustainable measures as there are lots of waste related to the Covid 19 protections measures, with a increase the negative impact on the environment. We try to tackle it with recycling and with measures that contributes to the worldwide carbon strategy.
However sustainability is not only environmental measures. We try to implement social, financially and local sustainable measures in all our hotels under management, besides the environmental measures.
Biggest trends in resort operations in the years to come
Almeida : Sustainability, Experiences, Authenticity and Singularity
Planning future trips
Almeida : When hospitality and travel reopen, I will continue to travel in Portugal (mainland and islands) and eventually I will go with my family to a remote place in the Pacific.
Looking forward to R&R
Almeida : I look forward to learning and sharing experiences with the best players in the resort and residential market.
Amazing Evolution is a Patron sponsor of the Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R), taking place in the Algarve on 25-27 October 2021. Hear more from Margarida Almeida, as she will be joining the panel on ‘We're all in it Together: Reviewing Stakeholder Relations’ at the conference.