R & R Recap
Sunshine and fresh sea air welcomed us back for the sixth annual Resort and Residential Hospitality Forum in Portugal.
It was a relaxing start to the three-day conference with delegates arriving to take part in a tour of the new W Residences Algarve and engage in conversation in the stunning surroundings of the Tivoli Marina Vilamoura Resort in a Walk and Talk networking session.
As the sun set, guests were invited to enjoy cocktails and cooking stations around the pool, serenaded by the soothing sounds of a live vocalist accompanied by acoustic guitar. A warm welcome by Luis Araujo, CEO of Turismo de Portugal signalled the start of a great conference to come…
The official conference begins with 250 delegates taking to their seats to another warm welcome, this time from Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, Government of Portugal, “We’ve been apart for 20 months and it’s so nice to show that we can reconnect again at events like R&R.”
The conference programme kicked off with the much-anticipated CEO Interview with Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor Hotels with the conversation led by Edgar Ollé Managing Director, Christie & Co. Recovery is happening, according to Rajakarier. There were encouraging green shoots in European operations. The company usually took around €4-5 million of business per day before the crisis and was now seeing reservations at the lower end of that range. “We’re now catching up to about four,” he said. “Every month our bookings are improving.”
Rajakarier shared views on the transformation of the resort and residential market following the pandemic, changing travel markets and evolving consumer demand. “Guests have new expectations, led in the short term by concerns about health and safety, travel restrictions and lockdown. Their habits too have changed – they book last minute, they prefer villas and residentials because they like their own space. Resorts have seen a lift because there are too many people in urban city locations.”
He finished with a look ahead, sharing the news that they plan to launch eight new Anantara hotels in Europe in 2022 “We always say crisis brings opportunity.”
Moving onto an economics update, Helen McDermott, Lead Economist at Tourism Economics stated that “economic and travel recoveries are well underway.” Adding that “International travel to Europe will be fully recovered by 2024 in our baseline outlook, while domestic substitution will drive a stronger recovery with full recovery in 2022.”
Financial relationships in the hotel industry have undergone fundamental change during the pandemic was one of the main messages to emerge from the ‘Opportunities in Leisure’ panel session. Jorge Ruiz, head of hotels in Spain and Portugal for CBRE, hosted the panel which discussed the expected recovery of leisure hospitality, opportunities in resorts and potential availability of distressed assets is attracting attention from investors.
The shift in business activity away from city centre hotels toward resorts exposed a knowledge deficit among many of the larger institutions who have traditionally invested heavily in hotels. Tina Yu, principal of KSL Capital Partners, said: “There’s more to investing in hotels than square box rooms in big city centres.”
Rita Marques took the stage once more as she joined Patrick Whyte, Editor in Chief of Hospitality Insights, Questex’s dedicated editorial platform, for a wide-ranging interview discussing the role of Governments in supporting the recovery of tourism post-pandemic. Rita shared the Portuguese Government’s stance: “We knew we wanted to be ready when demand returned.” They implemented key initiatives such as the Clean and Safe certification, including the Covid-19 Safety Seal to ensure hospitality outlets across the country including restaurants, cafes, and bars as well as hotels and resorts could safely open their doors and encourage visitors to stimulate the stalled economy.
And when questioned around investment in Portugal Rita Marques was unequivocally clear: “We want to see more – but for us it’s not a quantity issue it’s a quality issue. We want investors that want to do the best projects and invest in the talent in our country. Tourism is about making job creation happen.”
Data and stats were the name of the game when Thomas Emanuel of STR shared his latest insights. There is a definite sense of positivity in the market with a distinct summer peak in ADR rates that achieved higher rates than in 2019. There is also a predicted bumper opening of new rooms in 2022 as a result of delayed openings during 2020/21.
He also shared the latest data from a recent STR Sentiment survey of 2,000 travellers, with the top reasons cited for reluctance to travel - government restrictions, quarantine and form filling. Once they lift, it’s expected people’s desire to travel will follow with most travel demand expected to be recovered by 2023.
Resort operators are becoming increasingly and more directly aligned with owners, according to Miguel Casas Albandor, managing director of Stoneweg Hospitality, the Geneva-based investment firm.
Citing changes precipitated by Covid and especially home working, he said it is now commonplace for hotel guests to combine holidays with work boldly claiming that “City breaks should be renamed resort breaks!”
Onto a networking lunch, followed by various panel sessions and breakouts including a Marketing your Resort Development: Best Tools and Practices session.
The panellists took a closer look at traditional and new marketing tools for both buyers and guests. One subject that came up was high net worth individuals and what they wanted in the age of Covid-19.
“Service, service, service,” said Elodie Casola, director of marketing and communication, at Arum Group. Magdalena Osmola, marketing director at Vale do Lobo, agreed, adding that "personalisation" was also key, people want “purpose” and a “meaningful life” she said.
On the subject of the demise of third-party cookies, Bruno Silvério, director of marketing and communications at United Investments Portugal, said his “advice for marketeers next year is to invest in brand awareness.”
The conference wrapped up its first day with a unique take on the life of a resort developer in a theatrical session involving a meeting with consultants, architects, planners, lenders to get his project off the ground. Delegates had a front row seat and popcorn to watch this light-hearted take on the ups and downs of resort development.
As the sun sets on day two and our delegates head to their second networking reception – this time joining forces with Hotec Europe delegates – we look forward to the final day as we continue our focus on Leisure Leads the Return.
Continue to follow the conversation with us on our social channels with hashtag #randr2021
As we moved into the final morning of conference, the focus shifted from the landscape of resort and leisure hospitality to the products that surround it.
First on the agenda was the second of our two big-hitting CEO Panels creating a super-charged start to the day, this time discussing Rebuilding the Leisure Hospitality Experience. Host of the session, Roger Allen, CEO of RLA Global, said: “The industry was hit with major challenges.”
Ramón Braña Cobas, CEO of Oca Hotels which has coastline properties in Spain, Portugal and Brazil, said: “The lack of labour is one of the main problems in our company.”
They were joined by Ramón Aragonés CEO of NH Hotel Group, the Spanish subsidiary of Minor International (MINT). NH, Aragonés employs 12,000 people and as a larger operator can offer career development. “As I often say,” he added, “if you take care of your people, your people will take care of your clients.”
When pushed to share their views on growth sectors within leisure hospitality, all agreed that the Urbanisation of resorts, extended stay and soft brands were key sectors to keep an eye on, whilst MICE travel has yet to return, Jordi Ferrer, CEO of Hesperia World, added: “those properties with bigger spaces for MICE will fare better than others” as he feels social distancing may continue for a little while longer than we might expect.
Moving on to the Residential Market: the New Home Away from Home’ session and the emergence of changes in work from home patterns and behaviours is posing its own unique challenges. Resorts that enable holidaymakers to work as well as play have huge growth opportunity.
Christian Michel, European vice president of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts posed questions about which firms would be best placed to embrace the innovations required, advise financiers on budgeting details, and bring together the numerous parties needed to make new-style residential resorts a success.
The central message at one of the last sessions of the morning was it is no longer acceptable for the hospitality industry to simply talk about environmental, social, and governance priorities. Owners, governments, customers, suppliers, consumers want action. Several panellists spoke convincingly about relatively small steps taken towards bigger goals during the Conscious Hospitality session.
Ana Beatriz,a consultant who established ABC Sustainable Luxury Hospitality in 2021, questioned the use of mini-bars in hotel rooms. She asked whether these were still wanted by visitors pointing to the energy savings that would come from removing energy-sapping refrigerators. She also shared some suggestions on establishing sustainable practices, citing F&B as an example and sourcing local ingredients through the creation of a garden or farm to supply basic ingredients.
Ioannis Orfanos, the founding partner at Arbitrage Real Estate Advisors, said many investors would only provide the capital required by residential resorts if they were presented with demonstrable evidence of commitment to ESG priorities.
He also said that progress to date had been slow partly because of the difficulty measuring adherence to ESG targets. He said progress was delayed in the past because of the belief that: “You cannot monetise that which you cannot measure.”
Last to take to the stage but by no means least, was the inspiring and motivating keynote speaker Eulanda Shead Osagiede who left the audience with an inspiring thought to take home with them: "Our current reality means we have the possibility to reimagine what travel could look like..." The opportunities and possibilities to reimagine travel and everything that comes with it – resorts, hotels, leisure amenities, wellness, bleisure, the workcation – are endless.
The last three days have been more insightful than we could have imagined, and we are grateful for your support and participation. Thank you so much for joining us in Portugal and we wish you safe travels home!
Don’t forget to save the date 18-20th October 2022 for next year’s edition.