Yesterday’s event at the Hilton Vilamoura was a special one for the Algarve chapter of the IPBN, as it marked the first in-person event in over a year and a half, welcoming long-estranged members to come together once again and reconnect with IPBN members both new and old. Sharon Farrell, Chair of the IPBN Algarve began the event with a warm welcome to all guests. Farrell proceeded to introduce partner of the event Anne Darlington, Manager of Abacus Financial Services, Ltd.’s Algarve branch to the floor to familiarize the IPBN membership with the offerings of the Abacus Wealth Management company, without whose support the event would not have been possible.
After Darlington’s presentation Nuno Braga Lopes, the new General Manager of the Hilton Vilamoura, welcomed guests with a short presentation of his views on the current landscape of the hospitality and hotelier industry in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Braga Lopes thanked everyone for coming, noting this event as a special moment for the hotel as its first meeting since the first official lockdown last year. He gave an overview of the pandemic’s impact saying, “Hotels don’t have a lot of options for alternative business…some have the possibility of having residents…but most hotels closed down.” Nuno went on to mention that most were not even offering takeaway services from their restaurants as the cost to open and operate the massive hotel kitchens as takeaway orders would not have been enough to offset them.
“It was very hard to have people at home without their normal communication routines with one another and with guests. The hotel reopened on the first of May, and now that we’re open, considering the human side of the crisis, we see we are facing difficulties in hiring people. Many changed out of the sector, so the hotels are facing real challenges…with a different crisis now…[We have] lot of guests but not a lot of people to help manage them as many [former staff members] decided to change their activity and/or move out of the Algarve.”
He continued, “Hotels aren’t used to closing…so the technical side of things was difficult to shut down. Most hotels like ours have been open for eight years in a row without ever closing. The reopening was also difficult. We had to start up everything again, to clean everything, to comply with the clean and safe regulations, validating products, and more for [it] to be done. The first two weeks of May were slow, then there was a huge boost of reservations after the green list announcement. Just to give you an idea, per day in 2019, we were receiving at least 5,000€ of value per day, and [at the time of the green list announcement], we did half a million in three days.”
In terms of cancellations, there is a total change of expectation for the future of the hotels. Cancellations could be few or everything, everything is up in the air so doing any kind of projections is risky, even while vaccination rates are going up and up. Nuno mentioned that this is, of course, his view from the operations side. “I'm always an optimist, but I understand that the rest of the year will still be a challenge. Some segments with large quantities of people like events, conferences, and so on, will be slow to move forward, but there are a lot of positive signs that give motivation for people to travel more and more. Still, this year we expect to be sensitive and slow, so we must be cautious.”
The IPBN would like to thank our gracious hosts, all who joined us, and each member who made the event a successful return to normalcy. We loved seeing you and appreciated the opportunity to gain insights into this sector.
The IPBN Algarve committee, in partnership with the University of Algarve (UAlg), the Algarve STP, and NEST Tourism Innovation Center Portugal, recently hosted the well-attended event, "Scaling-up for Tourism: Opportunities for Innovation in Tourism and the Challenges to Adapt to Transformation."