"Post-Covid Strategies and Challenges" moderated by Chair of the IPBN Algarve Committee, Sharon Farrell welcomed an incredible panel of keynote speakers including Chitra Stern, Founder of the Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts who said that the buzz word is “Pivot.” “It’s been a very interesting time…we’ve seen so many changes in how the market behaves…we’ve seen more and more people looking for safe destinations to travel to (like her Martinhal brand villa, apartment, and hotel resorts)…and we’ve seen this upward trend of people moving here from all over the world…and this will keep growing because people are discovering how wonderful Portugal is…as an open, tolerant, and liberal society.” There have certainly been a lot of challenges to face over the last year, but Stern said the future is bright.
And Essential Business agrees. In their assessment of the online event, the publication writes, “what emerged from a webinar organized by the Irish Portuguese Business Network…is that prospective relocators not only see Portugal’s Algarve as a safe and secure destination from a health point of view — partly because of the government’s hugely successful vaccination campaign — but also because the top-quality resorts in the holiday region are often in the countryside in low-population density areas, yet near enough to large urban centers for shopping and services.”
Gavin Scott, Senior Partner at Blevins Franks said that business and personal life are parallel and changing. "Moving into a virtual world has made it easier for us to adapt." In the beginning, it seemed very difficult to navigate, but Scott says now we are finding that it is the opposite. “A lot of people found it easy to be here during lockdown…people were spending time here and that time spent became a time to realize they felt…safe and comfortable…and made the conscious decision to make it a full-time event. Others found themselves in lockdown in the UK…who began re-thinking their lifestyle…who started to reconsider their life choices. We got an increase of requests for information from these people about retirement, tax breaks, and more…It was a very positive experience over the last two years.”
João Costa, Director of Sales & Marketing at Ombria Resort said “we have seen some challenges in terms of labor and the workforce…we have had to adapt. Finding good labor and keeping them [through Covid isolations and otherwise]…is a challenge. But in terms of the market and clients to whom we have been selling properties, Covid has helped us move forward. The resort we are offering is quite different from many others. We felt that more people are looking for this slow-living lifestyle. Covid has only accelerated this process….the trend of farm to table, living in low-density areas, good access to green spaces, and all of this is the appeal of the Algarve. You see people living a healthier lifestyle…that people have now grown accustomed to. And now many digital nomads are looking to move here [too] because of all of these reasons.”
Costa elaborated, saying, “Since Brexit happened, we’ve seen the UK buyers wanting to invest in real estate in the Algarve in order to get the Golden Visa. The Algarve is better positioned now more than ever…you can still buy a property that’s for habitation purposes in the interior parts of the Algarve, and also you can invest in a touristic property in order to obtain the Golden Visa anywhere in the Algarve or in Portugal.” And Ombria has seen an increase in interest as a result, especially considering their push for geothermal and sustainable energy systems, allowing the resort to operate on 70% renewable energy alone, with no CO2 emissions.
Michael Stock, Administrative at Quinta dos Vales, addressed Covid’s effect on the wine production and sales at the vineyard saying, “We also have had the isolation challenges over the past two years…We’ve come to realize…that Covid has acted as an accelerant…we’re optimistic for the future…now our business model is more involved into bringing our clients into an activity instead of only offering a service…it’s a much more in-depth collaboration [with our winemaker experience] than it was before.” Quinta dos Vales is not only renting and selling holiday homes on their estate, but they are offering a novel experience of making bespoke private production wine- turning wine lovers into winemakers. Clients can return over and again to check on their production and enjoy the Algarve at large, building long-term sustainable relationships with the vineyard and the region.
Gavin Scott commented that the infrastructure of Portugal is prime for the boom, offering incredible healthcare alongside a strong education sector. Children and their parents and grandparents are well taken care of, which gives those seeking a new life in Portugal peace of mind in all the areas that matter most. In fact, Chitra’s International School project in Lisbon opened during the pandemic, to incredible success all things considered. Stern said, “You have to have courage in your convictions and make it happen. We saw that there were kids enrolling…and we pushed for construction to open on time…in September 2020 with 120 children, growing that to 150 by January 2021 just before lockdown. We moved seamlessly online…and had all the technology ready…and that’s now grown to 300+ students…We actually met our pre-pandemic business plan and continue to do so in terms of enrolment. This is why we opened despite the world turning upside down in 2020.”
When it comes to healthcare, there are great private hospital networks, both public and private. Social Security numbers are easily attainable through residency services, while the private network, namely the HPA Algarve, is not only top-notch, but incredibly affordable. Whether you’re retired, moving here as a family, or otherwise, Stern says that this is a huge leg up for the country. You can read more about healthcare in detail in Chitra Stern’s recent article on LinkedIn. Otherwise, Portugal's push toward green energy and sustainability are making a difference in the minds of those who are thinking of relocating. As of now, there are few if any tax incentives for people to make the jump to green energy, for example, but that will likely change as regulators catch up with sustainable opportunities on a large scale.
According to Costa, "People are feeling optimistic about the future...people are resigning from their jobs to start their own business or work from home or anywhere outside of the office because it helps their work-life balance...this is where the Algarve is well-positioned." There's a good sense of belonging that happens here in Portugal. Anything worth doing takes a good deal of planning, but in the end, most who have made the move have felt it was all worth it and are continuing to reap the benefits of all that the country has to offer.
Following the end of the panel discussions at the IPBN’s third-annual Sustainability Conference at the CCIP in Lisbon, the IPBN has organized an exclusive tour of the Hub Criativo do Beato (HCB) in Lisbon and a tour of the Ombria Resort in the Algarve the following week.
The IPBN’s second quarter was busier than usual, with the key focus on expanding the network to Porto, beyond what the pandemic has previously made possible, and to revisit our origins in Dublin with conferences and members-meet-members events respectively and much, much more.