Settling in the Algarve in a post-covid world

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“Post-Covid Strategies and Challenges” moderated by IPBN Algarve Committee Chair, Sharon Farrell hosted an incredible panel of keynote speakers, including Chitra Stern, Founder of Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts, who said the buzzword was “Pivot”.

“It’s been a very interesting time…we’ve seen so many changes in the way the market is behaving…we’ve seen more and more people looking for safe destinations to travel to…and we’ve seen this upward trend in people moving here from all over the world… and it will continue to grow because people discover how wonderful Portugal is… as an open, tolerant and liberal society. There have certainly been plenty of challenges over the past year, but Stern said the future is bright.

Gavin Scott, senior partner at Blevins Franks, said work and personal life are parallel and changing. “Moving to a virtual world made it easier for us to adapt.” At first it seemed very difficult to navigate, but Scott says now that we find 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 locked up in the UK…who started to rethink their lifestyle…who started to reconsider their life choices. We’ve had an increase in inquiries from these people about retirement, tax breaks, etc. It has been a very positive experience over the past two years.

João Costa, Sales and Marketing Director at Ombria Resort, said: “We encountered challenges in terms of labor and manpower… we had to adapt. Find good labor and keep it [through Covid-19 isolations and otherwise]… is a challenge. But in terms of the market and the clients we sell properties to, Covid-19 has helped us move forward. The station we offer is quite different from many others. We felt more people are looking for that slow motion lifestyle. Covid-19 has only accelerated this process… the farm-to-table trend, living in low-density areas, good access to green spaces, and all of this makes the Algarve attractive. You see people living a healthier lifestyle… which people have become accustomed to by now. And now many digital nomads are looking to settle here [too] because of all these reasons.

Costa clarified: “Since Brexit we have seen UK buyers wanting to invest in property in the Algarve in order to get the Golden Visa. The Algarve is better positioned than ever… you can still buy property for residential purposes in the inner parts of the Algarve, and you can also invest in tourist property in order to get the Golden Visa anywhere in the Algarve or in Portugal.” And Ombria has seen increased interest as a result, especially given their push for geothermal and sustainable energy systems, allowing the resort to run on only 70% renewable energy, without CO2 emissions.

Post-covid strategies and challenges: responses from hotels in the Algarve – 20 January 2020

Michael Stock, Administrative at Quinta dos Vales, addressed the effect of Covid on wine production and sales at the vineyard saying: “We have also had isolation issues over the past two years… We have realized…that Covid-19 has acted as an accelerator…we are optimistic for the future…now our business model is more involved in integrating our customers into a business instead of just offering a service…c is a much deeper collaboration [with our winemaker experience] than before. Quinta dos Vales not only rents and sells vacation homes on its estate, but offers a new experience in bespoke private production winemaking, turning wine lovers into winemakers. Customers can return again and again to check their production and enjoy the Algarve as a whole, building long-term, sustainable relationships with the vineyard and the region.

Gavin Scott said Portugal’s infrastructure is ideal for the boom, offering incredible healthcare alongside a strong education sector. Children and their parents and grandparents are well taken care of, giving 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, with incredible success all told. Stern said, “You have to have courage in your beliefs and get there. We saw there were children signing up…and we lobbied for construction to open on time…September 2020 with 120 children, which will increase to 150 in January 2021 just before lockdown. We moved online seamlessly…and we had all the tech ready…and it’s now grown to over 300 students…We actually stuck to our pre-pandemic business plan and continue to do so in terms registration. This is why we opened despite the upheaval of the world in 2020.”

In terms of health, there are large private hospital networks, both public and private. Social security numbers are easily accessible through residence 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 this is a huge step forward for the country. You can read more about healthcare in detail in Chitra Stern’s recent LinkedIn post. Otherwise, Portugal’s push towards green energy and sustainability is making a difference in the minds of those considering a move. Right now, there are little to no tax incentives for people to make the leap to green energy, for example, but that will likely change as regulators catch up with large-scale sustainable opportunities.

According to Costa, “People are feeling optimistic about the future…people are quitting their jobs to start their own business or working from home or anywhere outside of the office because it helps their work-life balance. … this is where the Algarve is well positioned.” There is a good sense of belonging here in Portugal. Anything worth doing takes a lot of planning, but in the end most of those who made the move felt it was worth it and continue to reap the benefits of all that the country has to offer.

Contributed by Ireland Portugal Business Network

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