Europe’s only resort-focused investment conference delivers a programme to inform, educate, and inspire leisure hospitality leaders and investors.
Key players in Europe’s leisure market assembled at the Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) Portugal this week to explore the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
The three-day conference at the EPIC SANA Lisboa Hotel, Lisbon on 9-11 October welcomed 380 delegates through its doors to gain insights into Europe’s leisure, resort, and residential market.
Leisure is leading the way in Europe’s tourism market, Joe Stather, VP Operational Real Estate, Questex, said as he introduced Nuno Fazenda de Almeida, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Trade and Services.
De Almeida told delegates Portugal had experienced record numbers of tourism with visitors up 35% compared to 2019, previously its best ever year.
Pent-up demand with revenge travel still evident was what gave the leisure market a well-needed boost in 2023, said Rui Constantino, CEO of Santander Portugal in the opening session Macro-economic outlook: How is Leisure Defying Trends?
Wage increases and resilience in the job market, coupled with a ‘you only live once’ attitude are continuing to drive demand in leisure, but it could be impacted by increased interest rates he cautioned.
His sentiments were echoed in other sessions exploring travel trends and lifting the lid on investment opportunities across Europe, with a particular focus on Southern Europe which according to STR and HotStats has seen a high turnover of deals due to the proportionately higher number of family run businesses in the area that have come across difficult times in the economic climate. Thomas Emanuel, Senior Director, STR, stated that Revpar is up across the board but especially in the Algarve region, which has seen a 10% increase year on year.
This increase in deals in Southern Europe has come after a year of significant growth across the region, with Emanuel stating that occupancy rates in Malta have grown by 12% year on year, a stat which has seen top hotel brands such as Accor, Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham driving the leisure development pipeline.
David Goodger of Tourism Economics said that while leisure was looking ‘much more optimistic compared to other industry segments’ the industry would need to focus on driving value to maintain consistency, while investors speaking in Capital Talks: Leisure Investing on Shifting Sands noted concerns over the sustainability of the current hotel boom, particularly in the three-star sector.
Day two of the conference saw discussions shift to development of destinations with resort stakeholders answering the question ‘what does it take for a leisure development to become attractive to travellers and investors?’
Francisco Moser of Arrow Global Portugal said the ‘biggest challenge’ for resorts was seasonality and the drop off in trade out-of-season, while Ashley Scott of WATG said that increasing competition from outside the industry in areas like weddings, was impacting luxury hotels and resorts.
Focusing on experience and working with local communities to enhance a resort’s uniqueness was the key, panellists agreed.
“We have to create different layers of attractions in order to differentiate ourselves from others in the market,” summarised Moser.
Repositioning properties to both capitalise on new property types and to appeal to different markets were moves highlighted in session New beginnings: Refurbishing and Repositioning Leisure Properties. With investors now looking to identify new stock to bring to the market by adding popular amenities such as swimming pools, spas, and F&B outlets to older period properties with unique character.
Speaking on the future of these opportunities within the industry, Alessandro Dassi, CEO, Casa Collective said “Repositioning is here to stay and I can only see it increasing. To me the most important things is to have a clear vision in your mind of what the proposition is and who the hotel is offering that to.”
Closing the forum saw keynote speaker, adventurer, entrepreneur, and TV personality Amar Latif OBE urge industry stakeholders to be open to opportunities and turn challenges into strength.
“Obstacles don’t always mean blocks in your life, they can lead to incredible things, I have learnt that if you dare to push your limits, your world becomes bigger,” he concluded.
Speaking on his delight following the forum, Joe Stather, VP Operational Real Estate, Questex said “For a hospitality investment event, a key measure of success is the number of equity investors and owners present. At this year's R&R, they represented over 25% of the overall delegation, and over half of them were first timers at the event. This is a clear sign that leisure hospitality is piquing the interest of more investors, including institutions with a longer-term view and lower capital costs.” He added “We are excited to see how the market continues to develop over the next 12-months before R&R reconvenes in 2024 in Greece.”
For more information and updates on next year’s forum visit https://www.randrforum.com/