Poster Magazine
/ Start Slideshow

In early October 2023, against the picturesque backdrop of the EPIC SANA Lisboa Hotel in Lisbon, Europe’s leisure market witnessed a remarkable convergence of industry leaders and key players. The occasion was the Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) Portugal, a prestigious three-day conference that transcended geographical boundaries to delve into the multifaceted challenges and opportunities currently defining the continent’s leisure, resort, and residential market. The stage was set with elegance and grandeur as Joe Stather, Vice President of Operational Real Estate at Questex, took to the podium to emphasize the enduring strength of Europe’s leisure sector.


As he welcomed delegates from around the globe, he laid the foundation for what would be an insightful exploration of a sector that has defied challenges and harnessed opportunities with unparalleled vigor. As we delve into the R&R Portugal Forum 2023 highlights, we witness an industry at the cusp of transformation. The leisure sector’s resilience shines through, and its adaptability to the evolving landscape is nothing short of remarkable. This article offers an in-depth look at the insights, trends, and ever-evolving dynamics of Europe’s leisure market, a market that continues to capture the imagination of both travelers and investors alike.


Joe Stather, VP of Operational Real Estate at Questex.


In a world still grappling with the lingering impact of a global pandemic, this gathering of industry experts and visionaries was a testament to the resiliency and adaptability of Europe’s leisure sector. The event unfolded as a vibrant showcase of how leisure is recovering and leading the way in Europe’s dynamic tourism market. As aptly noted by Joe Stather, the VP of Operational Real Estate at Questex, Europe’s leisure market is in the midst of a remarkable resurgence.


This observation came as he introduced Nuno Fazenda de Almeida, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Trade, and Services, who revealed that Portugal had witnessed an astonishing 35% increase in visitor numbers compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of leisure travel, driven by pent-up demand and the increasingly prevalent “revenge travel” trend. Rui Constantino, CEO of Santander Portugal, emphasized that wage increases and a resilient job market, combined with a “you only live once” attitude, continue to fuel the demand for leisure. However, the specter of rising interest rates looms as a potential disruptor to this buoyant sector.


One of the focal points of the forum was the spotlight on Southern Europe, a region that has seen a flurry of deals in the leisure market. According to STR and HotStats, this can be attributed to a higher proportion of family-run businesses in the area, which faced considerable challenges in the economic climate. Thomas Emanuel, Senior Director at STR, highlighted the robust performance in Southern Europe, with particular attention to the Algarve region, where Revpar has surged by 10% year on year. This success has translated into increased occupancy rates in places like Malta, where numbers have risen by an impressive 12% annually. Top hotel brands such as Accor, Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham are spearheading leisure development projects in the region, underlining the global industry’s confidence in Southern Europe’s potential.


Nuno Fazenda de Almeida, Portugal's Secretary of State for Tourism, Trade, and Services.


David Goodger of Tourism Economics remarked that while the leisure sector appears more optimistic compared to other industry segments, it must focus on driving value to maintain consistency. Concerns over the sustainability of the hotel boom, especially in the three-star sector, were voiced by investors during the “Capital Talks: Leisure Investing on Shifting Sands” session. Day two of the conference saw discussions pivot towards the development of leisure destinations. Stakeholders grappled with the question of what it takes for a leisure development to be attractive to travelers and investors. Seasonality emerged as a significant challenge, with resorts experiencing a drop-off in trade out-of-season.


Ashley Scott of WATG noted the increasing competition from non-industry sectors, like weddings, impacting luxury hotels and resorts. The consensus among panelists was that enhancing a resort’s uniqueness through experiences and working with local communities was the key to success.


“New Beginnings: Refurbishing and Repositioning Leisure Properties” was a session that drew attention to the industry’s evolution. Investors are actively seeking to identify new properties to bring to the market by adding popular amenities like swimming pools, spas, and F&B outlets to older period properties with unique character. Alessandro Dassi, CEO of Casa Collective, emphasized the significance of having a clear vision for the proposition offered by a property. The repositioning trend is gaining momentum, with experts foreseeing its continued growth.


Rico Picenoni, Savills' Head of Global Residential Development.


The forum concluded with a thought-provoking keynote speech from Amar Latif OBE, an adventurer, entrepreneur, and TV personality. He encouraged industry stakeholders to remain open to opportunities and transform challenges into strengths. Latif’s inspirational words resonated with the audience, highlighting the resilience and adaptability that have become defining characteristics of the leisure market. Joe Stather, the VP of Operational Real Estate at Questex, expressed his satisfaction with the event, emphasizing the growing interest of investors in leisure hospitality. He highlighted that equity investors and owners constituted over 25% of the overall delegation, with more first-time attendees, signaling the increasing appeal of the leisure market. The anticipation for the industry’s future and its next developments are palpable as R&R plans to reconvene in Greece in 2024.


The Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum 2023 in Portugal painted a vivid picture of Europe’s vibrant leisure market, which has rebounded with remarkable strength. Amidst challenges and opportunities, the industry has shown resilience and adaptability, and stakeholders are actively seeking new avenues for growth. In a world still grappling with the lingering impact of a global pandemic, this gathering of industry luminaries and visionaries was not just another conference but a grand symphony of resilience, innovation, and adaptation. Europe’s leisure market, once beleaguered by the challenges of the pandemic, now stands as a beacon of hope and recovery. As the leisure market evolves, it is poised to continue captivating the interest of investors and travelers alike.

If you would to stay on the pulse of resort, leisure and residential investment; register your interest here to take part in The Resort & Residential Hospitality Forum 2024 taking place in Athens, Greece.

Comments are closed.