BTN spotlights: Jorge Almeida, GM of Portugal’s Praia D’El Rey

Jorge Almeida is the General Manager of the award-winning Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf and Beach Resort on Portugal’s incredible yet secluded Oeste coast. The exclusive resort will play host to the World Travel Awards Europe Ceremony on 17 October 2009. BTN caught up with him to find out what the resort has planned for the glittering ceremony.BTN: Portugal’s Oeste region is hotly tipped as Europe’s next big destination. What makes it so special?

JA: When we visit the Oeste region, one cannot help but to be dazzled by the magnificent coastline, colours and scent of the surrounding nature and the miles long beach. This gives the tourist the option from sun and sea, golf, nature and cultural visits, as well as the vineyards. Portuguese gastronomy in the area is very rich in sea tastes and flavours as well as many other typical and regional dishes.
Centrally located and yet very close to the capital Lisbon, the Oeste region offers a wide range of all year round activities to gather all ages from the more active sports person to romantic couples wanting to relax and enjoying good service and quality.

BTN: And how about the golf?

JA: Ranked N¼1 in Portugal, N¼2 in Europe and N¼80 in the world by World Golf Magazine 2006, we are extremely proud to be able to have this acknowledgment from the golf industry.
According our Director of Golf, the USPs of the golf course at Praia D’El Rey are its location, layout & playability, the ever-present high maintenance level, its training facilities, the attention to detail such as the pace-of-play, and the temperate climate found in this region which allows you to play all year round.

BTN: Which aspects of Praia D’El Rey are you most proud of?

JA: The overall resort is undoubtedly a place where golfers, families and relaxation seekers can indulge in an unforgettable dream holiday. Our products to both national and international guests, together with the high-standard of our services, make this resort one of the top in Portugal and in south/west Europe. Praia D’El Rey is a year-round resort. Combined with the Marriott offering five-star luxury and style, with its unique location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the resort has matured into a well-known development. The success of this resort has to be seen globally and I am very proud of all its components putted together, in order to offer unforgettable experiences and memories to all our guests.

BTN: What are your key markets?

JA: Our top three nationalities are Portugal, UK and Germany, then we also have very important markets such as Spain, Scandinavia and USA.  In relation to key market segmentation, we have a wide-range from golfers, families who seek leisure, couples, empty-nesters, M.I.C.E, as well as football teams, as we have a first-class football pitch located in the resort. One example of this is the frequent stay of the Portuguese national football team and other international teams. The different types of segments are in accordance to the different seasons of the year and having that in mind we reduce our seasonality as much as possible to a very low level.

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BTN: How would you like the resort to evolve?

JA: The strategy which has been implemented and developed over the last four years will naturally lead this resort to becoming internationally recognized as a top golf and leisure destination. The goal as a short/medium basis is to become the golf and beach resort mostly recognized in Europe for its high standard of services and products available to our guests.

BTN: You were voted “Portugal’s Leading Resort” at the 2008 World Travel Awards for the 2nd year running. Why do you think you won?

JA: These awards are a result and acknowledgment of all our loyal clients who have returned to our resort year after year and therefore, giving us international recognition.  Obviously, we cannot forget the support of our shareholders, staff and the quality of the product itself. Also we should not forget our high quality of service delivered and facilities available as well as location.

BTN: How did you first get started in the hospitality industry?

JA: When I was a child, I stayed in many hotels with my family. I was fascinated by the uniforms of the staff, especially the white gloves used by the restaurant staff (in the old days) and the excellence of service. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be part of the hospitality industry. My first position was on the front-desk clerk in 1989 at the Hotel Meridian in Lisbon as a trainee.

BTN: What advice would you give to anyone starting our in a career in hospitality?

JA: Like any other career, passion for the job has to be a key factor. Of course, dedication and hard work, a lot of hard work.  Everyday we know when the day begins; we never know when it finishes and that is what one has to have in mind - spirit to serve.

BTN: Which achievements are you most proud of and why?

JA: I am extremely proud of the recognition I have received from many people I have worked alongside including those I work with now, as our industry is based on working relationships and communication. The prizes which we have won over these past years are important as well, as this gives us more motivation to continue the hard work, as well as having the feeling of being extremely rewarding. I have loved and learned from all my past and present experience within the hospitality industry, so I am also proud off all my past and present job/responsibility.

BTN: What is your favourite hotel apart from Praia D’El Rey and why?

JA: I normally choose first a destination and then the hotel. I went twice to Africa and fell in love. Cape Town is definitely one of my world’s favourite cities and the Mount Nelson Hotel is the best. However, my curiosity at the moment goes to Falesia D’El Rey. This upcoming project complete with Resort, Golf and a 5* Hotel with 120 rooms, offering exclusive and ocean front views, is part of the hard work developed by our very talented staff members within our group.

BTN: What key attributes do you look for in potential staff?

JA: Key attributes which I like to consider in potential staff is an open mind and the willingness to listen and learn, accept constructive criticism and agree to new challenges and changes.

BTN: How would you describe your management style?

JA: I consider myself to be fair, operational and accessible to all of my staff.  I also place a great deal of trust in my team, as well as demanding professionalism and hard work from each staff member. I am also quite demanding and loyal person. I am sure that there are also other opinions about!

BTN: Describe your perfect resort of the future.

JA: I believe that the perfect resort of the future would be a place where excellence meets simplicity. Being able to provide the best and allowing our guests to complete their days with total fulfilment of their expectations the moment they arrive and leave our resort. You would be able to call it barefoot luxury.

BTN: You are hosting the European leg of the 2009 World Travel Awards - what preparations will you be making and how you think it will help the resort?

JA: The two awards which we won in both 2007 and 2008 are the result of the devotion and perseverance of our hard-working team. The forthcoming October event will no doubt help to strengthen our exposure in the international hospitality industry and establish Praia D’El Rey Resort and its region, as a well-known international tourist destination. We have commenced with preparations early this year together with the WTA team, in order for all participants to benefit from what will be an unforgettable event.
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