JamieRose Briones, Luxury Frontiers’ Director of Strategy and Development, and Aaron Gjellstad, Director of Operations, just returned back to San Francisco after attending the first-ever Algarve Residential Tourism Conference. We touched base with JamieRose to get the lowdown on the event and get a glimpse into southern Portugal’s next act.
Tell us about the Algarve Residential Tourism Conference.
This was the inaugural edition of the conference, whose aim is to promote the residential tourism sector in the Algarve. There is an extremely strong residential tourism economy in the region — many tourists own second or even third homes there — so a big focus of the event was how to make the destination increasingly sustainable, which was where Luxury Frontiers came in.
What was your involvement in the conference?
The conference asked Luxury Frontiers to attend because of our innovative approach to hospitality, and I think the conference organizers were hoping for our panel discussions to provoke people and challenge the conventional ways of developing tourism offerings in the region. People in the industry know that the consumer demands are changing; they see it every day. So I think it was exciting for Luxury Frontiers to be there and demonstrate the ways our projects are responding to, and even, anticipating, these industry changes.
What was the focus of your presentations?
Luxury Frontiers participated in three panel events at the Algarve Residential Tourism Conference. Aaron spoke about sustainability, and how it’s truly one of the most important points of focus for tourism products going forward. He talked about alternative building materials and green solutions like incorporating recycled materials into the structure, making use of renewable energies, and deploying on-site water filtration systems. There were a lot of really interested faces in the crowd — especially when Aaron said that it was possible to build walls out of glass bottles!
And what was the subject of your panel discussions?
My first panel was about the rising demand for experiential travel: from wellness and sustainable/responsible travel to cultural and adventure tourism. These are such strong trends that the media is extensively covering them, such as Condé Nast Traveller’s June 2018 issue on “The World’s Most Extraordinary Experiences”; Robb Report’s dedicated Health & Wellness issues; and the annual Travel + Leisure Adventure issue. But I also used statistics to drive home the point. For example, wellness is a $565 billion industry globally, accounting for 14 percent of all tourism expenditures. And adventure travel, which already accounts for 44 percent of the entire global travel market, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.8 percent through 2022. These are numbers that developers and investors simply cannot ignore.
What was the focus of your second panel?
My second panel was about how Luxury Frontiers has capitalized on the above industry “trends, ” or rather, shift in consumer thinking and behavior. I pointed to our completed projects like Botswana’s Abu Camp and the Hotel Gran Son Net in Mallorca, Spain, as well as tented concepts that are currently under development in destinations like the U.S. and Costa Rica. These are just a few examples that illustrate our cutting-edge, experiential approach — an approach that creates lifelong memories for guests and provides valuable solutions for owners.
Shifting back to the Algarve, what kind of experiential concept do you think would thrive there?
The Algarve has all the trappings of a superlative wellness destination: great weather, beautiful coastal scenery, plenty of leisure travelers, and areas with an abundance of green space perfect for setting the scene for serenity and mindfulness. One area of Portugal that has been really successful in tapping into the area’s natural charms is an area north of the Algarve called Comporta. It’s a low-key beach village that’s seen an uptick in stylish boutique hotels, like Carmo’s Boutique Hotel and Casas Na Areia, over the past few years. I think the Algarve could undergo a similar kind of repositioning and really become a leader in Portugal in terms of sustainable tourism developments. And I strongly believe hotels could be the driving force. To quote a stat I read the other day, Fairmont Hotels’ 2018 Global Luxury Traveler Insights Study found that more than half of luxury travelers are attracted to destinations based on their hotel options — which lends credence to the whole ‘build it and they’ll come’ idea.
Outside the conference, did you get to see or do anything interesting?
Actually, Aaron and I had the opportunity to accompany a developer on a site visit of his forthcoming hospitality project, Plantation Guardiana River. This particular developer is really keen on embedding the region’s agricultural history into his offering here. There will be vineyards, groves and fruit trees throughout the property and the overall vibe will be really true to the destination and cause minimal environmental impact to the land — two of the hallmarks of a successful modern hospitality concept. When his project is complete, I see it being a place where guests will really be able to slow down, relax, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle in harmony with nature.