There are inevitable things in the future of tourism. Increased wages and immigrant labor are two of them

João Soares makes a positive assessment of the recent congress of the Hotel Association of Portugal (AHP), of which he is the regional delegate

It was a time to “reflect and prepare for the future”. And the future of tourism involves, precisely, the hot topics discussed during the congress of the Portuguese Hotel Association (AHP), which took place in Albufeira: labor, financing, digitization and sustainability.

This is the vision of João Soares, the AHP regional delegate, to whom the Sul Informação asked to take stock of the National Congress of Hotel and Tourism, an initiative that, he says, was "a success", from the outset by the numbers achieved.

“The congress had 595 participants, 44 speakers and moderators, 30 exhibitors, 44 sponsors and more than 20 media. This reveals the dimension of AHP in national terms», stressed the director and owner of the D. José Beach Hotel, in Quarteira.

This, of course, in addition to the President of the Republic, who closed the event, by the Minister of Economy, who attended on the first day of work, and the Secretary of State for Tourism.

The strong adhesion will be linked to the choice of those who were the main themes of the congress, which are “current. Labor is a major concern, so much so that it was widely debated in several panels. This is a major concern of AHP and we are, together with the Government, trying to find solutions».

One of the hoteliers' proposals is to “make protocols and agreements with some countries. We are favoring Cape Verde, which is a Portuguese-speaking country, where there are already some contacts and where there are good hotel schools».



The shortage of human resources was more than the theme of a panel, it was a subject that was recurrently discussed throughout the congress.

Even because, if this is a relevant issue in various parts of the country, in the Algarve «the problem is increased».

This is because “in addition to the great difficulty in recruiting and the lack of transport network, for people to move from where they live to the workplace, we have the issue of seasonality, with a great need for labor in the summer and a smaller one in low season, as well as the cost of housing, which is very high».

"We are somehow trying to sensitize and rush, together with AMAL and the municipalities themselves, in order to have some housing for the workers", revealed João Soares.

However, these solutions will be, at best, medium-term, so they do not solve a pressing problem, as "we are going to need a lot of manpower for next summer".

«The transport network is also something that is talked about a lot, in relation to the Algarve, but it has also been slow, namely the electrification of the line, but not only. Immediate action has to be taken, transporting via buses, in a traditional way, allowing people in the interior to come to work in the coastal area, where the overwhelming majority of projects are located», believes the AHP delegate in the Algarve.

Algarve hoteliers are, moreover, “going to fetch a lot of people from Baixo Alentejo. We are talking about an already significant percentage. Temporary work companies travel from Baixo Alentejo every day and from other areas where housing is cheaper, in order to get people here».

This workforce from the neighboring region must be joined by another from farther afield.

“We are going to need immigration, we have no alternative. We understand that the children of people who work in certain professions will not want to do what their parents do", believes João Soares, who gives the example of England, where "we don't see an Englishman driving a taxi, serving in a restaurant. or in related tasks. Usually other peoples do these functions. And this is the natural order of things».

"I believe that in Portugal we already have high quality immigration and the trend is for there to be more and more", he said.


AHP Congress in Albufeira – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


What is certain, in the Algarve hotel manager's view, is that, wherever the workforce comes from, «wages will have to grow».

However, it is important that this increase “is also accompanied by the average hotel price. You cannot increase salaries, increase context costs and, on the other hand, maintain the same average selling price to the public».

But is it enough to raise wages and have more housing to solve the problems of lack of labor? João Soares doesn't think it's enough.

“There has to be better working conditions. I think we have to go back to cultivating, promoting and dignifying what it means to work in the hotel industry, giving the possibility to reconcile with the family, to make a career, to grow within the company. This is an industry like there are few in this regard. There are people who start at the entrance, go through the reception and reach good hotel directors», he said.

"But it is also necessary to create good conditions for workers, in terms of the areas dedicated to them, the creation of incentives, such as health insurance, annual and performance bonuses, permanent evaluations... I think there is a lot of work to be done in the area of human resources”, he considered.

The theme of financing was also discussed at the hotel conference that took place in Albufeira, «because we know that companies, especially those who opened hotels in 2017, 2018 or 2019, are going through great difficulties».

"This is a very current topic, since, with the prolonging of the pandemic situation, it is necessary to sensitize the Government and the banking entities to, in some way, support the companies", he referred.

The idea is to create instruments to "not let companies fall", such as grace periods and "good analyses, to understand that business will be viable in the future and that this is a passing situation".

«It will be important to keep jobs and the economy functioning that these companies are supported enough», defends João Soares.



And then there were «other topics that are always hot for the Algarve, such as aviation, access to Faro».

«This panel was very interesting, because it ends up confirming what we already knew, which is TAP's lack of interest in flying to Faro, maintaining the policy of hub in Lisbon to the rest of Europe, as well as South America and the United States, such as the core business of the company», says the entrepreneur.

“On the other hand, we learned that we increasingly have easyJet on our side, which is a key partner. The trend is to grow at the Airport of Faro, which gives us a lot of satisfaction», he added.

João Soares also highlighted “a novelty introduced at this congress, which was the promotion of small panels, one dedicated to human resources, the other to digitization, which gave the opportunity for those interested only in these areas to attend specifically to these sessions”.

“This allowed us to bring in another type of congressmen. The hotels allowed two delegates to register, one watching, for example, the panel on digitization and the other on human resources. Within the organizations themselves, it was possible to choose the type of congress attendees for specific themes," he said.

Another highlight was the «very interesting» panel on the Algarve, «where we involve two very different types of products: sun and sea, which is the traditional product, presented by Mário Ferreira, who is the CEO of Grupo Nau, but also, on the other hand, Rota Vicentina, which is a product more niche and that has to do with current trends, through Marta Cabral».

“One of the great concerns we have is that without territory there is no tourism. Care must be taken, in particular with the carrying capacity of tourist activities, transport, mobility. We tried to mobilize the mayors to get involved, because, many times, we have the feeling that we live from tourism and not for tourism», he said.

«What we did at this congress, basically, was, brainstorming among all hoteliers. We brought to the table what we thought were the relevant issues and tried to understand how Portugal positions itself in international terms, as well as to convince decision-makers, namely the Minister of Economy, the Secretary of State for Tourism and the President of the Republic himself, that we must continue to invest in promoting the country abroad, an area where good work has been done, in which we must not let companies fall, so that, when the pandemic slows down, we can maintain the same offer we had and continue to be competitive in terms of international organizations,” summarized the AHP regional delegate.

Hoteliers also want "to ease the tax burden and to launch measures so that workers have better conditions to work in the hotel industry and for this to be a sufficiently attractive activity, so that they do not lose more resources than they have been losing" .

"These issues were handed over to the Government, we made decision makers aware, we made local agents aware of territorial issues, which are also very important."

As for the future, it is already expected that it will be brighter than the last year and 9 months. “Right now, in terms of our traditional markets, the British and other nearby European markets, we are experiencing growth in 2022. What is expected is that, from May onwards, there will be a tree in reserves and may the next summer be good», believes João Soares.