Over a couple of hours during two days in late September and early October 2018 Miguel Andrade, Praia D’El Rey Marriott Hotel & Beach Resort Director General, met with Paul Shave to provide an insight into his life and career and the operations in PDR where he holds responsibility. This is the latest in the series of interviews being published exclusively on the www.yourpdr.org website.
Miguel was born in 1963 and raised on the Portuguese Island of Madeira. He mentioned that his father was born in Madeira and that his mother came from the north of the Portuguese mainland. Educated in Madeira until the age of 19, Miguel then relocated to the Portuguese mainland to further his studies in Oporto. Miguel explained that he enjoys sport and in particular played regular tennis, especially during his time in Mexico and during his formative years. He was also fond of swinging his golf clubs. Both sports now though he says, are in decline. Instead Miguel currently concentrates on road running and staying fit by visiting the gym.
Before starting has career, Miguel was conscripted into the Portuguese Army for 2 years of his life between 1988 and 1990. Prior to this Miguel studied for 3 years at the Hotel Business School in Oporto and that included spells abroad at Henley College in the UK and Cornell University in the USA. On completions of his studies Miguel was awarded his Hotel Business Degree.
With degree in hand he was interviewed and appointed as a graduate employee with the renowned and global Intercontinental Hotel Group. Miguel spent 10 years with Intercontinental fulfilling numerous positions, consistently achieving promotion from junior roles to senior executive management positions. It also saw Miguel travelling extensively to Intercontinental operations. He highlighted managing in the Intercontinental Hotel London, Le Grand in Paris and the Ritz in Lisbon as well as undertaking management roles in Cancun, Guadalajara and Madrid.
In 1999 Miguel returned “home” to Madeira having secured a role as Chief Operating Officer for Regency Hotel & Resorts in Madeira. Reporting to the Board he was placed in charge of hospitality and hotel operations and opened 3 hotels including a boutique hotel in Lisbon’s Chiado district.
After 6 years Miguel was back in Mainland Portugal and appointed Director of Sales at Blue and Green Hotels and after a successful 2 year period became the hotel’s General Manager at Troia Design Hotel. Remaining here until 2013 after which he was recruited for the role of General Manager at the Dolce Hotels & Resorts, including the Campo Real Resort. Success here led to gaining the opportunity to manage the Cascade Wellness & Lifestyle Resort in Lagos, in Portugal’s Algarve region. More success in this role led to Miguel’s current appointment in Praia D’El Rey. He commenced his current role in January 2018.
Whilst Miguel’s career had been developing, he has married and is currently father and stepfather to 6 children aged between 2 and 19. Naturally interests outside of work more recently, have been concentrated on spending as much time as possible with family!
Miguel describes himself as a people person enjoying the company of others and his profession has enabled him to meet numerous interesting individuals by working in multinational companies. From the brief time I have spent with Miguel, it is easy to see that he is interested in others and what interests them.
Having spent time gaining an insight to Miguel’s background, it was time for the interview to move onto his current role and to provide some detail about what Miguel brings to Praia D’El Rey.
What many Property Owners in PDR will want to know is what attracted someone with Miguel’s experience to take on the role he holds. “First off” Miguel explained “It’s an excitingly good opportunity to be responsible for such an operation, given that it is part of a huge international group with more than 30 hotel and resort brands and more than 6000 properties in the world”. This immediately prompted me to ask the question “So, are you employed by Oxy Capital or Marriott?” “Miguel responded “Of course I am part of Blue and Green the hotel operating company owned by Oxy Capital who operates in-line with the Marriott Groups stringent standards, processes and policies”.
Miguel went on to advise that currently the PDR Marriott is ranked number 7 out of 94 European Marriott operations in terms of quality and customer satisfaction evaluations. He went on to add that those who have invested in PDR may be interested to realise that “the Blue and Green / Marriott operation isn’t just the hotel – it is the whole resort, from the moment you enter at the roundabout until you leave. The owner therefore looks at the whole picture and the full experience that all who enter PDR achieve – whether that is eating in the PDR / Westcliffs Restaurants, playing a round on the golf course or a set or two on the tennis courts, driving on the roads or walking on the paths etc.,”. “It is definitely a challenge” he says “to achieve satisfaction of the PDR experience for everyone. But it can be rewarding also when you see parts of the experience achieved”.
Miguel says his Brief on taking the role was to improve consistency and exceed expectations and objectives. These company objectives and expectations are high as he believes those who own properties in PDR are too. The headline objective is for PDR Resort and Wescliffs to be a landmark in Iberia, in all that this means and in particular quality - at all levels. He says that PDR and Westcliffs above all others are both already a reference point in Portugal.
So, what then prevents reaching these objectives? “People would be the main issue. Because of the location of PDR, recruiting highly or appropriately experienced people locally is extremely difficult”. Miguel continued to explain that whilst recognising that in the current economic situation recruiting is not easy across the whole of Portugal, PDR is definitely more of a challenge. Addressing this is a key priority with people a major asset for any successful operation and for PDR operations “probably the biggest challenge”.
Miguel’s reason for accepting the invitation to be interviewed for the www.yourpdr.org website was mostly to follow on from discussions with PDR Owners Association (APPDR) committee member and Head of the Social Activities initiative Rob Walsh. Both felt that it was important to provide the insight into how this challenge is being tackled. First it is important that the staff that are currently employed are happy. Many in PDR will have seen the developments that have taken place with the Hotel and the opening of Westcliffs. What maybe isn’t realised is the ways in which PDR is trying to recruit and retain staff. For example more staff now are being accommodated in PDR because their homes are too far away to commute. Plus, without their own private transport, it’s almost impossible to commute using public transport. The staff restaurant (did this website’s reader know that there even was one?) has been remodelled. More training of staff to meet high standards have been introduced. Providing work experience for hotel college students (where it is hoped that when these students have graduated, the best can be persuaded to join the PDR operation). Annual salary Incentives programme aligned with quality objectives have been set up for all employees. The downsides are that with “Marriott” experience on Resumes / CVs the existing employees are attractive to competitors operations. So the investment in training is negated when opportunities to work are presented closer to home and family. That is not to say that PDR and Marriott are not adverse to poaching well-trained professionals from their competitors. But, getting them to relocate is difficult.
What’s different then since January 2018? A new Executive Committee Team and an Executive Chef have been appointed and he has brought a new team with him. (It is intended that during the next couple of months an interview will be held with the Executive Chef and then published on the website too). Already the quality and innovative food presentations are starting to be noticed. The disappointment has been that the various restaurants under the PDR management have not been able to stay open as long as they would like due to staff shortage. A new HR Team has been put in place and recruitment and training processes reviewed. There is no doubt it is a “work-in-progress” but it is improving Miguel believes and more evidence of this will be visible by the end of 2019. The business is ahead of quality targets compared to this time last year.
Providing high quality across the business is naturally right up there on Miguel’s list of priorities. He describes high quality as exceeding others expectations – supporting and responding to the needs of customers and goes as far as wanting to surprise those paying for the business’s services with even higher levels of quality and service than anticipated. Miguel added further that his experience of the modern customer generally but also in PDR, is that they value independence, mobility and are increasingly more sophisticated. That means the expectation is for the customer to have no need to ask but to find efficiency and comfort as the norm - whether that is in the hotel as a guest or as a PDR property owner visiting the restaurants and other PDR facilities. Providing this is an ongoing challenge.
Of course this level of quality comes at a price. So, it has to be appropriate and viewed as value for money. That is always hard to define – A Marriott philosophy is for customers to travel brilliantly without problems and that is adopted in PDR. It means anticipating customer satisfaction in whatever that may need to cover. As a small example Miguel explained that all produce used in the PDR Restaurants are of the highest quality (no cheating on ready prepared food), always fresh and where ever possible locally sourced – Staff must be able to explain to customers about what’s on the menu - the locally caught fish or the type of wine on the menus for example. This means investment in staff training to a high level.
This has its problems – Miguel recognises and cannot shy away from the risk of customer disappointment that can be caused if 2 or 3 of the regular staff are not available on any given day for whatever reason because you cannot just go out and bring in substitute staff in PDR like you might be able to do in say Lisbon or other bigger conurbation areas. The choice is hard – do you close the facility temporarily at short notice or use lesser trained staff? To tackle this type of dilemma investment is paramount and although Miguel advises that some staff salaries have been reviewed to become more competitive to attract and retain the better level of staff, this is only one part of the solution as mentioned earlier in the interview relating to staff conditions, providing accommodation. Investment in the infrastructure - primarily related to the hotel, has been high during the last 12 months – By spring 2019 all the rooms are fully renovated - restaurants, meeting rooms and public areas. This represents the full commitment of the owning on PDR project
What then can PDR folk anticipate in the Mare, the PDR & Westcliffs Clubhouses and Hotel Restaurants in 2019 – Simply put Miguel says “better and more consistent service and culinary experience ”. “We’ve seen the odd comments on social media and heard some criticism of the operations – we have reacted to it. There are more measurable targets in place – kpi’s of course”
The time spent with Miguel has for me been very interesting. Clearly a professional in his area of responsibility with a genuine desire to ensure the satisfaction of PDR owners who want to have an uncomplicated and surprising experience when dining at any of the resorts restaurants.
To complete the interview I asked for some figures that may be of interest to the reader.
Every week the Restaurants across PDR and Westcliffs use on average some
3,300 Kilos of Vegetables
832 Bottles of Wine
6000 kilos of linen are processed
Paul Shave for the www.yourpdr.org website 23.10.2018