JJW Hotels – a refreshing new take on a classic past

 In Original, Tourism

Since taking charge of JJW Hotels & Resorts’ Portugal operations in 2016, Chief Operating Officer Rúben Paula has overseen the refurbishment and repositioning of three of the Algarve’s flagship luxury hotels and golf courses — the Dona Filipa Hotel, the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort, the Formosa Park Hotel, San Lorenzo Golf Course and Pinheiros Altos Golf Resort

The Dona Filipa Hotel, the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort and the ­Formosa Park Hotel are within the ­Algarve’s Golden Triangle, which contains both the Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo luxury residential and tourism communities and the picturesque Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, boasting some of the most stunning natural wetlands anywhere in Europe.
“Last year was challenging for JJW’s Algarve hotels” admits Rúben Paula. “There was a reduction in tourist numbers from the United Kingdom and ­Germany while competing destinations in Turkey, the South of Spain, Greece and North Africa recovered.
Still-limited flight services from markets like the UK and Germany in the wake of the collapse of Monarch and German Wings were not totally filled by other companies.
“We managed, by diversifying the market, to end the year with sales slightly above 2017, with better results thanks to more efficient resource mana­gement as a group. We have and will continue to focus our investment in marketing the Algarve as a destination with diversity, one that is so much more than ‘Sun, Beach and Golf’. The Algarve has culture, nature, cuisine and is an excellent all-year-round resort,” Rúben Paula points out.
For 2019 JJW Hotels & Resorts plans to consolidate its 2018 sales by conti­nuing to focus its marketing on other ­issuing markets and segments.
“We’re predicting a 5% sales growth this year on 2018, partly by increased booking rates out of high season through the business incentives and leisure segments. However, Brexit will undoubtedly continue to be the Algarve’s big challenge, the indecision has already had a direct negative impact on bookings,” says Rúben Paula.

Formosa Park Apartment Hotel
When Formosa Park was purchased by the JJW Group in 2016, it had yet to open and was still in an unfinished state. JJW decided to reposition the four-star hotel to attract not only high-end summer guests but also golfing enthusiasts since the group has three internationally-renowned golf courses nearby.
Set in Quinta do Lago, on the edge of Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, Formosa Park benefits from some of the most stunning nature and scenery in the ­Algarve and is a stone’s throw from the Atlantic facing Blue Flag Ancão Beach.
“We decided to reposition Formosa Park as investment apartments and suites, working more with the golf ­market as we have these golf courses,” says Rúben Paula.
The hotel registered a 58% uptake in 2018, not bad taking into account the hotel was closed in November for ­refurbishment.
“We’re also aiming at other guest profiles like couples or small parties. These are different categories of holidaymakers from the ones who holiday in Vilamoura looking for fun and adventure. Formosa Park is all about peace, tranquillity and stunning natural surroundings.
“People love it! They, like us, can see the location as a unique selling point. We have forged partnerships with luxury estate agents to test the market and see how the concept works. We started commercialising the apartments and suites in the summer and have sold quite a few already,” explains Rúben Paula.

A tidy investment return
There are 61 one- and two-bedroom luxury suite apartments available spread over three floors, all with ample living areas and generous terraces overlooking landscaped gardens, the swimming pool and Atlantic. Typically, owners buy these properties as a long-term rental investment but can enjoy them for holidays for a suggested two to three weeks per year. The guaranteed annual investment ­return is between 3% and 5%, depending on the time spent by owners.
Says Rúben Paula: “The Formosa Park Apartment Hotel is aimed at the overseas market, those taking advantage of the authorisation for residency through investment programme (Golden Visa), EU citizen investors as well as ­Portuguese citizens.
“Given the different buyer profiles we’ve had, we understand that this ­product is not only an investor’s product. We have three golf courses and both owners and guests who love golf have ­access to these and enjoy the golf courses and services at a discount rate as owners even if they are not staying in the property at the time,” he explains.
Owners get a special owners’ discount card and can use it at any of the group’s hotels. In addition, the owners also enjoy a better return on their investment than savings rates currently offered by banks. The JJW Group is also looking at similar projects nearby once the ­present development has matured.
The Formosa Park has two outdoor pools, an adventure playground for children and the Arcos bar and restaurant serving classic Mediterranean and international cuisine, making the aparthotel perfect for a relaxing family break or ­golfing getaway. Full-board and self-catering are both available.

Award-winning golf courses
Located just 15 minutes from Faro airport, the three JJW Group luxury ­hotels have privileged access to a host of award-winning golf courses including San Lorenzo and Pinheiros Altos.
“Pinheiros Altos is a very challenging course. People tell me that if it wasn’t next to San Lorenzo, it would be even better because San Lorenzo is one of the most famous golf courses in Europe,” says Rúben Paula.
“Pinheiros Altos has one of the best social clubs in the Algarve, attracting ­different nationalities who get together as members and are attracted by the many golfing events. It really feels just like a club.”
San Lorenzo is undoubtedly the most famous golf course in the Algarve and available exclusively to Formosa Park Hotel guests and apartment owners and guests from the nearby Dona Filipa Hotel.
Says Rúben Paula: “Voted the second-best golf course in Europe, the location and design are amazing. It’s always among the top golf courses in Europe. You can see people coming to stay in the hotels just to play at that course. It’s challenging and unique both in terms of setting and difficulty.”

Dona Filipa
This five-star beachfront family and golf hotel at Vale do Lobo is surrounded by lush greenery and uninterrupted panoramic ocean views. Newly refurbished to the highest standards of luxury, the hotel blends modern design with classic Portuguese style and is marketed for family holidays, golf breaks, corporate retreats and beach getaways.
Guests can choose a wide array of golf courses, including Dona Filipa’s world-famous San Lorenzo and Pinheiros Altos courses.
It boasts a 150sqm Presidential Suite, a 100sqm Platinum Suite, a number of Premium, Ocean and Atlantic suites (65-55sqm) and Premium and Classic rooms ranging from 35sqm to 20sqm.
“Opened in 1968, we have a huge €10 million modernisation investment underway which will be done in phases. We changed the pool area to suit current restaurant users who like to dine outside close to the pool,” says Rúben Paula adding that the hotel had a 65% uptake rate for 2018.
Located just 100 metres from the sea, the 154 rooms now have fabulous ocean views and are redecorated to a more luxu­rious standard with added personality.
“It feels like a boutique hotel. Perfect for small events and parties as well as ­individual clients. Our clientele is typically couples in their 40s and over, used to paying premium rates for the kind of service they want, and we provide,” explains Rúben Paula.
“We have many clients who are loyal guests who come year after year. We have to know what they want. One of those things is golf. Portuguese guests ­increasingly join an already established clientele of overseas visitors.”
The group has its own beach concession where guests get the same ­service as in the hotels. In the summer, a room at Dona Filipa can cost €500 per night with suites costing over €1,000 per night for stays typically for one to two weeks.
“We’re busy all year round, not only in the summer months but also in the golf season in the off-season months with golfers who come for three or five days, or others who stay two weeks.”

The Penina Hotel & Golf Resort
Set within 360 acres of grasslands and natural beauty, the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort is the original home of golf in the Algarve.
Surrounded by three golf courses – Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course, Resort Course and Academy Course and with three other famous champion-league courses nearby – San Lorenzo, Pinheiro Altos and Penina – this luxury five-star Algarve hotel leads the way in high-class service, Portuguese charm and exceptional golf.
Perfect for luxury golf breaks, relaxing family holidays and corporate retreats, Penina is home to the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course, the first 18-hole course in the Algarve and legen­dary for some of the finest and most challenging golf in the world.
The Penina was voted Portugal’s Leading Golf Resort by the World Travel Awards, while the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course directed by ­Salvador Macedo has hosted 10 Portu­guese Opens and scores of other prestigious tournaments. Last year it enjoyed a 55% occupancy rate.
Rúben Paula recalls: “It was the first five-star hotel with a golf course in the Algarve and turned 52 in November. You can feel the character oozing from the walls and reception rooms. The pool table donated by the Royal British Club was a present from King Edward VII of England while the piano once belonged to Portugal’s last ill-fated Queen Amelia.
“Paul McCartney wrote the song ‘Penina’ in the bar and offered the music to the musicians, the group JRS.
“Sir Henry Cotton designed the golf course on what had been a rice field. He famously said: ‘Tomorrow I’ll have a caddy for you that you’ve never seen ­before.’ The next day he went to Monchique and bought a donkey, then they needed someone to look after the donkey. The donkey has remained a ­feature ever since,” Rúben Paula concludes laughing.