“Once there was a feeling this could last, people decided they would rather hibernate here instead of somewhere like London.”
He says previously people might have come for two, three or four weeks a year, but now – with the remote working revolution and a change in lifestyle priorities triggered by the pandemic – the prospect of spending six months a year in Portugal, as some did during lockdown, has become both more attractive and realistic.
“The demographics have also changed,” Moriarty said. “There has been a shift. It used to be mostly people in their late seventies, retiring here and playing golf. But now we are seeing more people in their late forties and early fifties, and even younger. There is a good mix of generations.”
He says often people rent first, fall in love with the area and then look to buy instead.
The importance of sustainability
It’s become a buzzword in recent years, but Quinta do Lago’s original masterplan in the 1970s – established by Andre Jordan, the resort’s founder - was ahead of its time when it came to sustainability and setting out clear limits on construction.
“We make sure we respect the green belt,” Moriarty insists. “And sustainability is a big thing for us, right down to the straws we use in our restaurants and the grass used on our golf courses.”
He says Quinta has always fitted well into its surroundings, in a natural rather than disruptive way, but now much greater steps are being taken to ensure sustainability is a key consideration at a micro level as well.
“This includes tracking the carbon footprint of the food in our restaurants, looking to create a super-home that is completely sustainable and refusing to accept deliveries in plastic,” Moriarty adds. “This can sometimes cause issues, but we want to take a lead on this. It’s the same with changes we’re making to the golf courses, where we’re changing the grass types so they’re less reliant on water.”
He bemoans the shortage and affordability of sustainable products, which still remain niche, meaning Quinta has to go hunting for partners. But he says the extra effort is worth it to ensure QDL’s ethos is kept to.
Close by to KOKO, the brunch, lunch and dinner destination we meet at for the interview with Moriarty, is the resort’s farm, where the chefs from many of QLD’s restaurants head to get many of their ingredients. The idea of farm to fork, an increasingly popular mantra in recent years, is something that QDL says it takes very seriously.
In itself, the farm harks back to Quinta’s origins. Before Andre Jordan had the vision for a luxury resort, the area was pretty much made up of sand and farmland, much like nearby Vilamoura. The name itself literally means farm of the lake in Portuguese.
How important does the UK market remain?
Despite Brexit and the many challenges this has posed, QDL still mainly caters to a predominantly British market. Buyers from the UK make up around 60% of all purchasers at the resort, a figure which has more or less remained the same since Brexit.
More recently, the Portuguese government and the country’s tourism industry have been left unhappy at Portugal’s removal from the Green List of countries where quarantine upon return is not necessary. From mid-May to early June, Portugal had become the only realistic holiday destination for Brits this summer, before it was drastically and unexpectedly removed from the list last week.
Our trip to Quinta took place a couple of weeks before the Green List announcement, but Moriarty said at the time that there hadn’t been a huge surge of visitors as a result of the easing of restrictions, partly because of the ongoing uncertainty and costs involved with pre- and post-flight tests.
But he also insisted that there is still huge interest from the UK, in spite of Brexit and Covid.
When we put it to him that QDL isn’t the real, authentic Portugal, but a manicured, exclusive and slightly closed off bubble, he says people should come and see for themselves, pointing to the different activities and landscapes on offer, the locally sourced food, the fusion restaurants, the golf course open to everyone and arguably the jewel in the crown of the resort, The Campus.
Officially launched in 2019, Moriarty describes the facility as a game-changer for the Algarve. The likes of Glasgow Rangers, Burnley and teams from as far afield as China have used the football pitches on offer at The Campus for warm-weather training.
He says it’s focused around wellbeing and lifestyle, and is aimed at all demographics, ages and ability levels. It includes numerous sports facilities, including tennis and padel courts, football pitches and a state-of-the-art gym, as well as education and rehab centres.
The area is keen to draw more triathlon and open water swimming events – the coast and the Ria Formosa natural park are very close by – as well as becoming a football education hotbed.
He insists QDL is all about building a community, rather than excluding anyone, and The Campus is one of the key cogs in helping this to happen.
A home from home in a hotel
Following the interview with Moriarty, we accompany Joana Serra – the friendly and engaging marketing manager at Quinta do Lago, who has seen the resort grow in her nearly eight years with the company - to the Wyndham Grand Algarve Residences, which we’ve covered before on PIT.
The residences are effectively rooms inside the hotel which buyers can purchase and then receive returns on their investment when they’re not there. It is, in many ways, the ultimate lock up and leave, with all maintenance, repairs and management taken care of by the hotel.
There are two rental programme options for investors. Option A offers guaranteed rental yields at 4% for five years (after expenses), with the owner entitled to 12 weeks private usage of the apartment each year. This includes two weeks in peak season (between June and September), three weeks in mid-season (March, April, May and October), and seven weeks in the low season (January, February, November and December). This also includes certain blocked dates in July and August and during the Easter period.
With option B, meanwhile, there is no rentability guaranteed – instead there is a ‘rentability pool programme’ at 42.5% of net rental income. Owners are entitled to 12 weeks private usage of the apartment, with no blocked out dates, following the same pattern as above.
Ana Damásio, the director of real estate sales at Wyndham Grand Algarve since April 2021, talks us through some of the advantages of ownership. This includes an exclusive and privileged owners’ concierge and check-in desk, a 10% discount in all bars and restaurants, a 15% discount on breakfast, a 10% discount on spa treatments, and discounts on laundry and the hotel’s luxury transfer service.
In addition, she says owners get free use of the indoor and outdoor pools, sunbeds, the gardens, and selected spa services, including a sauna and the Turkish Bath. There is also free use of the gym and kids club, parking and membership of the Wyndham Loyalty Programme.
Outside of the usage period, the owners and their family and friends can benefit from a reservations discount policy, with discounts on offer of up to 20%.
“It’s very hard to find guaranteed returns like this in premium locations,” Damásio insists. “Investors will get a serviced residence with amenities and many other advantages. It’s a very nice holiday place, offering the best returns, with management to Wyndham standards.”
On the day we attend, the hotel is gearing up to reopen the very next day, welcoming guests back for the first time since October 2020 after an impressive revamp during the lockdown period. We are given a sneak peek of the hotel, which is nicely designed and scrupulously clean, with a very wooded feel throughout.
One, two and three-bed apartments are on offer to investors, although they are selling fast. The Golden Visa is eligible for the residences, even after January 2022 (when the rules change), because it counts as a touristic complex. One-beds start from £532,000, rising up to £805,000 for a two-bed.
There are preferential rates for those keen on playing golf at one of QDL’s renowned courses, while the beach can be reached by foot in around 20 minutes.
Bigger plots and bigger villas
From the more affordable options on offer at the Wyndham Grand, we next head for a whistle-stop tour of San Lorenzo North, where there are bigger plots, bigger villas and much larger sums of money at play.
It is all very quiet and private, with firm restrictions in terms of height and density. Some 70% of the development is already sold, with the last few apartments waiting to be snapped up. Demand, we're told, is high.
After San Lorenzo North, there is one more part of the masterplan to develop, before the building is set to be complete. After that, it will be about redeveloping, rebuilding and improving, but there are no plans for further new developments.
We are shown around a huge, traditionally designed villa in San Lorenzo North to give us an idea of the type of homes in the area. The wonderfully offbeat and fast-talking Jaan-Claire Rodrigues is on hand to show us around the vast space, which overlooks San Lorenzo golf course and Ria Formosa.
To finish up the mini-tour of Quinta do Lago, we join Joana Serra and her colleague - also called Joana (Oliveira) and also a marketing manager – for a meal at Casa do Lago, an excellent fish restaurant in a scenic destination, where they discuss passionately the merits of the area.
It’s hard not to be convinced, even if the argument that this isn’t proper Portugal definitely holds considerable weight.
For those seeking luxury real estate in a place with excellent amenities, restaurants and sports facilities nearby, though, there are few better places on offer in Portugal. Or indeed anywhere.