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MARCH 2012 |www.opp.org.uk


PORTUGAL REPORT


the services and facilities that someone doing a high quality market research exercise would expect to fi nd when they are thinking of buying a house abroad.” It’s not all plain sailing though, surely? How is Vale do Lobo coping with the problems of the Euro and the global banking crisis? Is the current economic climate making things harder? Yes and no, he says, phlegmatically. “For me, the most important things, no matter what the climate is like, are how to keep and motivate good quality staff, creating a clear and transparent strategy, and making sure everyone on the team has a good understanding of the stakeholders’ goals.” But aren’t we in far tougher times than normal? “Yes, a crisis is always to be expected. But not one as big as this ... it has affected every country in Europe at the same time, which is defi nitely not normal. It is hurting individuals, banks and governments. This is a unique crisis.”


Ferreira believes that best way out of the mess is for Portugal to manage its image, other people’s expectations and the international banks and mortgage lenders. As well as the backers of the international bail-out fund the country has taken too. The country should get its offering in place and then promote the benefi ts of living in Portugal. “This is exactly how you have to position and manage your business on the stock market,” he says. “Our biggest obstacle to success


is the overall image of the country, and international pessimism about the future.”


“The banks are pessimistic and they


don’t have any money. And they are transferring this ‘sentiment’ to their clients, at the same time as cutting back on fi nancing and valuation work.” Ferreira is clearly frustrated by the moneymen. “Despite all the activity going on in top resorts like ours, there is a general feeling of ‘situation on hold’,” he says. But, for VDL, things carry on. The


rich are still rich and “the client base is almost the same as it was when we fi rst began. The speculators have disappeared of course, because they cannot get hold of bank money. The mood is more careful and people are more cautious about spending money, but VDL has operated in luxury


property for more than 45 years. In the end, rich clients buy consolidated rich properties.”


“This is not the time to fi nd investors, though. This is a time to fi nd property-buying clients.”


And how do you do that? “First, focus your marketing, and then sell your concept well,” he says. If you get it right, “the clients will follow you.” And tailor your message to your market. “Different countries have buyers with different approaches.”


“In the short-term we will see a surge in buyers from East European countries like Poland ”


Don’t assume that one marketing campaign will resonate with every audience out there. “Our marketing at VDL focuses on the positive things, like the country and the region. Then we stress our credibility as a developer and resort manager. In the end, the client should understand the positive things immediately, such as the quality of the living at VDL, our fi rst class facilities and above all ... our very high service levels.”


He thinks that the same broad principle can apply to Portugal as a country too. And he is not interested in marketing to Asia. Stick to what you know works, he says. “Personally, I don’ t believe that second home buyers will come from more than four to fi ve hours’ fl ying time away. And the numbers prove it.” “The Americans buy second


homes locally in Florida, California and the Caribbean. Europeans go for Southern Europe, and Asians will buy holiday homes in Thailand, China and Malaysia.”


“Asians buy property in Europe to serve their egos, and they go for capital cities, not resorts,” he argues. “The main buyers markets for Portugal will remain the UK, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia. And, in the short term, we will see a surge in buyers from East European countries like Poland, Russia and Ukraine.” “We sell 97% of our stock to Europeans and we should all focus our approach on them.”


Ferreira groups his tailored messages into “three different market approaches.


Developer profi leOPP INTERVIEW | 55


“When you have all this in place, you will earn a good return on the property. And VDL has 45 years of good returns to prove it.”


We have the UK and Ireland as one group, then Germany, Austria, Holland, Scandinavia and Swizerland as a second, and Eastern Europe as a third.” VDL sells directly overseas and only uses agencies in a small minority of cases. Word of mouth works best, he says. “Overseas clients represent 98% of our business and they get their information through the media: social media, online searches, traditional magazines, events and - mostly of course - word of mouth.” How does Ferreira feel about


the outlook for Portugal as a whole though? “Portugal has everything in place to continue as a top player in the European second home market. We will meet all of the obligations in our national economic bail-out programme, we will follow and achieve all of the international fi nance and debt goals and we will be seen as a good and credible performer.” “After that, Portugal will still have everything that an overseas property buyer wants: excellent fl ight connections, close in distance, a wonderful climate, safe and secure streets, great beaches, the best golf courses, good food, lots of culture, a traditional way of life and happy people.”


Blue skies ahead | Portugal will still have the fundamentals of a top overseas property off ering when the economy is fi xed


Vale Do Lobo


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