In an illuminating tête-à-tête, we delve into the world of the renowned Martinhal Luxury Family Hotels & Resorts, exploring their celebrated establishments, the essence of community living at The Residences, and the pivotal role of kinship within the enterprise.
In the realm of visionary entrepreneurs, there are those who not only identify opportunities but also craft remarkable journeys to bring their visions to life. Chitra Stern, the brilliant mind behind Martinhal Residences, stands as a prime example of such an individual. With a blend of creativity, determination, and a deep understanding of luxury living, Chitra has redefined the landscape of hospitality and real estate. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the thoughts, inspirations, and experiences that have shaped her remarkable journey, offering insight into the world of Martinhal Residences from the perspective of its visionary founder.
The Martinhal name has curated some gravitas over the last few years. For readers who may not be familiar with you, please describe your journey within the luxury property and travel industry, and what led you to creating your current venture; Martinhal Residences?
My husband and I decided to do our own entrepreneurial venture while I was pursuing my MBA at the London Business School. We assessed various business opportunities. Our first visit to Portugal ever was in March of 2001 to look into an opportunity in Carvoeiro, Algarve – we found a beautiful destination with beautiful landscapes, warm climate, and relaxed lifestyle. The country had and still has a great food culture and a fascinating history. People spoke English widely in comparison to other countries and were friendly and welcoming of other cultures. With EU funds pouring in for infrastructure investments such as highways and airport expansions, there was no doubt that the country was about to spring board into the next level of development. We saw the potential for a relatively undiscovered country in Western Europe joining the ranks of Spain and Italy in the next decades.
While the project in Carvoeiro did not go ahead, we decided to buy a small house in Lagos and started building market and industry knowledge. In 2002, we invested in Quinta do Martinhal in the most undeveloped area within the Algarve – Sagres. We decided that this would be a 5-star resort as the location really deserved an amazing place for people to come to.
There is a clear emphasis on family within your business. Did your role as a working mother influence your decision to create Martinhal Residences?
We knew we had to make the first Martinhal a special and unique place. We recognized a gap in the market for high-quality, family-friendly hotels and resorts and we starting conceiving the concept around Martinhal for our first resort. We focused on luxury for families as we started having kids around that time and as you say, being a working mother brought it all home for me. It was impossible to find luxury hotels that would cater for all members of the family – where parents could experience luxury while children could be well-entertained and healthily fed. Where all members of the family could enjoy their activities and relaxation time. We found it impossible to go on the kind of holidays we could go on when were a young professional couple. We worked on designing a resort that went beyond just having a kids club.
Fast-forward 13 years after our first opening and 4 hotels later, Martinhal Residences is a new chapter in the history of Martinhal Resorts and Hotels. For the first time, we are bringing our brand for hospitality into combining living with great hotel services aimed at the luxury family market. As working parents with 4 kids, we understood the conveniences of a “15-minute city” as well, where Martinhal Residences is located – the Park of Nations in Lisbon where everything one needs day-to-day is literally within a 15-minute radius. I understand the benefits of having children walking to visit their friends, or to get a haircut. As a working mother, I value having a good hospital nearby – not just for my children but also my ageing parents; having access to walking paths and a variety of public parks, for our enjoyment of leisure time and to help us take our daily exercise.
The elements within Martinhal Residences of serviced living are definitely also born out of understanding the pain points of a working mother. Martinhal Residences is also designed with the expat family arriving in Lisbon en famille – our concierge will help the family settle into life in Lisbon!
How do you achieve the fine line between establishing a family-friendly stay, whilst still maintaining all elements of luxury?
This is done through great design, architecture, incorporating art and culture into spaces, bringing in luxury brands into our furniture and fit-out, while focusing on amazing kids facilities and services at the same time. We work on our culture and mindset, so that everything we do focuses on giving parents a luxurious time, while kids are entertained without stimulating the parents too much! We have worked hard on recruitment and training of our staff too. We work hard on making the food and drink sophisticated enough for the parents, without making meal times long and inappropriate for families. We ensure that we go beyond burgers, pizzas and spaghetti in our restaurants so that there are several healthy options for the children as well.
We have become a renowned brand in the hospitality industry, winning numerous awards for our innovative approach to family-friendly travel. We are also commended for our commitment to sustainability and community involvement, which I am so proud of.
If you could predict where you and the Martinhal brand will be in 10 years time, tell us where and why?
We see the brand growing beyond Portugal’s borders, with a Martinhal in major European destinations, including capital cities. There is a huge demand for luxury family travel and for branded living – and Martinhal certainly has proven its niche. American guests have come up to me asked when we’re opening in the US, when we are opening in the rest of Europe as they would love to travel through Europe with our brand!
Sum up Martinhal Residences in 3 words for us
Work, Live, Love – I came up with this when I was summing up what life in Martinhal Residences would be like…. Love is an emotion that is so important for life. If you have love, most other things can be sorted out! We have worked hard on creating something with great architecture, design, curated art, and filled with our Martinhal people that our guests and owners are going to love! This will be its success!
Embark on an opulent urban escapade as Martinhal Residences unfurls its doors on June 1st, a tantalising rendezvous with lavish living in Lisbon. Click here to enquire now.
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