The impact of the COVID 19 global pandemic in the tourism sector has been massive. The restrictions on traveling brought the industry to an unprecedented halt. For Pestana Hotel Group this meant closing 100 hotels in 14 countries as the situation evolved, over a three-week gap.

A year a half on, the industry begins to see a clearer future, as vaccination advances and new traveling policies are set, granting travelers renewed confidence to wander the globe. However, while it seems national tourism will contribute to balance negative results, the recovery of tourism on a broader scale remains uncertain. In Portugal, we don’t expect to see a significant recovery to 2019 levels, a record-breaking year, before 2024. 

The Pestana Hotel Group has lived through many crises over its nearly 50 years, learning invaluable lessons at each take and pushing it harder in its long-term goals, while keeping its priorities clear. Its success is strongly grounded in the implementation of a consistent and permanent strategy of sustainable principles and policies, which is also translated into the Group’s Planet Guest Corporate Responsibility program. An all-encompassing concept that conveys the Group's position as an organization and a group of people who respect and value the environment, society, and corporate ethics. Its motto ‘We are only guests of the Planet’ reflects our deep respect for the environment, as well as our commitments towards our teams, our communities, guests, and clients. 

While hotel activity has been on hold on and off our responsible work remained undeterred, spanning across its regular activities, and was reinforced in others such as:

Well-being, training, communication, and social responsibility: HR teams and managers worked hand in hand with their teams right from the start of the crisis. A Contingency Plan with preventive measures was swiftly implemented, protective individual equipment was handed out and telework was encouraged even prior to the local authorities’ recommendations and before the Emergency State was decreed. 

The company invested in digital training, supported by both internal talent and outsourcing, delivered via an online learning platform with over 6000 videos on varied areas such as management, leadership, digital marketing, or soft skills. 

Internal communication was reinforced keeping everyone in the loop and up to date with the company’s strategy: online sessions between teams at all levels with specific safety and preventive recommendations and best practices and via online live sessions with the CEO, with Q&As, sharing the business impacts and next steps. 

Cross-regional and functional collaboration has been paramount in keeping our people involved:  a global challenge was shared with all to come up with innovative ideas to help the company rethink the operation in the reopening stages. 

Pestana volunteers donated their skills, offering online legal advice or private lessons to their coworkers’ children, and the company provided computers for workers' households where there weren’t enough for tele-schooling purposes.

In the community, the group made several of its hotels available for the accommodation of health professionals and volunteers. Donations include equipment and supplies (ventilators, hygiene products, home wear, groceries, school goods, computers, and others) and the daily provision of meals, provided by volunteers, to various institutions. 

While the pandemic is bound to slow down environmental concerns overall, the Group remains dedicated to its goals, namely continuing to implement the same policies across all regions, such as:

  • Common Energy Policy; 
  • Monitoring consumption indicators and adapting them to needs, considering the number of customers, total area, the number of rooms occupied and available, as well as electricity, fuel, and water consumed;
  • Mandatory daily records, for each hotel/business, immediately combating loss and waste; 
  • Say No To Plastic program through which the Pestana Group reached a 60% reduction in non-reusable plastics in a little over a year; 
  • Chave Verde (Green Key) Certification in all Pestana hotels in Portugal; 
  • Internal environmental awareness campaigns.


These policies are applied in our sustainable flagship project: Pestana Tróia Eco-Resort: in the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve and the Troia Dunes Botanic Reserve, 100 hectares were used to give life to a unique and sustainable project with the lowest construction density in the entire Alentejo Coast. In all it has only 5% construction – 95% of Ecologic Reserve (50%) and Protected Green Area (45%). It is classified as PIN – Project of National Interest, fully integrated in the landscape and environment, with water and energy consumption control and waste management. It also features carefully designed infrastructures to minimize the environmental impact and reduce the ecological footprint- preserving it for future generations. Developed over 10 years and innovating at each stage, it is considered a benchmark and recognized by peers and the market.

Due to the sustainable nature of this project, alongside the Pestana Blue Alvor hotel, the Pestana Group benefited from the financing of the first worldwide issue of “green obligations” in the hotel industry sector. The operation gave rise to considerable interest in the European financial markets, due to its innovative nature. With capital allocation being guaranteed for sustainable projects, the offer being was oversubscribed by more than three times. This allowed the Group to increase the issue price from 50 to 60 million euros under very favorable financial conditions.

With the commitment and motivation of our global team, we will continue to look out for new opportunities to express our environmental and social responsibility, because we believe growth should go hand-in-hand with respect for the people and the planet.

Have a great and impactful week!

Jose Theotonio 
CEO Pestana Hotel Group

This article refers to edition #96 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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