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Growing up with PortoBay



António Pais joined PortoBay in 1995, and came from Aveiro with a very different experience in hospitality than that required by The Cliff Bay hotel.
He started in hospitality at the age of 14 as a bell boy working in the holidays, and pursued a career in Aveiro at a small city hotel, until he moved to Madeira. When he arrived on the island, his focus was on finding a job. But he already knew the place he really wanted to start working: The Cliff Bay, a 5-star hotel that had just opened, where the focus was on glamour which meant a completely different experience to the one he had had until then.
He submitted his CV twice, had an interview and was turned down. In fact, in the questionnaire he filled out he stated that he was willing to work in any position, including as a gardener, especially because he is a nature lover and finds great comfort in his garden. Things didn't go well; but he didn't give up.
He says that one Sunday, he was at a restaurant and found out that one of the group's directors was also there, Pedro Ferreira, a much loved among the PortoBay staff. He took a deep breath, plucked up courage and approached him. He related his entire career and explained that he was willing to work in any area, for as long as necessary and that the company judged suitable. If at the end of that time they thought that he deserved a chance, they could offer him a contract. That was how António Pais entered PortoBay, in the conviction that this was the path, that it was possible.
His first role was as a trainee Night Auditor, and after three months he was hired, and remained in this role for a while longer. Between 1995 and 1998, he changed jobs quite frequently. He worked in the reception back office on reservations, and later, after some departures from the team, he ended up being promoted to Reservations Supervisor and then to Head of Reception.

Between 1998 and 1999, the hotel manager was absent due to training and suggested to the directors that António should remain as Resident Manager, but combine both jobs. He held this position until 2001, and then in 2002 he moved to Porto Santa Maria as Hotel Manager, where he remained until 2006.
It was at this point that he was invited to go to Brazil and be part of PortoBay's expansion into another continent. In 2007, he became Manager of PortoBay Rio de Janeiro and oversaw the hotel transition. Shortly afterwards, he combined roles and was also Manager of PortoBay Búzios. During the week he worked in Rio de Janeiro, while at the weekend he worked in Búzios. Initially, the idea was to stay in Brazil for at least three years, but destiny had other plans.
In 2007, PortoBay expanded to the Algarve and the PortoBay Falésia hotel needed a Manager to prepare the hotel and its opening, so Fernando Filipe left Vila Porto Mare and went to the Algarve. In 2008, after the hotel had been three months under another manager, António ended up taking on the role of Manager at Vila Porto Mare, where he remained until 2014.
And how did he end up getting to The Cliff Bay, I hear you ask? Well, as António explains: ‘I was in my garden in Porto Moniz and I received a call from Dr Trindade saying that on Monday he was going to introduce me to the staff at the Cliff. And that's it, I’ve been Manager of The Cliff Bay for 10 years! I've almost come full circle. I would never have imagined getting this far, back in 1995.’
It's been almost 30 years of a commendable journey, having worked in different roles, at several hotels in the group and all because he believed. Growing up with PortoBay was natural, but with each step he took on more responsibilities. However, his watchword was always to do his best; the best he knew how, even though he knew it might not be enough.
The changes in the hotel and, subsequently, in the group came about largely because of his critical spirit, the quest to do more and better, to provide the best service possible and to be willing to learn every day, from colleagues and customers.

In the hotel industry, it’s all about making others happy. António fondly remembers many remarkable and comical moments in his long career in the industry, and reckons that one day he will write a book about his most cherished episodes; except that it will never be published. But let's hope he shares something else with us!
Opening his box of memories, António told us something that had made a particular impression on him : ‘When I went to Porto Santa Maria, there were clients who followed me there, and that gave me particular satisfaction. Because deep down, this is how we can prove that we did something right. This reflects who we are and what we do. It’s a natural recognition of the work, and deep down, in professional terms, that’s what counts for me.’
But there is one more story that he wanted to share with us, which leaves us with several valuable lessons in the hotel industry and the world of work, and also in our personal lives It involves doing what we think should be done, provided it is the right thing. If there is something that can be improved, if there is a way to make the service and experience better, let's be bold and do more:
‘This happened when I was a trainee Night Auditor, and this job is mainly done behind the counter. To put it into context, at that time people still smoked in the lobbies and at night, I spent all those hours watching ashtrays filling up with ash and cigarette butts, with that smell of tobacco. That bothered me, it got to me. I saw it one, two, three, four, five nights in a row and no one did anything about it. Then customers came down in the morning for breakfast, passing through the lobby and there was that awful smell of tobacco. All of this puzzled me. It wasn’t natural, it didn't add up.
At some point, I left the counter and start cleaning the ashtrays, arranging the cushions and straightening the sofas. And a colleague turned to me and said: ‘you’ve only been here a few weeks and you already want to wear the boss’s boots?
The 29-year-old boy who joined as an intern never thought that today he would be Manager of the hotel where he started, as well as of Les Suites at The Cliff Bay, La Villa, PortoBay Serra Golf and managing the PortoBay vegetable garden project. It was because of this journey, always giving more than what was expected, for his commitment and dedication to PortoBay, that in 2023 he was recognised by the company with a Career Award.
‘It was completely unexpected. Firstly, because I'm not going to retire tomorrow (laughs). Normally, career bonuses are awarded at the end of a career and no, there's still some time left in my opinion, if I do the right thing.
But at the time I didn't really know what to say, and I still don't know today. Maybe because I would never think that today I would be doing what I’m doing. And for that reason, I value each step and each bit of recognition so much more. The PortoBay honour was the icing on the cake. I think that PortoBay has, fortunately, a lot of people who can and should be recognised and I was just one of the lucky ones.’


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