Holiday resort that stands the test of time

Holiday property constantly evolves – fashions change, transport improves, locations emerge. Last year's favourite can easily become next year's forgotten destination.

The UAE, for example, is still a relative fledgling when it comes to being a global destination for holiday homes buyers. But the same cannot be said for Quinta do Lago, the golf and residential resort known to same as the jewel of the Algarve which is now entering its fifth decade as a respected worldwide holiday home location.

What is its secret? The man behind its success is its Brazilian founder, Andre Jordan, and I have recently been fortunate enough to interview him. His story is a fascinating one, and a lesson for developers and agents trying to emulate Quinta's success.

Forty years ago Jordan recognised that a 2,000-acre site overlooking the Atlantic could become a tranquil setting for sophisticated residents seeking comfort, privacy and leisure – without ostentatious bling, and be adopting one overall style but taking a light touch when attempting to regulate any one property within the resort.

"Back then, people didn't buy homes at resort developments" explains Jordan. "There was nowhere for the successful buyer wanting to relax on holiday without wearing jewellery or driving a Rolls Royce. We created that location" he says.

Negotiations to purchase the site took a year and Portuguese architects drew up a masterplan under Jordan's supervision. Buyers could purchase plots and build homes to their own specifications but within broad resort guidelines. Early arrivals from the US and Europe included business people, politicians, celebrities, aristocrats and sporting champions – a roll call that remains the same today.

"We wanted to create high quality informality. The estate is not gated because we respect the local population too much. Quinta do Lago has always been a popular spot for local people to stage their wedding photographs, but in return they respect the privacy of the residents" says Jordan. He sold the resort in 1989 – it has since had several owners, the current one being Irish entrepreneur Denis O'Brien - but Jordan continues to watch his creation evolve.

Purchasers at Quinta do Lago now, as before, are self-selecting. "This is not a place to show off. If you buy, you are in the elite of your field but you do not need to prove it" he says. Villas typically start at £3.5 million (Dh19.3m) so obviously attract the wealthy but these prices are – by today's global resort standards – surprisingly affordable.

Owners have included several Fortune 500 business champions and the late F1 world champion Ayrton Senna; current owners include Senna's Brazilian counterpart Rubens Barrichello and England footballer Teddy Sheringham.

A key component of the timeless success of Quinta do Lago is its physical design.

"There is a discrete mix as people designed their homes. First there was Moorish, then classical Portuguese, now quite modern. It changes but in an understated way. Younger buyers now pay high prices to tear down the older homes and replace them with contemporary architecture and buildings of the very highest standards" he says.

The facilities have developed, too, to compete with other international resorts. The North, South and Laranjal golf courses each boast challenging natural features and dramatic views – little wonder they are all rated in the top 25 courses in Europe.

This resort has surmounted many challenges. Portugal underwent a revolution after it opened, and Caribbean and Mediterranean resorts have tried to steal its clothes over the years. Dubai and other Middle Eastern destinations are snapping at its heels. But has Quinta do Lago survived the two economic challenges of recent years: the global downturn and the savage weakening of the pound?

The answer is an emphatic yes, thanks to the 'flight to quality' and Quinta do Lago's uncanny ability to subtly change with the times. The resort was the best performing location for Savills' international sales in 2009.

More recently, to broaden the Algarve's appeal to the 21st century purchaser, Andre Jordan has master-planned Vilamoura XXI. This is a new phase of the Vilamoura coastal resort just a short drive from Quinta do Lago. Here, two-bedroom purpose-built apartment suites close to Victoria golf club sell for less than £500,000 and a vibrant rental market allows owners to make their investments work for them – a new twist on Jordan's philosophy of 'informal quality'.

"The concept of Quinta do Lago was ahead of its time. History has caught up as others have copied our ideas. But we continue moving to set new standards and create new concepts" says Andre Jordan.

How many other resorts will still be around in 40 years? And if so, will they owe their success to the pioneering work of Jordan?

The writer is the Property Correspondent for The Observer


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