Name: André Jardim Fernandes Caldeira
Degree/Year: Postgraduate Diploma, 2011
Current Position: General Manager, Vila Porto Mare (Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, Madeira)
Madeira, Portugal – André is lucky enough to live and work in an idyllic place. The general manager of Vila Porto Mare in Madeira, André describes the Portuguese island as “like Eden — it’s eternal spring here.” Madeira is also where André was born, but he hasn’t always lived there. Before going to Les Roches Marbella for his postgraduate diploma, André had studied his bachelor degree in Lisbon, spent time in Hong Kong as an exchange student and worked at the Beijing office of Lufthansa.
Studying and working in Asia changed André’s global outlook: “We Europeans have a tendency to put the world around the Atlantic. We focus on that. But going to Asia, you realize the world is so much bigger. It shifted my perspective of the world.” It’s an experience that André highly recommends. “An experience in Asia is interesting for everyone. The way people act, work and have social relationships is very different from Europe.”
André returned from Beijing to Lisbon, where he worked as sales and marketing assistant manager at Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts. He knew early on that he was interested in the world of hotels — with family connections to Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts, André took his first summer job with the company when he was just 16. He decided to deepen his knowledge of the daily operational side of the hotel business by studying a postgraduate diploma at Les Roches Marbella. For André, studying at Les Roches provided more than just a degree — it was also where he developed a close group of lifelong friends and met his wife.
After graduating from Les Roches in 2011, André went to sunny Rio de Janeiro for operational training at Hotel Copacabana Palace. From there, he came full circle, returning to his childhood home of Madeira to work for Porto Bay Hotels & Resort. He became general manager within a couple of years, first at Hotel Porto Santa Maria and then at Vila Porto Mare.
Describing his experience at Vila Porto Mare, a 443-room four-star property, André says, “The good part was that the hotel was working like a Swiss watch. The bad part was that the hotel was already running very well. That means you need to fine-tune things, do things slowly. Our occupancy rate is around 92% all year long, so the challenge is running refurbishment and maintenance of the hotel while you have such a high occupancy. We also have a high percentage of returning guests, so every new idea has to be introduced slowly — it’s about evolutions, not revolutions.
The role of general manager is tough, but it also keeps André motivated. “It’s a very interesting challenge — you wake up every morning with new ideas of things to do, and you always need to be moving.” Variety and change are important to André; for him, two to five years is the ideal time for a general manager to work at any one hotel: “General managers should move around, because otherwise they lose perspective. They lose the ability to critique themselves. Moving jobs is exciting — the bigger the hotel, the bigger the challenge.”
For Les Rochians deciding between different job opportunities, André encourages them to keep the future in mind. “Always try to think two steps ahead. You should think: ‘I’ll take this job so that it will lead me somewhere.’ You have to choose what you want to do.”