Catarina Barosa is the Editorial Director at Tema Central. The company's main focus at the moment is the Líder project. Counting with a vast experience in the area of human resources and communications, Catarina has now embraced the leadership area (Líder project) and together with the company, hosts several events in Portugal every year, including the Leadership Summit Portugal (LSP) - the largest leadership event in the country. LSP brings together national and international figures to discuss current world topics and understand the role of leadership. During the pandemic, her team came up with the project “Ser Feliz em Portugal” which integrates within the Líder project. “Ser Feliz em Portugal” wants to promote tourism in Portugal during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. The project promotes hospitality experiences and hotels with the help of reference figures in Portugal. These leaders are invited to visit the hotels and share their experiences.
“In times of chaos, it is vital to seek for solutions”
Catarina Barosa - Editorial Director Líder.
NHC: First of all, could you briefly explain what “Ser Feliz em Portugal” is and what inspired you to start this project?
Catarina: There are four main goals that we try to achieve with this project. First and most important, we want to help promote tourism in Portugal at a time when the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are having a strong impact on the hospitality industry in our country. Second, we make this disclosure free of charge to hotels which includes a testimony component by leaders (strategic advisers of our projects) who help promote and recommend the spaces. Third, we aim to create content of interest to our readers. Fourth, we want to provide our editorial team with moments of relaxation since they always accompany the leaders in this experience of “Ser Feliz em Portugal”. Ultimately, we want to help boost the hospitality industry back and we do so by promoting aspects of social responsibility, networking and using the influence of our advisers.
NHC: As a company that organizes prestigious events and projects focused on leadership, why did you decide to jump into this hospitality-related project?
Catarina: This project aimed precisely to use the influence of our project leaders and advisers to promote tourism in Portugal. Knowing how to be a leader is also about influencing. Therefore, nothing better than having our leaders, many of them public figures and leadership figures, give their testimony about the hotels they are visiting. We believe that their testimonies will certainly influence others to do the same, helping the Portuguese tourism sector regain its previous strength. In addition, leaders must anticipate themselves and set an example. To that extent, as we develop this initiative, we are embodying this dimension of leadership, anticipation and setting the example.
We want to be a part of this mission of boosting back tourism, help promote the tremendous beauty and welcoming feel of our country.
NHC: What is the ultimate goal that you would like to achieve with this project?
Catarina: Ultimately, we want to be a part of this mission of boosting back tourism, help promote the tremendous beauty and welcoming feel of our country and let people know that the hospitality industry in Portugal is ready to tackle the new “Covid-19 Challenges” and receive its guests.
NHC: What are the most important takeaways from this project so far? What insights did you get from the hotels/leaders?
Catarina: The great receptivity of the advisers and the hotel units to be a part of this experience and to receive us are truly key elements that drive the success of this industry in Portugal. The quality of Portuguese hospitality and their propensity to this type of win-win communication initiative. In practice, the exchange of services without compromising the impartiality of the testimonies. We asked every guest adviser for a real and honest testimony rather than asking for positive reviews of the hotels. So far, there have been no negative testimonies or any doubt about the quality of our hospitality.
NHC: In your opinion, what are the qualities/skills of a successful leader in the hospitality industry? What kind of leaders do you think we need to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and its impact in the hospitality industry?
Catarina: I would say that someone who is naturally communicative, empathetic, resilient, and creative. In the field of creativity, someone who is able to be flexible enough to reorganize his/her business and adapt it to what the current needs of the guests are: being safe, connected and able to have experiences that they cannot have in their homes: Experiences which only that particular hotel can provide you. For example, many hotel units already advertising their spaces as second homes, “your workplace”. It is necessary to look at hospitality as a constantly changing industry in order to be ready to adapt and succeed.
NHC: How can hospitality and customer service help us become better leaders?
Catarina: I believe that hospitality teaches one of the most important aspects of leadership, which is knowing how to care for others, keeping them happy and motivated. The hospitality sector and customer service in general demand permanent attention to what others are feeling and what they need. In leadership, this aspect is decisive, and it is what distinguishes good leaders from excellent leaders, the latter being the ones who know how to do it perfectly.
NHC: We are all in lockdown at the moment, do you have other plans in mind for Ser Feliz em Portugal? What is the future of the project?
Catarina: We are already promoting Ser Feliz in Portugal, but at home. This initiative allows the project to keep going forward and to continue to motivate our advisers by sharing suggestions of what they can do at home and, at the same time, promoting products and services that can help us have a good time at home. In the future, we want this project to expand its references to the area of gastronomy and leisure experiences.
NHC: What is your outlook on the future of tourism in Portugal? Are we going to rise back up?
I am optimistic about the future and I believe tourism in Portugal will recover.
Catarina: I am optimistic about the future and I believe tourism in Portugal will recover. Portugal has what distinguishes us from many other destinations and what was not and will not be affected by the crisis: the hospitality of the Portuguese, the climate, the landscape, the gastronomy and our vast cultural history. The recovery will happen and there are new ways in which we can do tourism, such as the ones that I have already mentioned: “change your house for a few days”, “make this space your workplace”, etc.
NHC: What can the tourism industry learn from the current crisis? Does the industry have to define a new customer experience to promote safer travel in terms of health regulations?
Catarina: After everything that has happened during 2020 and into 2021, I think that, above all, hygiene and safety care are here to stay and that will only bring benefits in the future. Hotels will now care even more about having disinfected spaces and better ventilation of closed spaces. Additionally, guests will privilege the use of ventilated areas and open-air spaces. These are going to be the distinctive characteristics from a 4 stars hotel to a 5 stars hotel in a post-pandemic world. This will also apply to events, which are an important part of our main project with Líder.
NHC: How can the industry players support each other after the crisis? Do you think movements like “Ser Feliz em Portugal” will persist and set the example for future joint forces?
Catarina: I think this movement has room to grow and it will happen if we manage to bring together more leaders and influencers while maintaining journalistic exemption to distinguish us from the mere digital influencers who promote spaces with financial and service counterparts (that is, they are always partial).These types of movements call for people to come together to help each other. Business too, thrive when we come together in search of solutions.