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IMB focuses on health tourism

The largest hotel group in the Serra da Estrela region, IMB Hotels has an industrial past, having started its business in the textile sector.
In addition to owning approximately 30 yarn shops, the Manuel Brancal family reformulated its core business about 25 years ago by deciding to operate in the real estate and tourism sectors, in order to overcome the threats faced by the textile industry. Nowadays, the Group focuses on health tourism, having invested over 15 million euros in the H2otel – Aquadome, which opened in December 2008, in Unhais da Serra. The Group is constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities, focusing particularly on thermal spas. IMB Hotels currently holds a licence to exploit Unhais da Serra mineral water.

‘We believe that health tourism will become increasingly important in the future. In this sense, it is our wish to increase our presence in this sector, as we think it is extremely difficult to create a non-themed business in a rural area, regardless of the sector involved,’ affirmed the executive director of IMB Hotels, Luís Veiga, when interviewed by the Portuguese Daily Economics (Diário Económico), having added that ‘at this moment in time, healthcare presents the smallest risks, provided business ventures are carefully planned’.

As tourist attractions were scarce in the Serra da Estrela region, the Manuel Brancal family opened the Covilhã Country Club, the first of its kind in inland Portugal, featuring tennis and squash courts, swimming pools and a restaurant. Imobiliária Manuel Brancal (IMB), S.A. was then created as the IMB Group holding.

Soon afterwards, IMB acquired the Covilhã Park Hotel, an inn that the Group turned into the biggest 2-star hotel in the region, currently boasting 139 rooms. About 18 years ago, the group acquired the Covilhã Tourism Hotel, the first 3-star hotel to open in the Serra da Estrela region. The Group undertook a series of extension works, which resulted in an increase in the number of rooms from 60 to 100 and allowed the building of a spa. Currently boasting a 4-star rating, the hotel has been awarded SME Excellence Status.

However, the Group did not stop investing in tourism. Seven years ago, IMB acquired the Vanguarda Hotel, in Guarda, which features 82 rooms. In February 2010, the Group opened the H2otel, a new hotel building designed by architect Jorge Palma ‘as part of an investment strategy focused on health tourism, combining a hotel and a spa/leisure centre offering hydrotherapy services,’ as described by Luís Veiga. Little over three years ago, the Group acquired the best hotel in Guarda, the Lusitânia Hotel. Featuring a spa and an extensive outdoor area, this 4-star hotel was considered the first bio-friendly hotel in Portugal, thanks to its organic garden, with an area of over 500 m2. The IMB Hotels group currently owns five hotels and the Covilhã Country Club, all located in the Beira Interior region, in Central Portugal.

‘We are a leading operator in Serra da Estrela. The Group undisputedly offers the largest number of rooms in the region, from Guarda to Covilhã,’ affirmed the executive director of IMB Hotels, highlighting the fact that the Group owns three spa hotels and stressing the Group’s focus on wellness and relaxation.

H2otel/Aquadome boosts Group revenues

The H2otel - Aquadome, a 90-room mountain hotel boasting 17 suites, offers a wide range of services suited both to long stays and weekend breaks, as well as a series of business and leisure facilities, including several multi-purpose rooms, whose area totals 1,000 m2, a library and Internet centre, a media centre, a gym featuring a cardio fitness area, and various Medical Spa programmes, including outdoor activities.

H2otel guests are offered free access to the Aquadome Mountain Spa, an integrated health and wellness area.
The Aquadome features hydrotherapy centre Aquatermas, the Aquafisio, a therapy centre where patients will be able to recover from their ailments through carefully prescribed physical therapy and osteopathic treatments, the Aquacorpus, an area where a wide range of beauty treatments is provided in partnership with Gernétic, and the Aqualudic, the biggest water park in Portugal, featuring hydrodynamic indoor and outdoor pools, waterfalls and a Celtic circuit.

Investment in the H2otel - Aquadome complex exceeded 15 million euros, including a substantial investment made by the family.

‘Capital was invested within the scope of an application submitted to the PITER (Integrated Regional Tourism Programmes of a Structuring Nature), an initiative aimed at supporting Projects of National Interest, given the considerable number of employment positions created and the positive impact of the project on the region’s economy,’ explained Luís Veiga.

And the Group’s investment appears to have been successful. ‘Last year, we made over 4.5 million euros and attracted many loyal customers.’
‘From 2014 onwards, we expect to reach revenues of 5 million euros at the H2otel,’ affirmed the executive director of the Natura IMB Hotels Group, as a result of the various environmental certifications achieved.

(adapted from Diário Económico and updated)

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