Mr. Manuel Pestana, the company’s visionary founder, opened the group’s first hotel in Madeira Island in November 1972 and together with his son, Dionísio Pestana, owner and Chairman, expanded the brand’s footprint internationally. Under their leadership the award winning Pestana brand has become a dedicated guardian of Portuguese culture and heritage, as well as a forward thinking hospitality group that offers the very best locations, around the world.
Our 50 year journey has been incredible. It all started with my father’s vision and deep sense of hard work and responsibility that set the foundations of the Pestana Group. I was fortunate enough to have my mother and my father as my mentors and guide me through my youth in the pursuit of a better life.
Over the years there’s been many changes but the formula remains the same: family values, entrepreneurship, resilience, hard work, innovation and sustainability. With the help of our amazing multinational teams, I’ve endeavored to honor their legacy and prepare the next generation for the exciting upcoming challenges and opportunities. I hope you enjoy this journey back to our beginnings, we will continue working to offer you the Time of Your Life in the future.
Founder & Chairman
Manuel Pestana was born in Madeira Island, in a small fishing village called Ribeira Brava. One of 7 children he lived a very humble existence and received a limited education. He married Caridade, who also lived in a small home and her father tended their smallholding where they grew bananas and vegetables. In both families it was very much a case of subsistence living and survival.
Manuel understood he had very limited prospects working on the island of Madeira and set off to South Africa in search of a better livelihood at the age of 26.
In Johannesburg he started work as a farm labourer and with time and hard work he bought a green grocer store and later a bottle store. Working long hours and using his business instincts he grew his business skills and became a successful trader. His wife Caridade joined him in 1951 and he then helped bring his siblings to Johannesburg establishing them in various small retail businesses. Manuel then started to diversify into property and acquired an apartment building in the Hillbrow.
Dionisio Pestana was born in Johannesburg in 1952 and was educated at a Marist Brothers school. By the age of 10 he was working on weekends in his father’s bottle store to earn pocket money learning from an early age to handle cash and work ethics.
Manuel Pestana’s first venture into the hospitality sector started with the construction of Predio Funchal in the centre of Lourenzo Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. Predio Funchal was a large apartment and comercial building completed in 1964 and became a successful business.
Now a successful businessman, Manuel Pestana felt strongly the ambition to invest in a hotel property on Madeira, the beautiful island that was his birthplace. With this objective, he acquired in 1966 the small hotel residence Atlantico, on the site that is today the Pestana Carlton Madeira Hotel. The construction of the hotel started in 1969. and was completed in 1972. In the inauguration the Portuguese government granted him the title of ‘Comendador’ for Manuel’s endeavors. An American hotel group was contracted to provide the management and operate the hotel.
Following the ‘Carnation Revolution’, Portugal underwent an economic crisis and the Pestana family businesses were severely affected. Overnight the apartment building in Maputo was nationalized and used to accommodate government employees. In Madeira, the new 5 star hotel that was only 2 years into its life entered a period of extreme difficulty. Trade unions became all powerful and interest rates on loans rose to a prohibitive 28% making repayment of the loan on the hotel almost impossible to pay. At the same time confidence in Portugal’s economy declined and tourism numbers fell sharply.
Dionísio completed his university studies in business management and accepts the challenge from his father to take over the operation in Madeira and try to make the hotel viable. The economic conditions were tough but under their leadership they succeeded in turning the hotel into a profitable business (and still today one of the most profitable hotels in the group among 90 units).
In 1985 seeking innovative ways of funding, Pestana pioneers in Europe with the Madeira Beach Club, a sharing economy concept that sells weekly intervals in the resort with full access to the hotel facilities and professional services. The long term vision of integrating the vacation club product has proven solid and conquered the loyalty of more than 30.000 families over nearly four decades.
The iconic Casino Park, designed by Oscar Niemeyer becomes Pestana’s second hotel. The property comprised a Casino too, introducing a new business area: gaming. In 86, Dionísio Pestana accepts the challenge to modernize and diversify the local economy, in partnership with Madeira’s government, participating in he International Business Centre that includes an Industrial Free Zone, International Shipping Registry and International Services.
Nineties Leadership in Tourism. Golf, Real Estate and Brewery.
In the 90’s PHG intensifies the diversification strategy. The group expands to the Algarve with several Pestana hotels, rapidly becoming the leading tourism group in the country. Real Estate and Golf are the natural following business developments complement the hospitality services. In Madeira the group buys the Madeira Beer Company, the island’s market leader producing beer and soft drinks.
Pestana expands internationally. Mozambique is the first African destination and the opportunity for Dionisio to recuperate his father’s first investment, transforming it into the Pestana Rovuma, one of Maputo’s leading hotels. In 1999 the internationalization proceeds with two new hotels in Brazil followed by other South American geographies: Caracas and Buenos Aires.
Pestana inaugurates its first luxury hotel, the Pestana Palace Lisboa, in 2001, and, one year later hits 5.000 rooms.
In 2003, the Portuguese Government grants Pestana the concession of the Pousadas de Portugal, the country’s historic hotels most loved brand, doubling its portfolio. In 2004 the group celebrates its first million room nights in one year.
Always under Dionisio Pestana’s leadership, the Pestana Hotel Group reaches 10.000 rooms under direct management in 2009.
Reaching a long time goal, he opens his first two hotels in Europe, Pestana Chelsea Bridge in London, in 2010, followed by Pestana Berlin Tiergarten, one year after and reaches 1 billion € in Real Estate Assets.
Pestana Hotel Group celebrates its 40th anniversary. “For me, the Group’s 40 years are a milestone that requires us to honor the work of those who contributed and continue to contribute to strengthen the Pestana brand in the pursuit of its sustained growth objectives.” Dionísio Pestana, Chairman of the Group.
In 2013, Pestana becomes the 1st Portuguese company to open a hotel in the US, in South Beach, Miami, and kicks-off its investments in Spain, with a hotel in Barcelona.
In 2014 Pestana reaches 3 million guests per year and 25 million room nights since the beginning of its activity, in 2015.
PHG undergoes a relevant rebranding process where its very unique DNA was given a new graphic identity, whilst the portfolio was reorganized in major brands, Pestana Hotels & Resorts, Pestana Collection Hotels and Pestana Pousadas de Portugal.
2016 Pestana signs off a 75 million € joint venture with Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s best soccer player, to build four new lifestyle hotels, beginning the group’s 4th brand dedicated to millennials: Pestana CR7 Lifestyle Hotels. Funchal, Lisbon, Madrid and New York, are the first global destinations.
Pestana’s more than 4 decades of accomplishments in the Travel & Leisure industry: Asset Management diversified along time in high potential geographies, product diversification including city hotels along with its resorts, expanding to new markets with global brand affirmation.
The largest multination tourism group of Portuguese origin.
90 hotels in 15 countries
Over 11 000 rooms
7 000 employees