Endless sandy beaches, a perfect place for water sports, and on average 350 days of sunshine every year. As a popular year-round destination, Cape Verde is not simply an increasingly sought-after alternative to the Canary Isles. 350,000 people visited the Atlantic archipelago with TUI in 2018. When the ROBINSON Club Cabo Verde opens in late 2019 it will bring in a few more. But how sustainable is such hotel growth in a remote island state? And how does the design for a new Club take the wishes of its guests into account? We glide in between the wind and the waves to visit the island of Sal.

Colourful houses and Creole culture – Cape Verde is a melting pot for Europe and Africa

Habib Rahmouna strides through the empty entrance hall of the hotel in Santa Maria waving his arms and calling as he goes. The little town on the southern tip of the Cape Verde island of Sal is a magnet for tourists with its long sandy beach, colourful fishing boats and local surfers. For now though, visitors are being handed a hard hat rather than a long, cool drink. “We’ve only just taken over the complex and we are in the middle of demolition,” explains Habib. He is a project manager with ROBINSON and has been working for the TUI Group’s premium club brand for 27 years. Here in Sal he is coordinating construction for the future ROBINSON Club Cabo Verde. “For this Club we have taken over an existing hotel and we are going to carry out a lot of adjustments for our ROBINSON guests,”continues Habib. The local community will benefit from this employment. About 60 percent of the 300 workers are African. Today, amid all the machinery and tarpaulin, Habib will be meeting Fernando Maurício dos Santos, the project architect, to discuss opening up the buildings towards the beach. After all, in a destination with so few rainy days, most Club activities will be taking place outside.

The Cape Verde Islands are a haven for water sports and home to some big names in kite surfing

From salt pan to surfing mecca

We ask the locals on Sal about their rainy season, and it seems to be a very well-contained affair: “It only rains on a few days of the year, and those are all in September.” Add to the guaranteed sunshine the island motto – “No stress” – and you have all the ingredients you need for a relaxing holiday. The Cape Verde Islands lie over 500 kilometres off the coast of Senegal, and until their discovery in 1445 they were uninhabited. European settlers mingled with African slaves, and a new Creole culture was created. For a long time, the people on Sal made a living by raising cattle and mining salt. Only later did surfers, divers and sea bathers arrive to make the most of the pleasant climate and constant trade wind. TUI and its hotel subsidiary Riu also believed in the potential offered by Cape Verde and invested continually to develop the infrastructure. The first Riu hotel opened in 2005. Now there are five hotels with 3,480 rooms on Sal and the neighbouring island Boa Vista, as well as a TUI Sensimar Hotel for the exclusive use of adults. These days tourism is the most important economic sector in the country. There are more and more flights from Europe, and TUI Destination Experiences employs more than 80 people to provide transfers and tours around the island.

A sustainable equation

WellFit with sea views: the roof of the restaurant is being reinforced so that guests can enjoy the unique location while working out.

Back on the building site, Habib is tackling the next task: “Our aim is to make the Club as eco-friendly as possible and at the same time to cut energy costs.” A real challenge in a country like Cape Verde with its dry climate and lack of natural resources. At least the sun helps by heating water. “We intend to produce our own solar energy, and by combining that with heat recovery from our air conditioning system we can produce all the hot water we need at no extra cost and with minimum emissions.

At the same time, we are building our own sewage treatment facility. By using the treated water to irrigate the gardens, we can save about 500 euros a day,” calculates Habib. Efficient, centralised air conditioning and a state-of-the-art lighting concept based on LEDs will halve power consumption and reduce the Club’s environmental footprint. But the Atlantic Ocean on the doorstep will also play a role: salt water will be converted into fresh water by osmosis, supplying a proportion of the hotel’s daily requirements. “The next step will then be our own drinking water facility,” predicts the project manager.

Regional manager Holger Reinshagen (left) and project manager Habib Rahmouna discuss the design for the new Club and the needs of ROBINSON guests.

Sea all round

But first we take a tour of the building site with regional manager Holger Reinshagen. Strictly speaking, he is in charge of the ROBINSON Clubs in Spain and Portugal, but because there are such close links between Portugal and Cape Verde, it makes sense to include these islands in his brief. “Nearly all the building materials and food are imported here from Portugal and the Canaries,” observes Holger. That’s the downside to the extremely dry island climate. “But the Club’s location is truly unique. We will give a lot of space to sea views and fully exploit the beach with relaxation and chill-out zones, our beach bar and our impressive water sports centre.” The distinctive feature: from the outset ROBINSON Club Cabo Verde will exclusively target adults. Guests over 18 will be able to focus here on a personal water sport experience, relax in peace without daytime entertainment, try out some unusual culinary trends and sip an evening sundowner on the beach. “To invest in a hotel complex these days, you need some genuine highlights,” adds Habib. “For example, we will be building a top class spa facility, including a sauna oasis with a sea view. Perhaps it will only appeal to some of the guests, but we will have made them happy and given them exactly what they want. That’s what it’s all about.”

1 million sea turtles

A sure start in life: TUI Care Foundation involves residents and local stakeholders in protecting the turtles.

That is the number TUI Care Foundation hopes to rescue by 2020. Under natural conditions, only one in a thousand hatched baby turtles would reach adulthood. Cape Verde is home to the world’s third largest population of loggerhead turtles, one of the most endangered species in the world. Working with its local partners Project Biodiversity and BIOS.CV, TUI Care Foundation is protecting the breeding sites of loggerhead turtles. On the beach by the Riu Palace Cabo Verde, volunteers explain to holiday makers why it is so important to protect these turtles and offer practical advice for treating them responsibly during their stay.

Atlantic recruiting

Lifeguard Silvio on his island far out in the Atlantic.

But the hotel still needs the right staff to cater for the wishes of its holiday makers. That is why Holger has to leave us at this stage: he has an appointment with a recruitment manager. A year-round destination has advantages for both employer and employees: TUI can minimise seasonal effects and can offer its customers a broader choice of attractive winter destinations. For local residents, meanwhile, there is an opportunity to work in the hospitality trade all year round. Nearly 40 per cent of the islanders already work in this sector. One of them is standing by the Buracona Lagoon with his floppy hat and wetsuit: Silvio, the lifeguard, passionately draws our attention to the spectacle of nature unfolding before our very eyes, where the sun is casting a shimmering blue eye on the surface of the sea. Suddenly he whistles and shouts a warning to a group of tourists who are too close to the surf breaking on the volcanic rocks. “I don’t get how people can risk their necks just for a selfie,” he muses. “A family on holiday should lock their mobile phones in the safe and make the most of their time together.” Silvio has never heard of a digital detox. Why would he? He loves the ocean and this group of islands: “I was born here, I live here, and I intend to die here – on an island in the Atlantic.” The deep bonds the people feel with the wind and the waves around Sal can be sensed wherever we go. And the tourism? Offers real prospects for a life on a sun-soaked isle in the middle of the sea.

»We are further expanding our own hotel portfolio and are setting standards in the sector with our hotel brands.«

Erik Friemuth,
Managing Director TUI Hotels & Resorts and TUI Group Chief Marketing Officer

Robinson’s islands

The ROBINSON Club Cabo Verde is not alone in helping tourism to develop in this growing holiday destination. The brand’s first-ever club in the world has also set its stamp on the history of tourism here. In the early 1970s, the striking “Torre”, the multi-storey landmark belonging to the ROBINSON Club Jandia Playa on Fuerteventura, was one of the first places to provide accommodation for holiday makers on the sandy beach at Morro Jable. It was here that TUI set up the first of its Premium clubs. A million or so guests turned the Club Jandia Playa into a cult object, a catalyst for the expansion of tourism on Fuerteventura. Almost 50 years later, ROBINSON is building a new Torre for its heritage club: using sustainable construction techniques, with state-of-the-art suites, a roof terrace and an infinity pool 40 metres above the sea.