Committed to providing tourists with an exceptional holiday experience, the group developed a leisure division, which was spearheaded by the Madeira Story Centre project. This bold project gives visitors to the opportunity to discover and interact with Madeira’s Cultural heritage. Developed and designed with the assistance of specialists companies Haley Sharpe Design and The Petersham Group, MSC brings together information, entertainment and technology in one modern structure capable of satisfying the most discerning visitors.
Porto Bay Group
With the formation of the Porto Bay Group, Blandy’s had again committed itself to the hotel trade of Madeira. Blandy’s together with Ocean Islands approached Thomas Cook who purchased a strategic shareholding in Porto Bay in 2000. Success breeds success and the Porto Bay Group has expanded with the opening of Porto Santa Maria in 2000, on the site of the old "Arsenal" (Madeira Engineering Yard), and in 2003 the Porto Mare Hotel and Resort was opened, both being 4 Star accommodation of exceptional quality.
The first step to internationalization arose in January 2007, when the Porto Bay Rio International Hotel situated on the front line of the Copacabana beach in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was acquired. The Porto Bay group took this step in partnership with Logoplaste, a successful Portuguese multinational company that marks the beginning of its participation in joint projects with Porto Bay.
Further internationalization occurred later in 2007 when the Porto Bay Group attained the prize-winning Porto Bay Glenzhaus in Búzios (a beachside resort town in the state of Rio de Janiero) intended to compliment the existing Rio de Janiero hotel.
In March of 2008 further steps were taken in the groups expansion, extending their grasp to mainland Portugal with the opening of the Porto Bay Falésia (formerly a Rio hotel) in Olhos d’Água near Albufeira in the Algarve.
In May of 2009, following on the heels of Rio de Janeiro and Búzios, the Porto Bay Group acquired a third property in the financial capital of Latin America, the five star L' Hotel São Paulo which shall from now on be known as Porto Bay L' Hotel São Paulo. L' Hotel Porto Bay São Paulo is located on Alameda Campinas, on the corner of Avenida Paulista, in the financial and cultural centre of the city, close to the city's best restaurants, bars, museums and stores. This five star, eighty-room outlet is a boutique hotel with a restaurant, SPA, indoor pool and gym.
These most recent acquisitions to the Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts portfolio have boosted the groups maximum capacity to approximately 1360 beds split between both 4 and 5 star categorized units across four very distinct regions, but each embracing the fundamental concept and quality of the Porto Bay guarantee.
Madeira Tourism in the 1980’s
By the 1980’s, tourism was once again a major growth industry in Portugal. In 1994 The Cliff Bay Hotel was opened, having been built on property owned by the group. The Cliff Bay turned out to be the beginning of the partnership that was to form the Porto Bay Group which today is one of the leading hotel group of Madeira and in which together with Ocean Islands, the two groups control 90% of the share capital. Reid’s was sold in 1996 to the Orient Express Group, and in 2000 the Porto Bay Group was formed.
The application for EU membership
At the time of the revolution, Madeira was granted the status of an autonomous region. Since that time it has been led by Dr Alberto Joao Jardim, a dynamic and sometimes controversial figure. The 1980’s saw the beginning of Portugal’s move towards joining the EU, a move that brought with it greater economical and political stability. It was against the background of a European future for Portugal that the Blandy Group began its program of identifying core business areas. At this juncture, the Group initiated the policy of forming partnerships with market leaders. That this has been successful is demonstrated by the partnerships with the Symington family in 1989 (MWC), Lusomundo (Diário de Notícias da Madeira) in 1994, and C&N/Thomas Cook (Porto Bay Hotels) in 2000.
The Lisbon office and the Portuguese Revolution
During the Salazar regime, all aspects of business life were centralised in Lisbon by the Portuguese government. It was therefore essential to have a presence in Lisbon, and in 1946 Blandy’s opened an office there.
In 1974 the Portuguese revolution shook the country. Up to this date, Portugal had had a protected economy, with a centralised control of industry, controlled foreign currency exchange, trade barriers, and government controlled trade unions. With the revolution, the old order was thrown out of government, the civil service and industry. The management boards of all the major companies were replaced, and all the banks were nationalised. The Blandy family decided to remain in Madeira until the situation became unsustainable, an occasion that never arose.
Following the revolution, businesses were now faced with previously unknown challenges in which their management had little or no experience; the devaluation of the Escudo, active trade unions, banking decisions made on political, not financial grounds, inflation running at 35% and a home market where there was virtually no consumer spending nor funds for investment. Although none of the Blandy Group’s businesses were nationalised, the Group faced a difficult time throughout this period. Perhaps the most painful consequence of the revolution was the forced closure of the Madeira Electronics Company, which at that time employed over 900 workers, mainly women, and was one of the largest employers on the island. In order to provide the necessary indemnification, the Group sold substantial property holdings.
In the 1970’s the circulation of the Diario de Noticias Madeira fell to approximately 7,000. Censorship of the press ceased as a result of the revolution. The country became highly politicised and it became evident that for a regional paper to be successful in Portugal, it had to provide free and unbiased reporting. It was this realisation that drove the Diario de Noticias Madeira to develop a new editorial and commercial strategy, laying the foundation for its current success.
Other areas of activity
Blandy’s had taken a trade investment in the flour and milling industry in Madeira in the 1800’s. In 1942, the Madeirans revolted against the increase in the price of bread and flour, caused by the price controls imposed by the Salazar regime. This popular uprising became known as the “revolta da farinha” (flour revolt) and it was a result of this that the individual Madeiran millers decided to pool their resources and formed the Companhia Insular de Moinhos – or CIM.
By the 1930’s, Blandy’s Bank was of sufficient size to be providing considerable financial support to a number of local businesses. In 1925 Reid’s went bankrupt, the Reid family having overstretched themselves. The business re-emerged but in 1936 Reid’s Hotel ran into difficulties and applied to Blandy’s Bank for financing. The result was that, Blandy’s assumed full control of the hotel in 1937, marking the beginning of the Blandy Group’s involvement in the hotel industry. Shortly afterwards, between 1939 and 1949 the hotel was forced to close, due to World War II. In 1949 Reid’s reopened specifically to welcome Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, who occupied the same suite of rooms as had David Lloyd George twenty five years previously.
The changes to the Madeira Wine Industry
In 1825 Madeira Wine reached exports of 10,000 pipes, a figure not to be reached again until 1916. This decline was partly due to the devastating effects of two vine plagues, the first of which, Oidium Tuckeri, hit the island in 1851. The second, Phylloxera, was first identified in Madeira in 1872. Together they decimated the viniculture of the island, and all the shippers saw their yields fall drastically. In response, various shippers merged to form Madeira Wine Association in 1913. The intention was to share overheads, whilst maintaining the individual house brands and styles. The Association became known as the “shipper’s graveyard” due to the difficulties faced by the industry. In 1925, Blandy’s joined the Association, which survived to become the Madeira Wine Company SA in 1986 by which time Blandy held over 90% of the Capital. In 1989 the Symington family known best for their investment in the Port Wine Trade bought a controlling interest in the Madeira Wine Company, adding the Madeira brands to their existing portfolio. This gave the company much need know how as well as world wide distribution and has proven to have been a correct decision over time.
In the late 1800’s a system developed whereby Blandy’s brass token was given to wine producers in lieu of payment. The tokens developed as a result of a chronic shortage of small change in circulation. When the producers had collected sufficient tokens to be worth exchanging, they presented them to Blandy’s where they were duly substituted by legal currency. Together with the travellers Bills of Exchange handled by the Shipping Agency, they together formed the basis on which Blandy’s Bank was founded. In 1923, a separate banking department was established. This part of the group was named Blandy Brothers (Banqueiros) Lda, and was sold to the Banco de Espirito Santo in 1966.
Meanwhile, in the Canary Island’s the business was growing under the stewardship of Charles Maurice Blandy, son of John Burden Blandy. Like Madeira, the Canary Islands were an important port of call, both for trade, passenger and naval vessels. As technology developed, Blandy’s established an engineering firm to supply the increased demand for mechanical goods. During this period Blandy’s Bank was also established in Las Palmas and eventually during the second world war it was sold to the Banco Espanol de Credito along with the ship repair yard. The early 1900’s also saw the first importation by Blandy’s of vehicles to the island, laying the foundations for the motor division which was sold in 2004/5.
The 1900’s – The beginning of Madeira Tourism
In the 1800’s, Madeira had become a popular destination for tourists and invalids, who were sent to winter in the warm climate. The beginnings of the tourist industry sprang up around these visitors who often stayed for six months or longer. In the 1880’s William Reid, already a well know hotelier on the island, began to build Reid’s Hotel, Madeira’s best-known hotel. On his death in 1887, his sons continued the project, and the hotel was opened in 1891. Designed by the same architect as Raffles in Singapore, Reid’s soon became the flagship hotel for the island, a byword for luxury.
Also during this period the Union Line and the Castle Line (later to be known as the Union Castle Steamship Company Ltd) started a regular service to South Africa calling in regularly to Madeira and Las Palmas. The early development of Tourism in Madeira was without doubt in large part due to this regular shipping service to which Blandy’s were associated for over 100 years.
Expansion Overseas and further diversification
Being so close geographically and sharing so many common characteristics of a trading port, it was a natural step to look towards the Canary Islands for expansion. In 1886, John Burden Blandy, grandson to John Blandy, opened Blandy’s offices in the Canaries offering a ship’s bunker service, and the supply of water and stores to vessels.. The London office (est. 1838) became responsible for the purchase of coal from South Wales, as well as negotiating the yearly bunkering contracts with the ships owners. In 1906 Blandy’s was appointed Lloyd’s Agents at Las Palmas.
Until the late 1800’s, piped water was only available in Funchal at public fountains. Graham John, John Burden and Raleigh Blandy (Charles Ridpath’s sons) laid down one of the first systems of piped water in the city, ensuring the supply of pure drinking water for ships and for the wine production.
The Ship’s Agency
By the 1850’s the age of coal had dawned offering new opportunities. John Blandy and his son, Charles Ridpath Blandy purchased beach front land and coves on the island for the storage of coal. Blandy’s became responsible for offering bunker services to the vessels that called at Funchal, as well as supplying coal to the coastal steamers. This in turn led to the establishment of the shipping agency. During the American Civil War, ships from both the Federal and Confederate navies were bunkered by Blandy’s, a situation that must have demanded delicate diplomacy at times. In 1878, Blandy’s were appointed Lloyd’s agents on the island, a position still held today. Also at this time, Blandy’s built up a distribution network around the island, used not only for moving grapes but also for transporting people and goods. Later this developed into a fleet of coastal vessels, which were in turn supported by an engineering and repair yard.
The 1800’s – wine and shipping interests in Madeira and the Canary Islands
Since John Blandy (1783 – 1855) first came to Madeira in 1807, the history of the family has been closely interlinked with that of the island. In 1811 John Blandy established himself as a wine shipper, purchasing the property that today houses the Old Blandy Wine Lodges in the centre of Funchal.
During the following decades, Blandy’s diversified its activities, mostly into areas associated with wine or shipping. Blandy’s began importing general goods, often undertaking the management of sailing vessels and their cargo. This developed into the shipping agency and later as Madeira started as a tourist destination this all sowed the seed for banking; it was the custom for local and foreign bills of exchange for payments to be discounted against travellers’ Letters of Credit by the shippers as well as wealthy Englishmen coming to Madeira for their health arrived with letters of credit drawn on Blandy’s.