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Hoteliers' Voice S4E7 - EVOLUTION Cascais-Estoril - Henrique Tiago de Castro: Culture and Leadership

 Hoteliers' Voice S4E7 - EVOLUTION Cascais-Estoril - Henrique Tiago de Castro: Culture and Leadership

Welcome to Travel Market Life's Hoteliers Voice, where we delve into the intricacies of the hospitality industry and uncover the secrets to success from leading professionals. In our latest episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with Henrique Tiago de Castro, the General Manager at EVOLUTION Cascais-Estoril Hotel in Cascais, Lisbon. Our conversation centred on the pivotal role of cultural awareness in hospitality and how understanding cultural settings can significantly enhance guest service.

Understanding Localisation vs Globalisation

Our dialogue with Henrique began with reflections on his presentation at the IHTF in Barcelona, where he eloquently discussed the balance between localisation and globalisation. Henrique shared that the idea for his presentation stemmed from his rich international and local experiences. He emphasised the importance of cultural settings in hospitality, noting that showing respect and making an effort to blend into new cultures is not just courteous but essential for success in the industry.

Henrique's Global Journey and Language Mastery

Henrique's career has taken him across the globe, from the vibrant streets of Mykonos to the bustling city of Bangkok. Each location has contributed to his profound understanding of cultural differences and the need for adaptability. A polyglot, Henrique speaks five languages fluently, attributing his linguistic prowess to practical exposure and a genuine interest in local languages. Despite challenges in mastering languages with different alphabets, such as in Serbia and Thailand, he highlights the importance of learning key phrases to show respect and build rapport.

Navigating Cultural Nuances and Language Barriers

For hospitality professionals facing language barriers, Henrique advises seeking support from fluent colleagues and learning the basics of the local language. He recounts an experience in Thailand where a cultural faux pas taught him the significance of cultural sensitivity in professional interactions. This anecdote serves as a reminder of the impact cultural awareness has on building strong professional relationships.

From Kitchen Trainee to Hospitality Leader

Henrique's entry into hospitality began at the tender age of 15 as a kitchen trainee, a role that ignited his passion for the industry. His journey from a beach bar supervisor in Mykonos to participating in the Future Leaders Program at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is a testament to his dedication and passion for hospitality. His ascent through the ranks showcases the opportunities for growth and development within the sector.

Our conversation with Henrique Tiago de Castro provided us with invaluable insights into the importance of cultural awareness in hospitality. As we continue to explore the evolving landscape of the industry, we are reminded of the continuous learning journey that hospitality professionals embark upon. Join us in our next segment as we further discuss career development and the future of hospitality with Henrique.

Stay tuned to Travel Market Life for more enlightening discussions that help shape our understanding and approach to the dynamic world of hospitality.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes (00:00:05) - Hello and welcome to Travel Market Life's Hoteliers voice. In this episode, we're talking with Henrique Tiago de Castro, general manager at EVOLUTION Cascais-Estoril Hotel in Cascais, Lisbon. We'll be talking about cultural awareness in hospitality as we look at why it's important to understand cultural settings, to be a professional in hospitality, grow and develop hospitality careers, make hospitality more appealing and the difference of lifestyle hotels.

Ryan Haynes (00:00:57) - Online. Now it's on reach Tiago de Castro. Thank you very much for joining me. Now, we met at the IHTF in Barcelona, where you did your presentation on localisation versus globalisation, which I found absolutely fascinating because it was really your own personal experience. So today, Henrique, we're really going to go into your background as a hospitality professional and what learnings we can take from that. Are you ready?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:01:22) - Let's do this.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:24) - Well, thanks again for joining us.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:26) - So, that presentation, where did it come from? Where did the idea of actually talking to people about this need to blend, and grow global branding and cultural identity come together? Then you realise that the amount of experience that you have?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:01:41) - So. Yeah. So when I started speaking to the team of ICF, they gave me a list of topics and I felt that was the one that I could add more value to, given my international experience and now my more local experience back in Lisbon. so that's really how it started. And then I started writing some ideas on a paper, and it ended up being like, you saw it.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:06) - Yeah, it was really interesting because, I mean, we're going to delve into a bit more deeper in, in a moment your career experience and where you've been in the world. But it's this point that it's understanding culture. Why is that so important for a hospitality professional?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:02:23) - Yeah, I think culture is the ultimate form of respect when you are outside of your country.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:02:29) - I really like to get to know the culture well so I can, show that I care. And especially if you are trying to blend in, I think this is how you see that people are putting an effort, into blending into a new, culture. Really? I've had to adapt to multiple cultures, from Europeans to Asians. pretty much Northern Europe. Southern Europeans are very different. And yeah, I think, being interested in how they are, it's what, twist the coin when you have to ask somebody to do something for you. So if you haven't done that before, it makes it much harder.

Ryan Haynes (00:03:08) - And this is both your experience of working with teams in different countries. And also, I guess having people from different countries working in your hotels, but also how you deal in service to guests.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:03:21) - Yeah. So when we service guests, I think you really need to be great at profiling people, not only nationality-wise but also in the mood of the guests. Germans don't like to be served the same way as Thais.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:03:36) - Arabs don't like to be served the same way as Greeks. so even though we are all humans, I think you really need to read the person in front of you and cater to them and their needs.

Ryan Haynes (00:03:47) - Now, you were saying that you have worked all across the world in different places. tell us some of the places where you have actually spent a significant amount of time working within a hotel.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:03:57) - Sure. So I started off in Greece, in Mykonos, which I've done. My first internship was lovely. I was a beach bar supervisor, so it was probably one of the best job titles I've ever had in my career. Then I went to Munich in Germany. after that, I went to Dusseldorf, also in Germany. Then I was invited to go to Serbia. Serbia was really fascinating country. I wasn't expecting to land in Serbia. And I definitely left Portugal when I was 18. after that, I shortly stopped over in Porto. I didn't really like it, in Portugal. And I resigned, and I went as far away as I could because we were going through a very negative state of mind.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:04:35) - It was like the 2008 crisis that had arrived in Portugal. So it was a very negative mindset, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could add value and things were flourishing. So I ended up going to Bangkok in Thailand, where I spent one year in a few months. I don't remember anymore. After that, I started dating my. My wife and I moved back to Berlin, then after Berlin, Edinburgh and after Edinburgh. Lisbon. So this is how it went.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:04) - Hey, you've been around the world. You've definitely got those flags in many places. That's absolutely fantastic. Fascinating and amazing that an industry like hospitality can take you so far around the world and have those experiences. But what about languages, Henry? Can we languages do you speak?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:05:24) - I think I speak four languages fluently, being Spanish, French, German, actually five. Sorry. German, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English. so yeah, I was very bad at languages, if you ask me, Ryan, I was always failing my English exams, when I was a young boy here in Qashqai.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:05:44) - So I think the best way to learn languages is to go out there, drink some beers, and did some girls or guys, wherever you are, you guys are into from the local language. That's how I learned German was going out with the German girls. and yeah, I think that's, that's practice makes better. And definitely, I'm not one of the guys that learns the language sitting in a classroom style. So if you are not good at languages, learning it from a classroom, don't give up. Just go out in the world and discover what's out there for you. Now, you.

Ryan Haynes (00:06:14) - Said you also worked in Serbia and Bangkok. Do you speak those languages or how did you get by, when you were working in that environment?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:06:22) - I tried both, and they're both very difficult because the alphabet is completely different. On one side you have Cyrillic, on the other one, you have the Thai alphabet, which is a nightmare. I still remember sitting on those, classroom-style lessons. And for me, it felt like drawing.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:06:37) - Really? Like I couldn't draw an A or what an A represents in Cyrillic or Thai. So that would take me ten minutes to try to get the letter right, you know. So it was very challenging. and at the end of the day, I looked at the global picture and I said, Is Serbia not going to be useful for me in the long run? Probably not. So I gave up after 2 or 3 months, I think both, times.

Ryan Haynes (00:07:00) - So what advice would you give to hospitality professionals that might be going to a country and they don't speak the language, and it's a bit as you go into Serbia and Bangkok? How do you get by? How do you be an effective team player, and how do you provide services to guests? When perhaps, you know, you don't have the local language.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:07:19) - You just need to hand it over to somebody who speaks the language. Referred to the local. I still remember when I was in Germany, I started working in Dusseldorf, and one of my few job first jobs was working as a telephone operator, taking reservations, and I didn't speak German.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:07:33) - At the beginning, I was very poor in German, so I remember people calling me and asking me to book a room under the name Ryan Haynes, and I would ask them to spell out Ryan. You'd be like, what did you know? Right? Brian, my name is Michael Schmidt. And I was like, no, sorry sir, I don't know how to write it. No. Put me to somebody who speaks German, please. So that's one of the most stressful moments of my life. was, was when I couldn't speak the language. but then again, like, you just have to show that you are humble and you are trying your best, and, you just hand over to somebody that speaks the local language. but at the beginning, I think you need to put some effort in showing that you really care. so I think starting to learn the language, taking a basic course, you can always give up. but at least you showed you tried. You know.

Ryan Haynes (00:08:25) - I love that you can give up.

Ryan Haynes (00:08:26) - Yes, you can. And I must say, you know, having myself lived in, briefly in a couple of countries, it's just having a few, expressions, for you to use. So people appreciate that they can appreciate the respect that you're giving to them. And that's all it is, isn't it? Sometimes it's just for them to see that you recognize them.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:08:47) - Then I still remember being in a taxi with my wife in Thailand, and I was chitchatting with a taxi driver, and after 2 or 3 minutes of a conversation, my wife asked me, what are you saying? I said, I have no idea, but the guy is happy and we are just chitchatting and I just had those connecting words that keep a conversation going. You know, it's very funny that people notice that. But once you are in that situation, it's what you say is just having the cab, the very few basics, probably 20 words that you can use in any given circumstances that show that you care about the culture.

Ryan Haynes (00:09:24) - Now, you told us some very funny and interesting examples of when culture went wrong. in your presentation at IGF, could you just reiterate some of those for us here today?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:09:36) - Absolutely. When I was when I was going to Thailand, it was my first management position. So I was super scared, I was going to lead a team of 14 Thai people, and I had never been to Thailand. And, definitely, I have never worked in that department that was going to lead. So the night before I took my flight, I was very nervous and didn't sleep much. And then off I went. And the first thing I do is go to the office and I have a board meeting with my team. Everybody is sitting down, and suddenly there is a chair that I want to reach out. And instead of using my hand, I use my feet. I don't know why. And suddenly everybody stands up and looks at me and says, I was like, what happened? No, you can't touch things with your feet.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:10:20) - In Thailand, feeds are disgusting. Like feeds are so disrespectful. I was like, damn it, check lesson number one. Your feet. They need something that you as a Western probably would do if you. I don't know if you are busy with a cup of tea in your hand and you want to reach your chair, you know. yeah. Don't do that. In Thailand, that was one of the most eye-opening moments of cultural awareness.

Ryan Haynes (00:10:44) - I can imagine that it's a learning quickly on the job, isn't it?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:10:48) - Indeed.

Ryan Haynes (00:10:52) - Now tell me about how you first got into hospitality. What was your first job?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:10:57) - So my first job was as a trainee in the kitchen when I was 15 years old. I started the I love I love to cook, I love to cook. I've always cooked with my mum, back home. So I wanted to be a chef at some point. I then found out that I couldn't cook with a glass of wine in my hand, and that was a problem for me.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:11:18) - so I really said I need to find a new job within this lovely industry. So my first job, in the industry was chef or an apprentice of the chef. And then my first real job, was was in Mykonos, the beach bar supervisor this is in training. Sorry. Internships. My proper job was with Intercontinental when I was asked to join the Intercontinental Dusseldorf. I was part of the Future Leaders program, which is a management training program for IHG. And that's how I started.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:53) - That's that's interesting. I mean, you say that's how you started, but you'd had so much other experience before that that really got you hooked on what you were planning to do. I mean, not everybody goes, oh, I'm just going to move to Düsseldorf. you obviously had shown people, you know, your level of level of, keenness and interest in what you were doing there. And you mentioned earlier on that this supervisor role was perhaps the coolest job you ever had. And it definitely sounds like it.

Ryan Haynes (00:12:22) - You know, I, I don't think I will have lived until I will have fulfilled that role, that's for sure. but was it that excitement of that role that particularly got you into it? Was it something else that made you think, no? 

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:12:38) - Yeah. This is a career for me. So there are two things. So for the beach bar supervisor role, was was the promotion within my internship, I was doing breakfast service. it's at the five-star hotel leading hotels of the world on a beautiful beach in Mykonos. And suddenly the food and beverage department felt my motivation and asked me, do you want to go down to the beach? We will give you an extra 200 bucks. so yeah, it sounds good. So that's how I started, but how I really felt that I was making the right choice. It was when my dad and my mum visited me in Mykonos in that same hotel, and, it was the end of my internship. So the season was about to finish. And when they come to check out, the general manager comes from behind the desk and says, you don't need to pay your bill.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:13:23) - Your your kid. Your son was a wonderful worker. So we are very happy to invite you to your stay in Mykonos. And that was really the coin-flipping moment where I said, yeah, this is my industry. my dad is a civil engineer. He didn't want me to be a chef. he was slightly happier when he found out that I was on the way to being a hotel director, but yeah, that's really when I felt that I had the full support of my family and the industry recognising some qualities. Oh, you.

Ryan Haynes (00:13:53) - Just brought a tear to my eye, Henrique. Oh my God. I mean, you did that a couple of times when you were giving the presentation actually, because it's so heartfelt, your your interest and commitment to the industry and the way you talk about it is so passionate. But I mean, it just sounds like bribery. They gave you a free hotel room.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:14:10) - Indeed, indeed. Because at the end I didn't know when I started.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:14:13) - I didn't know when I started.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:15) - That was their way of getting you to dust off it, you see.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:14:18) - Yeah, it was a different company.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:21) - So, as you say, Dust or Dwarf was calling. And you were then on the Future Leadership Program. Yeah. So tell us a bit more about how you developed your career from that point. And, you know, these opportunities, you know, what was the leadership program and how did you take advantage of other opportunities that were presented to you?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:14:42) - Of course. So I was fortunate enough to study in Marbella. it's a Swiss school in the south of Spain, so it has the best of both worlds being a Swiss school, but being in the south of Spain. So when we approach year three, they give you an opportunity of, I think, dozens of interviews. So it's actually companies that fly to your university and you can actually have proper interviews with them to seek for jobs. So I think I did probably 15, or 20 interviews, many of them to companies that I never wanted to work for them, but that was the way for me to get practice and not to be nervous when the big interview would come up.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:15:20) - So usually this program was one of the more interesting, job offers I got at the moment. Back then, when I was leaving university, and was probably one of the most challenging assessment centres that I've ever done in my life. I've been GM, I've been GM in two properties where I'm still now and Mama Shelter Lisbon. And the assessment and how you get to the program is very challenging. but then it's very rewarding. It's basically the program used to work that it's. For months. And within those 24 months, you have to rotate two hotels. So that's how I ended up in Dusseldorf. So they sent me to the sold-off. And after 12 months I was sent to Serbia. and yeah, that's a great way for people who are living in adversity to get into the industry. All the big companies have these programs, and even smaller companies are starting to do these programs because they see it's a great way to captivate, talented graduates, and not to lose them to other industries. Nowadays, hospitality professionals are being used in a lot of industries, from lecture retailing to banking.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:16:28) - any touchpoint with customer service people are hiring hoteliers to fill up those jobs. so yeah, I think it's, a cool way that was being used in the past and it's still being used nowadays to captivate the talented people.

Ryan Haynes (00:16:42) - So, now tell us about your current job and what you're doing.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:16:46) - Yeah, I'm the general manager of one of the coolest hotels in Portugal. I would say, we have, a lifestyle hotel that it's a beach, beachfront. So you are 100m away from the beach. we have, 400, restaurant seats in the hotel. We have two bars, two restaurants, and a Seaview spa on the sixth floor, with four treatment rooms, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, conference area. So it's really one of the most beautiful tiles I've ever worked in. and. Yeah.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:18) - Well, that sounds like definitely an upgrade from being a beach supervisor. I mean, a hotel by the beach. And you're in control of that. Why not? And so with that lifestyle hotel, it's kind of a new category.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:31) - how can you describe it and let us know a bit more about, you know, what people can expect either to work or to visit?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:17:38) - Yeah, I think I think not long ago, hotels were pretty much dead from 9:00 to 6:00 in the evening. And some of them still are, your typical corporate hotel and I think lifestyle hotels, came to fill up a gap where people like to be in beautiful places. I think hotels were, back in the day, always a gathering point of cities. Then they kind of stopped being a gathering point of cities for a few years, and now it's definitely coming back. I think you living in the UK, you definitely see London has multiple hotels where they are bustling like their lobbies. I talked, for example, of the Hoxton, Holborn. You go there and you try to find a chair to work on your laptop or your iPad, and it's impossible. You need to be standing for half an hour to get a little chair to do a few emails.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:18:22) - So they're super successful. So for me, lifestyle hotels are hotels that work around the clock. hotels that, normally 50% of their revenues don't come from the rooms. The department has probably not. Normally 70 to 80% of the revenues of hotels come from beds. and in lifestyle hotels, normally our hotels are deeply rooted in the local community, hotels that focus properly on food and beverage, PR, and design. So, I think at the end of the day, is that hotel that, is willing to attract not only tourists but also locals.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:01) - Lovely. And I guess that is so important than really understanding that cultural element, you know, that. What reason are people there at the hotel, how you can service them, and support them, and how can you then make them feel that relaxed state of mind whilst they're at the property? Indeed. Now, I mean, we've gone through a lot related to this idea of culture, localization, globalization, and your experience growing through the ranks and developing as a career professional in hospitality.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:33) - How can we support the next generation and make hospitality much more appealing?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:19:38) - I think first, the story needs to be sexy. I think people only talk of hotel years for the long hours, and the low pay, and I think that's not really like that for everybody. if you are motivated and you are willing to put in the extra mile, you definitely, can have a comfortable life within hospitality. I think that's the first thing, number one. And then I think the industry, the government and the educational sector need to come together and work on it and invest in it. when I was living in the UK, I remember the army doing advertising on buses, for example, joining the Army, etc. I don't think we need to do advertising on buses, but we definitely need to communicate with the larger with a larger group of people. I don't even know how people in the UK, for example, end up in hospitality. Probably their parents worked somewhere in Portugal back in the day.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:20:28) - We have a school that had a very good recognition, in Estoril, where I'm based, and everybody talked about it. Now this school is tired, and it doesn't talk to the new generations anymore. So I think we really need to, to look at it from a bird's eye view and, and, and change the way we talk about our industry. I have a fantastic. Story to tell. I'm sure there are another thousand people that have a fantastic story to tell. So I would like to thank you, Ryan, to to give me a voice to motivate, future attendees and hopefully change the way people talk about hospitality.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:06) - Now, I completely agree with you. I've spoken to so many wonderful hospitality leaders across my Hoteliers' Voice series who've got the same level of passion, passion and intrigue as you do the level of commitment and need to dedicate. But I think that's the same with any role. You know, you absolutely need to give yourself to that profession and allow yourself to develop and, and, excel in that profession at the same time.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:31) - And here in the UK, one of the areas that is certainly growing, which is quite great to see, is the area of apprenticeships. And that's where the government's giving a lot more support. And, you know, it is where you generally see not so many people go to university, but they start their careers within the work, work environment. And that is where you have so much more influence, isn't it?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:21:53) - We talked when we were together. We talked about it. Germany has one of the best apprenticeship programs I've ever seen in my life. I remember being a graduate of a hotel management school that had a big reputation, but I was completely competing on the same level with people that, were just doing a paid internship from the German government. So I think hospitality is very practical. So there is a big niche of people that you can tap into that are not probably the best academic people and, but are keen to work, are motivated and want to do things with their hands. I remember when I did my psychometric exams when I was 16.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:22:32) - The result was to do something with your hands. And I was like, what the hell am I going to do? I'm going to be a farmer now or so. So yeah.

Ryan Haynes (00:22:38) - So and just then finally when you're interviewing people, when you're looking for people to join your hotel and their first time entering the hospitality industry, what do you look for in them? What do you hope to see when they come and have that conversation with you?

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:22:53) - The first time depends on the job, of course, but normally I look for for attitude. it's a bit cliche, everybody's saying this, but it's really very hard to change the mindset of somebody who either doesn't want to work or is not motivated to work. so I look for grit as well. I like I like my teams to be resilient and hard-working. That being said, I also work a lot on wellbeing. I used to say that I was the hotelier with the best personal life balance. I'm not so sure anymore. Well, now I'm on parental leave, so I am.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:23:29) - but, yeah, I think it's very important for you to to look for people that within those eight hours that they are working, they really give their best. And that's what I look for in my teams.

Ryan Haynes (00:23:39) - Excellent. Henrique Tiago de Castro, thank you ever so much for joining us today.

Henrique Tiago de Castro (00:23:43) - Thank you so much. Take care.

Ryan Haynes (00:23:48) - So that was Henrique Tiago de Castro talking to us about his experiences developing his career in hospitality. Check out some of our other Hoteliers' Voice interviews. We are already on season four and we're looking forward to hearing more stories from you. So if you have a story to share, please contact us team at Travel Market Life. Thanks. Listening. Ciao for now. Travel Market Life is backed by Haynes MarComs, a B2B marketing communications PR consultancy specializing in the technologies, travel, hospitality and property sectors.

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