POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

"This is only the beginning": Startup's big plans for Lux tourism



img_0922.jpg

While travelling the world Philippe Freitas Morgado and Liliane Soares came across the concept that inspired their circular accommodation startup. Photo: Romain Gamba 

Young entrepreneur Philippe Freitas Morgado won a Chamber of Commerce prize for his concept of cabins for tourists that can move from place to place, but he says more support is needed for startups in the sector.

A postgraduate student in entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Luxembourg in 2019, Morgado’s startup journey began when he had to come up with a business plan for one of his classes.

“On the day that I had to present my ideas to my supervisor I had a list with three ideas, Simpleviu wasn’t on there,” he tells Delano. “But last minute I decided to swap one of the other three for this one. I was never really sure but when talking to my girlfriend she reminded me of this concept that we had seen in other countries while travelling. And my supervisor immediately liked the idea so I was really lucky that I chose it.”

Both avid travellers, Morgado and his girlfriend Liliana Soares, who is also his business partner, came across the concept of the tiny cabins in Morocco as well as the Scandinavian countries, and saw huge potential to launch a similar project in Luxembourg. After extensive market research, the pair then worked out an original concept tailored to the grand duchy and the international and local tourists it attracts.  

The result? Simpleviu, a circular accommodation concept consisting of transportable cabins of about 25 to 30m2 primarily made of glass and wood. “The goal is to really put them in the middle of nature so as to create an alternative, isolated experience in order to create this connection to nature. To achieve this, the glass is supposed to create a panorama view.” At the same time, different services, including breakfast and bike hiring should be available to guests, in order to offer a whole experience.  

At the heart of the experience are circularity and sustainability. From the materials used to build the cabins or the companies involved to the interior design and the meal offer, everything is made in Luxembourg. Morgado emphasises the attention to detail in this regard, saying that it is important to analyse the source of even smallest details, such as rugs or the toilet paper in the cabins, to ensure they adhere to this ecological aspect. 

(No) land in sight

But the road from working out the concept to actually putting it into reality is a bumpy one, and although Morgado praises the enormous support the pair have received from a variety of actors, it hasn't always been easy, he says. 

One of the main challenges of putting their vision into reality was to do with finding pieces of land where they would be able to put the cabins. “I believe that at least on a European level, Luxembourg is one of the countries with the most constraints. It was really hard to figure out what we could do where, because you can’t just go and randomly put a cabin into the forest. That would’ve been too easy. So you really have to look at how different pieces of land are classified, who owns them, what you can actually do with them, etc…”

Nevertheless, with Morgado’s drive and enthusiasm he managed to present the concept to different players, garnering a lot of interest. Eventually a few communes approached the young entrepreneur offering potential pieces of land. 

With the first two locations secured in the Mullerthal region, the communes on board and the various providers and partners carefully chosen and briefed, there is only one element left before the startup is ready to launch.

“At the moment everything depends on one factor, a really important factor actually and that’s financing. We’re talking to a bank at the moment so hopefully I’ll have an answer from them in the next days. If this answer is positive, then I can give green light to the different actors involved. So I am hoping that the first cabins will be ready for Summer 2021,” Morgado says. 

And although Simpleviu still has a long way to go, the startup has already celebrated its first success, being awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s first prize for the best business plan. 

“I was surprised and happy because competition was fierce, there were so many good ideas. I think the most important thing for me is just seeing that the hard work, the concept and the idea have paid off and are being appreciated,” Morgado says about his accomplishment. 

A breath of fresh air for the hospitality sector? 

But this is only the beginning, Morgado, who has his office inside the University of Luxembourg’s incubator, says, explaining that he already has big plans for Simpleviu’s future, including self-sustainable cabins and exploring opportunities for a similar concept in more urban areas. 

He sees a real the need to bring a breath of fresh air to the grand duchy’s tourism industry and offer more modern, innovative experiences in order to attract a broader audience.

At the same time, the young entrepreneur acknowledges that it is extremely difficult to get started in this realm as the support available to startups in the hospitality sector is extremely scarce compared to other areas.

“If we were a tech or a fintech startup then we would probably already have funding at this point. But because we are a company in hospitality it is a lot harder to find funding. There is not a lot of financial support available for tourism and for this kind of startup,” Morgado notes.