Gifted with a regenerating passion for hospitality. Daniel Mota


If you mix experience, determination, passion, integrity and loyalty, you have a perfect mix for a professional. If you add a good dose of warmth and pleasant disposition, you have Daniel Mota, General Manager of Santarém Hotel, Portugal. He’s not young but bursting to the seams with energy and dedication. “I’m 61, but I can assure you that retirement is not on my radar. So, as far as I can work and enjoy it as I do now, I intend to fully operate the hotel and cooperate with my superiors by alerting them to the nature and priorities of the investments we need most.

Daniel Mota

Before working in the hotel industry, Daniel had spent three years in the Portuguese Air Force as an Air Traffic Controller. “Then I looked for an alternative. Hospitality was my choice 40 years ago – I started in August 1984 – and I have never looked back, always forward.” 

Daniel worked in various managerial roles, including General Manager and Rooms Division Manager. He also has experience in revenue and yield management, pre-opening and opening hotels, and resolving environmental issues. I wondered whether he learned these tasks in practice during his many-year adventure in hospitality or whether he also has an academic background. “Yes, I have been blessed with many challenges and have held different roles and positions throughout my career. I started as a receptionist at a hotel where I was born, in the Algarve, Portugal, and after a year, I was certain that this was the area where I wanted to work. I then decided to go to work in Switzerland (Hotel Beau Rivage Palace, Lausanne), where I could earn some money to pay for a hotel management course and, at the same time, gain professional experience. That’s what happened; I worked for a year in Lausanne and then took the Operational Hotel Management Course at the Institut Hôtelier Cesar Ritz, also in Switzerland. After completing the course, I remained working in that country for around five years for Hotel Le Montreux Palace,and then I returned to Portugal. Later, I also took an undergraduate course in hotel management.”

Daniel then looked fixedly at me. “Studying is an asset, but believe me, the thrill is when you roll up your sleeves and go for it. That is where you fulfil yourself. I still get a kick when my adrenalin runs high.” 

So, did he not mind pressure? Daniel’s eyes twinkled as he smiled: “Over the years, the pressure has actually become an addiction for me, without which I cannot live. I remember being out of work for a while on two occasions (between two jobs), and I vividly recall missing the daily adrenaline rush that a hotelier experiences. Pressure challenges me to do more, to get better and carry more load. It’s a challenge I have never shied away from.

I was aware Daniel was a technical person and very conversant with new technologies, such as social networks, websites with integrated channel manager and SEO (search engine optimisation). Is it quite unique to find a person who is a refined professional in management and also proficient in technology? “Anyone who wants to pursue a career in hotel management needs to stay up-to-date, particularly concerning new technologies. It was like that in the past; it continues to be so in the present and will remain like that. I believe that any hotelier needs to understand and know the existent technological means to sell their rooms, restaurants and bars better and enhance management of their operational costs, particularly energy costs.

Daniel spoke with a constant passion. It was apparent he was enjoying it all. What really kept him so intensely active and dedicated to this profession? “What attracted me most at the beginning, 40 years ago, still attracts me to this very day: the contact with the public; the power to make others happy. That still energises me. I cannot see a customer looking for any service and not having it. I was always self-compelled to serve them or have someone else assist them. And that motivated me and still does. That has always been my inner propellor. And that’s what I expect from my colleagues: good, efficient and timely service for our patrons. This way of being, combined with the constant desire to strive to achieve objectives, generates the pressure/addiction I have mentioned. I can’t live without this thrust. It’s in my DNA.

“I always remind my younger colleagues never to be miserly with guests and colleagues in giving and sharing their better selves. And the more varied one’s experience becomes over time, the more one can enjoy this wonderful process of sharing across a wider spectrum and at different levels.

From how Daniel spoke and his humane values, I was sure he was also a wonderful family man. I could see that topic struck a soft note. “Yes, I have been married to my exceptional wife, Manuela, for 35 years, and am blessed with two daughters: Vera, who has a degree in Environment and Public Health, and Sara, who has a degree in Finance and Accounting. And then…” 

I noticed Daniel was moved to add his next line, so I helped him by suggesting grandchildren. “They are my constant pride and joy. I have four: Maria, Jose`, Laura and Rita. Their ages vary from 6 to 1. I cannot explain how they change you. They change your priorities and your pleasures in life. I enjoy the moments with them intensely and allow them to do what I would have never allowed my children to get away with. It’s just a revolutionary experience of love.

I thought this was a sweet moment to conclude our chat with a wonderful grandfather, family man, professional hotelier and, most of all, a 61-year-young man who loves life, its challenges and responsibilities with a regenerating passion.