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  • Writer's picturePedro Reis

Our Founders: The Story Behind AirFreedom’s Passion for Hospitality

Updated: 2 days ago

  1. Introduction

  2. The Founders' Journey

  3. A Step Towards AirFreedom

  4. Pivotal Moments of Decision

  5. The Birth of AirFreedom

  6. Our Commitment to a New Vision of Hospitality

  7. The Growth and Expansion of AirFreedom

 

1. Introduction


Welcome to our world at AirFreedom, a place where every guest becomes part of our extended family. We're Pedro and Alina Reis, the couple behind this venture that's much more than a business to us - it's a reflection of our journey and the embodiment of our shared love for hospitality.

Our story starts in a rather unexpected way. Imagine a youth event, hosted by the European Union, where a Portuguese young man with a heart full of dreams met a Bosnian young woman with a spirit as resilient as the mountains of her homeland. That's where our paths crossed, leading to conversations that spanned cultures, experiences, and eventually, a shared vision for the future.

In 2013, we decided to make the United Kingdom our new home, a place where we could blend our diverse backgrounds and start something that truly represented us. We were united by our love for travel, a keen interest in meeting new people, and a deep appreciation for the warmth that a well-hosted stay can bring.

AirFreedom was born from these simple yet powerful aspirations. It wasn’t just about starting a business; it was about creating spaces where people could feel at home, even while being away from theirs. We wanted to offer more than just a place to stay - we aimed to provide experiences that were personal, comfortable, and memorable.

Join us as we share our story, the lessons we’ve learned along the way, and how our journey has shaped every aspect of AirFreedom. From our early days of hosting to managing a selection of unique properties, it’s been a path filled with challenges, learning, and plenty of joy.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know us a little better. We can’t wait to share more about our adventures in hospitality and the passion that drives AirFreedom.


Pedro and Alina Reis, the passionate founders of AirFreedom.

 

2. The Founders' Journey


The Early Days

Our foray into the world of hospitality was as unconventional as it was exciting. For me, Pedro, the journey began not in grand hotels or bustling city centers, but in a serene coastal town in the north of Portugal. While still immersed in my studies, a friend presented an opportunity that would unknowingly chart the course of my career — he was opening a surf hostel and needed help.


The surf hostel, with its laid-back vibe and proximity to the roaring waves, was the perfect playground for a student passionate about hospitality. Here, I wasn’t just lending a hand; I was diving headfirst into the intricacies of launching and managing a property. It was a world far removed from the theoretical knowledge of textbooks. This was real, hands-on experience, dealing with everything from listing properties on platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor to grappling with the complexities of iCal maps, mapping properties, and channel managers.


Each day brought new challenges and learnings. I found myself creating confirmation emails, strategizing on property exposure, and dealing with the day-to-day operational tasks that are the lifeblood of any hospitality venture. It was a crash course like no other, teaching me not just the mechanics of property management but also the art of creating spaces that resonated with travelers.


This early stint in the surf hostel was more than just a venture; it was the spark that ignited a deep-seated passion for the hospitality industry. It was where I learned that hospitality is not just about providing a place to stay; it’s about creating experiences, building connections, and understanding the nuanced needs of travelers.


As I juggled the demands of my studies with the responsibilities at the hostel, I realized that this was more than a fleeting interest – it was a calling. The lessons learned here, from the practicalities of property management to the joy of seeing guests enjoy their stay, laid the foundation for what would eventually become AirFreedom. Alina, on the other hand, brought a diverse skill set to our partnership. With a degree in physiotherapy and invaluable experience working on Royal Caribbean Cruises, she had a unique exposure to luxury hospitality and a global clientele. This blend of healthcare and high-end guest service significantly influenced her approach to guest experiences at AirFreedom. In 2016, Alina transitioned her career from hospitality to IT. This shift not only expanded her expertise but also became a cornerstone in our venture. Her technical acumen, combined with an innate flair for interior design, has been crucial in creating inviting and functional spaces that resonate with our guests.


It was these early experiences, full of enthusiasm and exploration, that shaped my understanding of what true hospitality entails. They were the building blocks upon which AirFreedom was later built, blending the professionalism of traditional hospitality with the personal touch that only a passion-driven venture can offer.

A picture of the facade of a surf hostel in Espinho, representing Pedro's first experience launching properties.


3. A Step Towards AirFreedom

Our journey towards creating AirFreedom took its first real step in 2017, within the walls of our newly bought apartment in the heart of Newport. It was more than just a new living space for us; it was the beginning of an experiment that would redefine our path in the hospitality sector. With a spare bedroom at our disposal, we decided to dip our toes into the world of Airbnb. Our motivations were simple yet practical - to assist in furnishing our home and to gather some extra cash for holidays.


This decision, though seemingly small, was the spark that ignited a larger vision. We started hosting guests in our spare bedroom, not realizing at the time that this was the first cornerstone of what would become AirFreedom. Each guest who stayed with us brought new insights and experiences. We were not just offering them a place to sleep; we were sharing a piece of our world with them, and in return, they were enriching ours.

As we embarked on our first Airbnb venture, Alina's keen eye for detail and design played a pivotal role. She skillfully curated our space, ensuring every element resonated with comfort and style. Her talent for creating welcoming interiors was key to the early success and positive guest feedback we received, laying a solid foundation for what AirFreedom would become.

The success of this modest venture was both surprising and inspiring. We discovered that our guests deeply appreciated the personal touch and warmth we infused into their stay. It wasn’t just about providing a bed for the night; it was about creating an environment where they felt welcomed and valued. The positive feedback we received was incredibly humbling, and it propelled us to think bigger.


It dawned on us that our passion for hospitality could extend beyond the conventional framework we were accustomed to. There was a niche in creating personalized, homely experiences for travelers - something that resonated deeply with our own values and approach. This realization was the seed from which AirFreedom would grow. It was more than just capitalizing on an opportunity; it was about embracing a new way of thinking about hospitality, one that was rooted in personal connections and genuine care.


This step, hosting guests in our spare bedroom, became our testing ground. It allowed us to experiment, learn, and gradually craft the unique approach to hospitality that AirFreedom is known for today. What started as a practical solution to furnish our home and fund our holidays transformed into the foundation of a business that was driven by passion, personal interaction, and a desire to offer something truly special to our guests.

The original Instagram page for first Airbnb, marking the beginning of their journey.



4. Pivotal Moments of Decision

As the initial steps with our Airbnb venture began to bear fruit, I, Pedro, reached a crucial juncture in my professional life. The world of hotel management, where I had spent the last 7 years, was becoming increasingly demanding. The long hours and the relentless pace began to weigh heavily on me. I found myself yearning for a change, a shift that would allow me to balance my deep-rooted passion for hospitality with a lifestyle that was more conducive to family life.


This period of introspection brought me to a crossroads. On one hand, I was intrigued by the potential of hospitality technology. The idea of delving into hotel management systems presented an opportunity to blend my hospitality experience with a more structured work environment. On the other hand, the creative and dynamic world of event organization beckoned, offering a platform to channel my creativity and people skills in a different direction.


Both paths held their allure, but they also came with their own sets of challenges and uncertainties. The decision wasn't just about choosing a career path; it was about finding a way to maintain my passion for hospitality while also embracing a lifestyle that prioritized family and personal well-being.


It was during this period of contemplation and exploration that the idea of AirFreedom began to take a more definitive shape. I realized that what I truly sought was a way to bring warmth and personal connection to the world of hospitality. I wanted to create experiences that were not just transactional but personal and memorable. The growing success and personal satisfaction from our Airbnb venture in Newport were clear indicators that this was more than just a fleeting interest. It was a viable path that could offer the balance I was seeking. During this period of pivotal decisions, Alina’s perspective was invaluable. She not only supported the vision but actively contributed to the strategic direction of AirFreedom. Her insights from both her hospitality and IT experiences provided a balanced approach to our decision-making process, shaping the path we eventually took.


This realization marked a turning point. It was no longer about fitting into the existing frameworks of the hospitality industry. Instead, it was about carving out a new niche, one where the focus was on creating a home away from home for travelers, a place where they could feel welcomed, valued, and cared for.


The decision to focus on building AirFreedom was a culmination of all these experiences and realizations. It was a commitment to a path that offered both personal fulfillment and the chance to redefine the essence of hospitality. This decision was pivotal, not just in my career but in the very foundation of what AirFreedom would come to represent — a harmonious blend of professional hospitality and a deeply personal guest experience.



The Manor Hotel in Crickhowell, a charming and elegant establishment set against a picturesque backdrop, representing the first hotel management experience of Pedro Reis, co-founder of AirFreedom.

5. The Birth of AirFreedom

In the midst of seeking balance and redefining our path, the concept of AirFreedom began to crystallize. It was more than just an idea; it was a vision of the kind of hospitality we yearned to offer - one that combined professional standards with a personal touch. To introduce this vision to the world, we started small but with great hope. We launched a modest Facebook page, our digital window to the world, showcasing what we aspired to create with AirFreedom.


This humble online presence, however rudimentary, was our first real step towards bringing AirFreedom to life. It served as a platform to articulate our vision and reach out to potential guests and property owners. Surprisingly, it didn't take long for this effort to bear fruit. Our Facebook page, initially just a medium to share our ideas and services, caught the attention of our very first client, and what an introduction it was to the business world!


Our first client was a seasoned property manager based in Australia, with a wealth of experience and high standards for property management. Her decision to entrust us with her property management needs was both an honor and a challenge. Her expectations were high, rightfully so, given her background and expertise. This was more than just a business transaction; it was a test of our capabilities and our commitment to the vision of AirFreedom.


Working with her was a learning experience like no other. We were determined not only to meet her expectations but to exceed them. Every step of the way, we poured our expertise, passion, and personal touch into managing her property. The experience was grueling but exhilarating, pushing us to refine our skills and approach.


Successfully managing her property and receiving her positive feedback was a turning point for us. It was a validation of our concept and capabilities. This success gave us the confidence we needed to push forward with AirFreedom. It proved that our approach to hospitality – one that married professional rigor with a personal, heartfelt touch – had a place in the market. It resonated with property owners who were looking for something more than just a conventional property management service.


The birth of AirFreedom was not marked by grand openings or lavish celebrations. Instead, it was signified by this early success, a testament to our vision and hard work. This first client engagement laid the groundwork for what AirFreedom would become. It was a clear indication that our belief in a different kind of hospitality service – one that was as much about connections and experiences as it was about professionalism – had real potential.



The first property managed by AirFreedom, showcasing the cozy and inviting space.


6. Our Commitment to a New Vision of Hospitality

The journey of AirFreedom is a tapestry woven from various experiences, each thread representing a significant step in our path to redefining hospitality. From my initial venture in managing a surf hostel as a student to the serendipitous decision of hosting guests in our Newport apartment, every experience was a building block toward a greater vision. This vision was not just about running a successful business; it was about crafting a hospitality experience that married professional excellence with a personal, homely touch.


Our first year with AirFreedom was a testament to this new approach. We started with managing just one property, a modest beginning that soon unfolded into a story of remarkable success. This property, under our management, generated over £35,000 in revenue in its first year - a significant leap from the less than £12,000 it would have likely earned otherwise. This achievement was not only a financial triumph but also a validation of our belief in the potential of personalized hospitality.


Throughout this period, both Alina and I juggled our full-time jobs while nurturing AirFreedom. It was a balancing act that required dedication, hard work, and a relentless commitment to our vision. The success of our first managed property was a clear indication that our unique approach to hospitality was resonating with guests and property owners alike.

Alina's multifaceted background in physiotherapy and luxury hospitality, coupled with her keen eye for design, has played an integral role in shaping the aesthetic and functional aspects of our properties at AirFreedom. Her transition to IT has further enhanced her ability to create inviting, stylish, and comfortable spaces, making each property not just a place to stay, but a memorable experience for our guests.

In September 2023, a pivotal moment arrived for me, Pedro. After years of balancing dual responsibilities, I took the significant step of dedicating myself entirely to AirFreedom. This decision marked a new chapter in our journey, allowing me to immerse myself fully in the venture that Alina and I had passionately built together. It was a commitment not just to the business but to the ethos and values that AirFreedom represents.


Our approach to hospitality at AirFreedom is deeply rooted in our personal experiences and beliefs. We see hospitality as more than just a service; it's an opportunity to bring joy, comfort, and memorable experiences to others. It's about creating a space that feels like home, no matter how far one might be from their own. This philosophy is the cornerstone of


AirFreedom, guiding every decision we make and every interaction we have with our guests.

The foundation of AirFreedom lies in these varied but interconnected experiences. From humble beginnings to notable achievements, our journey is a reflection of our unwavering dedication to a new vision of hospitality — one that harmonizes the professionalism of traditional hospitality with the warmth and personalization of a guest stay. It’s a journey that continues to evolve, driven by our passion for hospitality and our commitment to making each stay with AirFreedom a unique and cherished experience.

Airfreedom Logo

7. The Growth and Expansion of AirFreedom


As AirFreedom evolved, so did our portfolio and reach in the hospitality industry. Today, we are proud to manage over 30 properties, each with its unique charm and character. Our journey has led us to collaborate with 9 fantastic clients and property owners, who have placed their trust in our vision and approach to hospitality.


Perhaps one of the most fulfilling aspects of our growth has been the development of 11 distinct, successful, and active hospitality brands. Each brand reflects a unique aspect of our commitment to providing exceptional guest experiences. This diversity in our portfolio is not just a testament to our growth but also to our ability to adapt and excel in various facets of the hospitality industry.


From managing a single property to overseeing a broad and diverse range of accommodations, our growth at AirFreedom represents more than just numbers. It’s about the relationships we’ve built, the trust we’ve earned, and the innovative approach we’ve maintained throughout our journey.



A stunning night view of Newport’s riverfront, showcasing the city’s vibrant lights reflecting on the water, symbolizing the dynamic growth and expansion of AirFreedom in this lively community.

As we draw the curtains on our story, the remarkable expansion of AirFreedom stands as a testament to our passion for hospitality. Today, our portfolio boasts over 30 properties valued conservatively at over £5 million, hosting around 200 reservations each month. This achievement is not just in numbers but in the trust and satisfaction of our guests, mirrored in an exceptional average rating of 4.8 across all properties.


Our journey of growth is not a solo endeavor. It's a symphony played by a dedicated team, each bringing their unique expertise to the table. Dino, our right-hand man, has been instrumental in the day-to-day operational success. We take pride in collaborating with three superb cleaning companies across Cardiff, Newport, and Bristol, ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and guest comfort.

Our operation is a blend of local touch and global reach:

  • Every night, around 100 guests find a home away from home with us.

  • We manage 49 uniquely designed rooms, curated largely by Alina's keen sense of interior design.

  • A diligent team of 26 cleaning staff work synchronously to uphold our high standards.

  • Our revenue management strategies are sharpened in Barcelona, while our operational checks crisscross through Canadian servers.

  • A robust technical team, spread across Bulgaria, Spain, and Italy, empowers us with cutting-edge solutions.

This international footprint underscores our commitment to a global standard of hospitality. We also lean on a local maintenance team, ready to address any emergencies, ensuring not just comfort but also the safety and security of our guests. The remarkable expansion of AirFreedom also echoes Alina's influence, particularly in interior design. Her impeccable taste and design acumen are evident in the 20 units we manage, where each space tells its own story. Her interior designer freelancer role in this growth is not just about aesthetics; it’s about creating spaces that offer comfort, functionality, and a sense of belonging for every guest. Moreover, Pedro's prowess in Hospitality Software has revolutionized our operational efficiency, enabling us to manage over 30 properties with remarkable guest-centricity and efficient client support. This innovative approach has equipped us with the capability to respond to most guest queries within minutes, ensuring swift and effective communication. This efficiency extends to the check-in process for dozens of guests simultaneously, providing them with incredibly detailed instructions and access to our exceptional online guest area. His contributions ensure every guest interaction is smooth, personalized, and truly memorable


AirFreedom's story is more than managing properties; it’s about creating experiences, fostering relationships, and building a community around shared values of quality and care. Our growth is not just in scaling up but in deepening the connections with each guest who walks through our doors.


As we continue our journey, we remain steadfast in our vision: to redefine hospitality with every stay, making AirFreedom not just a place to stay, but an experience to cherish.


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