With an international career spanning more than 20 years, Elizabeth Wilson is a seasoned business traveler with a practical mindset to business and life. In our latest edition of our interview series for the RoomsCo blog, we talked to Elizabeth about her experience working in the Asian markets, how she ventured into property management in Portugal, and her advice for fellow frequent travelers like her.

1. For more than 20 years, you have worked in the financial industry in New York, then Hong Kong, and you have represented clients from all over the world. Did you envision such an international career from the get-go?

I always hoped to have an international career, but I never actually planned it. I was working at a Wall Street law firm that asked me to go to Hong Kong for a couple of weeks and I jumped at the opportunity. That was over twenty years ago, and I never looked back.

2. Given your international experience, what are the biggest differences you have seen between working in the Asian and European markets?

Asian people work 24/7 and many countries still have Saturday as a working. They work to live.

Europeans have a stronger view on “rights” and would not work to the same extent.

Expats in Asia have a euro-centric view on life but work in an Asian capital so it’s work hard and play hard – burning candles!

3. As a frequent traveler yourself, what is your best piece of advice for other business travelers?

When packing, always have:

  • Magnesium supplements
  • Vitamin C
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antihistamine

They cover the most critical issues.

4. You currently also own two rental properties in Lisbon. What initially drew you to invest in property management? And what has been your biggest lesson learned with this venture?

I wasn’t so much drawn to property management as I was to the possibility of a Portuguese passport, and property was the path. I invested to facilitate a Golden Visa in Portugal.

The biggest lesson learned has been to be patient. Everything gets done eventually, but never on the time schedule, you plan it to be. It can be extremely frustrating.

5. We hear you are building your own home in the Alentejo region. After so many years of living abroad, what drew you to the Portuguese countryside?

I came for the visa and fell in love with the country. The climate, natural beauty of the land and sea, the food and wine and the wonderful people have all factored into our decision to live there. My partner and I hope to retire in the next couple of years, and I would like to be closer to the US where my mother lives. Portugal ticks all the boxes for us.

6. The pandemic has had such a profound impact on our daily lives. How do you think travel will change?

Business travel will change, and corporates will be cutting budgets. Better think about whether you loved the job or the travel.

7. Finally, given the global pandemic, do you think now is still a good time to be investing in tourism properties? What advice would you give to aspiring property managers right now?

It’s hard to tell what the future holds, but a savvy friend once said to me that if you buy property within a certain radius of a city where people get dressed in business attire to go to work every day, you’ll do well. While this was obviously a pre-Covid sentiment as nobody has to get dressed for work anymore, he had a good point. Properties in Lisbon and Porto will always have value as both tourism rentals as well as the potential for long-term appreciation. At least that’s what I’m banking on!

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— Interview by Inês Pinto