20% growth

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]

Optimism for the future of tourism in the Algarve is growing as a result of recent data that shows a significant rise in the occupancy levels for hotels and resorts, with more foreigners booking through the biggest tour operators and heading for Portugal for their holidays.

Tour operators point to a 20% growth in demand from foreign tourists seeking to holiday in Portugal, with the Algarve welcoming the largest number of visitors.

Many tourist establishments in the region are expecting successful occupancy rates, such as the Sheraton Algarve & Pine Cliffs Resort, which predict that 90% of its accommodation will be booked throughout the summer.

The Algarve Resident contacted various hotels and resorts in the region, which all confirmed the positive trend and that bookings are reaching satisfying numbers.

Quinta do Lago golf resort revealed that its current occupancy for rental villas and town homes is around 85% and the increase in golf rounds has contributed to higher traffic of resort guests and visitors. It was added that a lot of business generated in the peak months of July and August is from last-minute bookings.

Another tale of success comes from the Vale do Lobo luxury golf and beach resort where the facilities are totally booked this month and 80% of the resort’s accommodations are already reserved for the month of September and 60% for October.

Vila Vita Parc, the five star resort in Porches, also said that forecasts until the end of October are “looking very good”. “So far, we are exceeding our revenue targets for 2013 and are currently ahead of last year at the same time,” said Katya Bauval, the director of sales and marketing, who added that it is hoped that the trend will continue into the following year.

The president of the Algarve Tourism Board, Desidério Silva,who was this week re-elected tourism chief for the region for the next five years, stressed that the region is benefiting from the divergence of clients from the Arabian tourist destinations to the European alternatives, brought on by the insecure climate that has been tainting the allure of Portugal’s Mediterranean competitors.

This was proven in a recent press release, in which the association of hotels and resorts of the Algarve, AHETA, announced the occupancy rates for July of this year.

The occupancy rate per room was 81.6%, meaning there was a 3.7% increase compared to the same month in 2012. The occupancy rate per bed also registered a rise of 5.7%, now settling in at 76.1%.

A sharp contrast was noticed between the foreign and national markets. There was a significant boost in the number of Irish, Dutch and British tourists in the Algarve, increasing 29.3%, 21.1% and 17.1%, respectively.Alternatively, Portuguese and Spanish visitors decreased almost 10%, an indication, perhaps, of the difficult times these citizens face.

Albufeira stands out for being the municipality that held the highest occupancy rate (86.2%), having registered a 5.8% growth. However, Tavira is at the bottom of the list with a rate of 75% and a fall of 2.3%.

Occupancy levels at five star hotels soared, rising 8.3% compared to July 2012, followed by three star complexes (7.5%). Curiously, these numbers did not dethrone three star hotels as the category with the highest occupancy rate (85.4%) despite the improvement of five star complexes, which still held the lowest quota (72.6%).

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), the first five months of 2013 saw a 4.3% boost, on a national level, in the number of stopovers due solely to foreign visitors.

The new waves of tourists came mostly from Ireland, the UK and Germany. In May alone, Irish tourists increased 40.8% in terms of overnight stays, followed by British and German visitors, with 22.3% and 21%, respectively.

Nevertheless, larger quantities do not necessarily mean more profit, according to the president of the Portuguese Hoteliers Association (AHP) Luís Veiga, who said that prices would have to go up by 15% to 20% in order to compensate forthe stagnation of the past years.

Still, he acknowledged that Portugal has benefited from the unsafe climate felt among Mediterranean rivals and has registered an improvement regarding the foreign markets.

Referring specifically to the Algarve, Veiga said the region’s hotels are performing very well in terms of foreign tourists. However, the rise in accommodations is being affected by the stagnation of hotel prices which have not been raised for some time now. Meanwhile, costs related to taxes and bureaucracies are cutting hotel profits and have been a burden on these tourist complexes.

He added that there are regions such as the central area of the country which, even with occupancy rates ranging from 35% to 50%, are facing difficult times.

Fewer national tourists

As opposed to the positive foreign trend, there was a drop in the number of Portuguese tourist overnight stays throughout the first five months of this year, registering an overall 5% decrease, except for May, when the number of national tourists increased by a marginal amount (0.8%), according to data from the statistics institute.

INE has also revealed that there was a decrease in leisure, recreation and holidays trips (-1.2%) and business trips (-1.9%). Also, overnight stays showed a reduction of 9.3% during the first quarter of the year.