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2012 starts with a bang despite tough economy

by SOPHIE MCCARRICK [email protected]

As the clock struck midnight on December 31, the Algarve region welcomed more than 140,000 visitors.

However, it appears the current economic crisis had an impact on the amount spent by New Year revellers.

In Albufeira alone, there were approximately 100,000 people, with over half of them gathering at the Old Town’s Praia dos Pescadores to celebrate the passing of 2011 with Portuguese singer Aurea and a five minute firework display.

The concert was funded by local traders who, aided by the Algarve Retailers Association ACRAL, pulled together to raise €90,000 to ensure a party in Albufeira.

ACRAL’s João Rosado said businesses had “made an investment” not incurred an expense.

A spokesman for Albufeira Câmara said: “Despite the difficult economic climate, Albufeira came into 2012 on the right foot.”

Meanwhile, further east, more than 6,000 people attended the New Year’s Eve programme organised by the Municipality of Faro, where 2012 began with traditional fireworks and music by a local Faro band The Stone Covers Band at Jardim Manuel Bivar. Various DJs provided entertainment throughout the evening.

Around 40,000 revellers gathered to watch musical acts in Monte Gordo. Photo: Supplied
Around 40,000 revellers gathered to watch musical acts in Monte Gordo. Photo: Supplied

In Monte Gordo, Vila Real de Santo António council, a further 40,000 spectators gathered to watch several musical acts such as Portuguese singer Paulo Gonzo and Baby Lores. Fireworks began at midnight and entertained the crowd for 15 minutes.

VRSA Mayor Luís Gomes confirmed that at least five of Monte Gordo’s main hotels had registered close to 100% occupation levels.

He said: “High visitor numbers and good occupation rates prove we need to continue to invest in our New Year programme.”

Contrary to previous years, a quieter start to 2012 was experienced towards the west of the region, with some municipalities still maintaining the tradition of fireworks, but with less duration than in other years.

Portimão revellers had to make do with a two-minute display while at many localities, such as Carvoeiro, businesses and individuals took it upon themselves to brighten up the skies with fireworks.

Early predictions from AHETA (the Algarve hotels and tourist resorts association) foresaw a 30% loss in revenue in the region during the festive period.

Speaking to the Algarve Resident this week, President of AHETA, Elidérico Viegas said: “Unfortunately our predictions were correct. The period over New Year is usually of great demand, however this year the tourist industry most definitely felt the difference.

“Figures received from hotel groups so far lead us to conclude that we may have been too generous with our predictions as many hotels that re-opened for the season did not find it profitable at all.”

Several hotels in the Algarve have closed for the winter period, many announcing March re-openings.

Although many people gathered on various streets throughout the Algarve to celebrate the passing of 2011, local businesses and hotels did not receive the occupancy that the region has known in previous years.