3…2…1… Algarve braces for tomorrow’s tourist ‘invasion’ 

More than 7,000 holidaymakers are due to fly into the Algarve from midnight tonight.

The ‘invasion’ will be made up principally of Britons (5,500) arriving on 17 flights into Faro airport. But there will also be another eight flights arriving from various destinations in Europe.

Regional tourism – treading water for the past seven months – is literally counting the moments. 

Said João Fernandes, president of ATA (the Algarve Tourism Association), the last week in May (ie, the one following this week) coincides with half-term holidays in UK. “There are hotels that are already almost fully booked”, he told reporters, adding that there should be no reason for complaints about the weather either. “The region is going to have a week with temperatures over 30ºC!”

With virus concerns still niggling, Mr Fernandes is pushing for vaccines to be fast-forwarded for all tourism professionals in the country. In his mindset, the sector is ‘strategic’ and therefore should be given the same kind of ‘priority’ as health workers and teachers.

Meantime, the general medical council has warned’ of the potential dangers of ‘importing the Indian variant’ by opening the country’s doors to foreign travel – but it has to be said that as infectious as the variant may be it is not putting added pressures on the health service in any of the countries outside India that have it in community transmission.

Portugal has so far detected only nine cases of the Indian variant (three in the central region, five in Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo and one in the Azores) – and none of the people infected are seriously ill.

With regard to cruise ship travel, this reopened this weekend – like air travel, open to anyone from countries showing less than 500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

In the lead up to tomorrow’s big moment, secretary of state for tourism Rita Marques has said Portugal should expect tourism this season to grow between 20% to 30% on figures for last year. It won’t be a touch near the business generated in 2019, but it’s most definitely a step in the right direction.