Hélder Martins, former president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA), has been elected the new president of the Algarve Hoteliers Association (AHETA), pulling off a historic win over Elidérico Viegas who had been the association’s president since it was founded 26 years ago.
This election drew the “most voters ever”, with 136 out of 158 AHETA members turning up to cast a ballot. Martins’ bid received 75 votes, 13 more than Elidérico Viegas’ which received 62.
Speaking to the Resident after his win, Hélder Martins revealed he did not even plan to run for the position until he was contacted by several AHETA members looking for a change in leadership.
“They believed that I ticked all the boxes,” Martins told us.
“We are already working on this by changing AHETA’s regulations to limit the number of terms that one president can serve. If this is how it works with local councils, the government and the presidency of the Republic, then why isn’t it the same with AHETA,” he questioned, adding that members believe that the same president serving for too long could lead to a “loss of dynamism”.
With so many hotels in the Algarve still feeling the effects of the pandemic, Martins hopes to provide the help they need to survive the ongoing crisis.
“Those of us who are entrepreneurs know that the great difficulty we face is a lack of tourists, and without tourists we do not have business,” he said, adding that many hotels and tourists establishments are also having trouble paying their workers.
“On the other hand, there is also a structural crisis. This is all a spiral that companies must fix. What we want to do is help companies do so and prepare them for the recovery, which should happen as soon as the conditions are right,” Martins said.
AHETA will also look to help companies learn how to maintain their employees.
“Tourism activity in the Algarve has a human resources problem. We have to create conditions to maintain workers and promote professional training,” the new AHETA president said.
Although he has been away from the public eye for many years, Hélder Martins was the region’s tourism chief between 2003 and 2007, having also held several other regional political positions.
He has spent most of his time recently managing a small rural hotel that he owns in Tavira named Quinta do Marco and was not expecting to return to such an important position in the regional tourism scene.
“I was away from any public position for eight years and was running a family business when I received the call asking me if I was up for this challenge,” he said, adding that after speaking with his family he decided to accept the invitation to run. His daughter is now running the hotel.
Meanwhile, Elidérico Viegas said that he is leaving AHETA after 26 years with a feeling of a ‘job well done’, and that he believes his opponent’s project is “not a good solution for the Algarve as it does not defend the interests of tourism and entrepreneurs”.
He backed up his claim by stating that those who voted for Martins are “mostly real estate funds owned by banks and large groups which are rooted and have their interests outside of the region”, and accused Hélder Martins of being a “sort of figurehead of all these people”.
Viegas added that his goal was to eventually leave AHETA, but only after ensuring a “peaceful and calm transition for the entrepreneurs of the Algarve.”
“I am leaving with a feeling that I fulfilled my duty, I founded and bolstered AHETA, I dedicated a lot of my life to AHETA; I feel like I contributed to make one of the most solid, credible and recognised (entities) on a national and international level,” he added.