It is an issue that has plagued the town’s New Year’s festivities for many years
Albufeira mayor José Carlos Rolo called a meeting with local business owners on Wednesday to urge them to “stay open for New Year’s Eve”.
While the town has become one of the main destinations for New Year’s revellers in Portugal thanks to its extensive entertainment programme, visitors to Albufeira are often disappointed to find most of its businesses closed.
It is an issue that has plagued the town’s New Year’s festivities for many years but which the local mayor wants to see solved.
“We want those who choose Albufeira for New Year’s Eve to not find everything closed and have objective reasons to say that ‘the best New Year’s Eve is in Albufeira,’ not only because of the concerts, but also because of the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops, and decide to stay longer and possibly return next year,” Rolo said.
“What has been observed year after year is that most of the shops, restaurants, and bars are closed, and those who come to attend the (New Year’s) concert have nowhere to eat, have a drink, or have fun with their family or friends, neither before nor after the show,” he lamented.
With Albufeira Council investing heavily in an entertainment programme which features not only a New Year’s party but also Christmas celebrations, a medieval fair in Paderne and a stand-up comedy festival, having a town that seems almost ‘deserted’ is not the image that the local authority wants tourists to remember.
“It is a huge public investment that needs to be well-applied and justified; therefore, we need the collaboration of everyone, especially associations and individual business owners. It is essential to raise awareness among the various stakeholders about the need for a concerted effort and work so that the investment, which belongs to all of us, is justified; otherwise, we must carefully consider the format of the program,” he said.
Rolo is sympathetic nonetheless and acknowledges that “it is not easy for business owners to keep their businesses open” during the normally slow winter season.
However, he stresses that a solution must be found, which could involve “coordination between several establishments to generate movement in the streets and keep businesses open.”
José Carlos Rolo pointed out that the reputation of town’s New Year’s programme has been growing steadily since 2003.
“It is a strong brand,” he said, stressing that the quality of the festivities must remain the same as visitors are accustomed to.
“The solution lies in innovation, diversification, and taking the program to other areas of the municipality; in other words, creating a package of events for four or five days that attracts young people and families to spend an extended New Year’s Eve in our municipality,” the mayor said.
He added that “the municipality will continue to work on the program so that it is finalised and ready for an earlier public presentation (as suggested by one of the business owners during the meeting), possibly during the celebrations of the municipal holiday on August 20.”
Strenghtening security and the town’s response to emergency situations is another issue that the local council is focusing on, saying that it is “fundamental in any tourism destination” but is “especially important when hosting events which attract thousands of people”.
Rolo also announced that a financial study will be carried out at the end of the programme to establish the impact of the event, as it will help the council “make better decisions.”
Also in attendance was Desidério Silva, president of the Albufeira promotion agency (APAL) and the former president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA), who agreed with the council’s plea to keep businesses open for New Year’s.