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Alentejo receives long-awaited boost

By JOHN OLIVER AND JEANETTE ELLIOTT

It has been a long time coming but at last the first commercial flight touched down at Beja airport, in the Alentejo on Sunday, May 22.

The BMI Heathrow flight landed safely after years of hope and setbacks.

Media interest from across Portugal saw reporters and TV crews waiting to capture this historic moment. Those on board were reading the article about this new destination in the Travel supplement of the Sunday Times.

In beautiful sunshine, the passengers alighted to the delightful airy space of this new regional facility. Standing amidst a rural landscape, Beja airport makes a fantastic destination for the travel weary holidaymaker.

Gavin Eccles all smiles at the culmination of the project to get a passenger facility at Beja Airport.
Gavin Eccles all smiles at the culmination of the project to get a passenger facility at Beja Airport.

Aviation Consultant Gavin Eccles, who has overseen this project for the industry, described the landing of this plane as ‘significant’ in opening up the Alentejo as a prime holiday destination. The area has so much to offer and the location of Beja airport is so well placed for linking to the major road networks of Portugal and Spain.

Regional Tourism directors were delighted to welcome the passengers who were given sunflowers as a symbol of the Alentejo.

For the Alentejo tourism sector, this shines a beacon of light in the current economic crisis. For so long the region has been largely bypassed by tourists being led to Faro or Lisbon.

The Alentejo is the Gold in Portugal’s Crown, having a huge variety to sample. For every age group there is something to offer, whether it is adrenalin rushes for the intrepid or culture for the curious.

Beja’s new airport.
Beja’s new airport.

With wine of the very best to sample and some fantastic Spa resorts for those needing relaxation, endless horizons and fantastic star studded night skies, fauna and flora, gastronomy from the highest level to local cuisine, the Alentejo should be the destination of choice for the tourist looking for that extra bit of Portuguese magic.

At this time, the BMI flight to Heathrow is on Sunday only. It is hoped that other flight operators will now start listing Beja as a destination to make full use of this unique facility.

Guiding light for the first commercial flight into Beja Airport.
Guiding light for the first commercial flight into Beja Airport.

Talks are also ongoing with German and Dutch travel firms at this moment. The airport will continue to be used as a military base with passenger flights and commercial freight sharing the runway – the longest in Europe.

John Oliver and Jeanette Elliott moved from the UK to Portugal six years ago and live in Ourique, Alentejo. John now follows his lifetime love of documentary photography, while Jeanette trains dogs as well as teaching belly dancing.
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