Due to the disappointing tourism figures recorded this summer, Helder Martins, the president of the Algarve Tourist Board (RTA), and the director of Faro airport, Correia Mendes, were in talks recently to discuss possible ways of turning round the current tourist slump in the region.
“Any operation that aims to attract tourists to the Algarve has to consider the role of the airport. So we are going to launch a series of initiatives, such as fairs and meetings with tour operators which already operate in the Algarve or may do so in the future,” revealed Martins. “Any operator that wants to fly to the Algarve looks to the airport to offer special operational conditions. It’s therefore vital that this entity (the airport) appears to be seeking to capture more operators – this is fundamental to the recovery of the tourist market.”
Martins cites an unfortunate event earlier this year. “Air Luxor wanted to make a direct flight from Paris to Faro. It had planes available but was unable to establish the route because the Paris airport could not make slots available. This highlights the importance of making sure the airports come on board as allies,” he says.
The leader of the RTA expresses qualified optimism about the recovery of the tourist market. “The data that we have for September and October shows very interesting numbers,” he says. Nor is he gloomy about the outlook for the winter. “It will not be ideal, but the perspectives are not as bad as once feared. It is true, however, that some operators, especially British ones, are reducing bookings for next year. The criticism is always the same – the Algarve is ‘expensive’.”
Martins says the region must offer a better overall product to holidaymakers: “We are currently losing out to countries such as Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt. But we must consider this a challenge and not accept defeat. We may not be able to offer lower prices than these other markets, but instead we are going to have to think about ways to improve quality.”
more football in region
The government is also considering other ways to boost tourism in the aftermath of the success of Euro 2004. In particular, Sports Minister, Telmo Correia, wants to attract more international teams to the Algarve.
“Everyone knows that football is very entertaining and that it attracts crowds. It would be good to take advantage of the excellent climatic conditions in the Algarve in order to promote the area to the outside world,” he explained. “The region is still very badly equipped in terms of sport, despite having potentially excellent conditions.” The idea of promoting the country to the outside world has gathered momentum since Euro 2004. “We have to take advantage of the success of Euro 2004 and try to capture more large scale sporting events,” says Correia.
Martins also cited the importance of an October tourist conference aimed at promoting Portugal overseas. During the conference the success of the recent football tournament is likely to be a recurrent theme and upheld as an example for the future.