Photo: INÊS LOPES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Algarve bookings surge as UK reveals plan to end lockdown… but it’s still ‘a drop in the ocean’

The Algarve has seen a surge in holiday bookings following the UK’s announcement of a ‘roadmap out of lockdown’.

If all goes according to plan, international trips could potentially resume from May 17 in the UK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week.

This has sparked a substantial increase in bookings made by Brits, with the Algarvean capital of Faro “among the top destinations” according to the UK’s The Guardian.

Representatives from Portugal’s tourism sector – including hotels, travel agencies and airlines – have confirmed that there has been an increase of around 600% in bookings. However, this is not as impressive as it may seem at first glance.

Considering that Portugal’s bookings were almost down to zero, this is still just a ‘drop in the ocean’, as the vice-president of the Portuguese Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (APAVT) told Eco newspaper.

“What has happened in the last few days is that we had nearly no bookings and now we have some,” Duarte Correia stressed.

“Since the British Prime Minister announced that, starting from May 17, people could travel, all the players in the market noted that bookings started. It was from one moment to another. But this is all very relative. If Boris Johnson says the opposite tomorrow, the same thing will happen but in reverse,” he explained.

Algarve tourism boss João Fernandes also told Eco that the region has basically evolved from a “void” of bookings to “some demand”.

Fernandes believes this initial demand from Brits could be explained by the “number of people who own second homes in the Algarve”.

As he explained, the increase in bookings is being felt more strongly among airlines than hotels.
“So far, we haven’t seen a significant variation in bookings,” the CEO of Vila Galé Group, Gonçalo Rebelo de Almeida, told Eco.

A source for Grupo Nau also confirmed that “bookings are still slow”.

On the other hand, the Pestana Group has seen UK bookings for its hotels in the Algarve and Madeira “multiply by seven” since Boris Johnson’s announcement. However, hotel chain corporate director Paulo Prada stressed that bookings “were practically inexistent” before this and that it will take some time to see if this change of paradigm is here to stay.

Indeed, caution has been advised by the APAVT vice-president.

“It’s too early to say what will happen. We have made forecasts and they have all been wrong,” he told Eco, taking his chances nonetheless.

“I believe we will be open for the summer, starting in June or July,” Duarte Correia said, stressing however that it may take another year before the sector begins to return to the levels of 2019.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com