Algarve Easter bonanza

The Algarve is expected to play host to a million people over the Easter period. And, according to the hotel association AHETA (Associação dos Hotéis e Empreendimentos Turísticos do Algarve), more than half a million are expected to be Portuguese.

Estimates for internal demand indicate a year-on-year rise of between three and four per cent. In addition, the number of Spanish visitors is also expected to show an increase on last year. But their impact on tourist lodging is not particularly significant because many Spaniards who come to the region’s beaches are day-trippers.

According to the president of AHETA, Elidérico Viegas, “we cannot say that the Algarve is completely packed, but certainly those hotels that cater to the internal market will be full”. Viegas stresses that the increase in Portuguese visitors to the Algarve is a growing trend. He explains this by referring to “improvements in accessibility, namely with the completion of the motorway, as well as fewer people taking holidays abroad”. Another reason is that an increasing number of Portuguese holidaymakers are investing in a second residence in the Algarve.

But the picture is not one of unqualified optimism. Viegas also confirms there is a continuing fall in external demand: “This is, in some cases, very accentuated, resulting from international economic recession and from the current global climate of instability,” he says.

For the Algarve, Easter marks the beginning of the tourist season and the reopening of many shops that have been closed over the winter. Many visitors take advantage of this period for a mini family holiday and this year they are likely to be greeted by warm sunshine. Temperatures last weekend reached 20 degrees and the fine weather led many people to the Algarve beaches. The weather was also expected to stay fine over the Easter period.

Visitors to the Algarve will be able to sample several seafood festivals, one taking place in Olhão in the Jardim do Pescador and the other in Lagos on April 8. A source from the Algarve Tourist Board (RTA) struck an upbeat note: “We are optimistic based on evidence from the carnival and forthcoming Easter bookings. The pointers for Euro 2004 and early summer are also good. Judging by feedback from tour operators and hotel owners we are forecasting a good season. We think that occupancy rates will rise this year, mainly through the Portuguese market.”

The RTA, in contrast to Elidérico Viegas, was more optimistic about the foreign market:“We have evidence that some areas of external demand, notably the German market, are also beginning to recover. So we think this year should see an improvement and 2005 will see a further consolidation.”