Algarve hoteliers association boss ‘resigns’ after no-holds-barred interview

Elidérico Viegas, the man at the helm of Algarve hoteliers association AHETA for the last 25 years, is understood to be standing down from his role as president from Monday. The reason – an extraordinary no-holds-barred interview given to Jornal i last week, which the rest of the AHETA board say they simply cannot subscribe to.

In a carefully worded statement, the AHETA board explains that after learning of the interview, a meeting was “immediately called” and members “heard the explanation of the president and were informed of his intention to resign” at the general assembly meeting that will take place on March 29.

So what did he say? This is where it gets ‘difficult’, as Mr Viegas didn’t actually misrepresent anything – certainly not in his mindset.

But in an era where spin is king, he did bring ‘the whole shooting match’ tumbling down to shatter into tiny pieces.

Clearly devastated by the impact the pandemic has had on the sector he has devoted such a large part of his life to promoting, it may have been a case of ‘everything just becoming too much’.

Mr Viegas told Jornal i that this summer is going to be ‘as bad as the last’, which was “the worst year ever”; that the much-touted recovery plan for the Algarve is “just talk” with no action likely. Indeed, it has already gone back into a drawer and “the minister’s pocket”; Easter is (clearly) “lost” – but worse, a return to business doesn’t mean tourists will simply miraculously appear – or that struggling businesses will survive. It will take five years to recover what the Algarve has lost…

The interviewer tried to suggest ‘the prizes’ the Algarve is always winning may lure holidaymakers back. At this point perhaps Mr Viegas was just very tired. Whatever the case, he let the cat out the bag to the extent that it will be difficult to ever bundle it back in again.

“It’s only us who know about these prizes”, he said. “The rest of the world doesn’t. These are elections held by private entities governed by economic principles and economic profitability. As such we pay them and get the place we want.

“These prizes that we are often ‘proclaiming’ are awarded by private organisations that aim to make a profit and sell seats according to the prices paid.

“Portugal laps this up, but the rest of the world knows nothing about it all. Nobody knows we are the best in the world, only we do. But when we are the worst in the world (when it comes to fighting the pandemic) everyone got to know…”

Quizzed over the fact that his sector hasn’t been prioritised in any way in the country’s (fairly disappointing) vaccination programme, he stressed that this too is key to recovering tourism.

“How can we guarantee our destination is safe? Do we have our professionals all vaccinated? If that’s the case, fine”… if not: the answer hung in the air – ‘no one will believe we are the best in the world’.

Writing about Mr Viegas’ looming resignation Observador online says it has tried to get a statement from him, but that for the time being he will not be making any further comments.

To be fair he has probably already said enough – and the AHETA board will now have to try and deal with it.

A new president will be elected “in the shortest time possible in order to reinforce the association’s capacity for intervention during this critical period that Algarvian tourism businesses are having to get through”, says the statement signed by Pedro Lopes, Joel Pais, Reinaldo Teixeira, Rúben Paula, Jorge Beldade, Luís Correia da Silva, Martinho Fortunato and José Queiroga Valentim.

[email protected]