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Algarve is NOT out of fashion – tourism chief

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

Algarve politicians and tourism chiefs have condemned statements by the Bank of Portugal (BdP) Governor, Carlos Costa, who said that the national tourism strategy must be rethought.

Carlos Costa believes that short-term tourism, focusing on weekend breaks, is a better alternative to the long period holidays and would be a better source of income for the country.

He told Lusa news agency this week: “I view the future of the tourism sector in the country with some concern. We are still committed to a kind of tourism that is outdated, such as the traditional package holidays. Our competitors are countries that have adopted new initiatives to attract tourists, such as low cost air travel.

“The development of air transportation has led to a very competitive market and we are not following the changes that are taking place in the sector,” said Carlos Costa during a ceremony of a Rotary Club in Gaia where he was honoured Professional of the Year.

The governor argued that “more income is generated for the country during a three-day holiday in Lisbon than a one-week holiday of London dock workers in the Algarve”.

Meanwhile, the president of the Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA), Nuno Aires, responded by saying that Carlos Costa “despises” the region’s contribution to the overall numbers in the country’s tourism sector.

Nuno Aires said: “We contest the statement made by Carlos Costa about the Algarve, the greatest holiday destination in the country, and we want to express our deep indignation toward his comments.”

For Nuno Aires, Carlos Costa “disregards the region’s contribution to the overall revenue generated by the hotel sector, valued by Portugal’s National Statistics Institute (INE) as more than €500 million a year, a figure that is higher than those achieved by other holiday destinations”.

ERTA also criticised Carlos Costa’s position on changing the national tourism strategy and said that it reflects a “meddling in the guidelines defined by the Portuguese government for the National Strategic Plan for Tourism (PENT)”.

“Tourism growth in the Algarve will be based on products such as sun and sea, golf and business tourism. These are the PENT guidelines for the development of tourism in Portugal,” added Nuno Aires.

Meanwhile, the Algarve Socialist Party (PS) also criticised Carlos Costa’s statements and considered them to be “insulting and showing ignorance”, claiming the governor does not understand the negative impact of his comments to the Algarve as a tourism destination.

Miguel Freitas, leader of the PS Algarve, said: “The Algarve generates the most income for the national economy and was portrayed negatively by the BdP Governor. His statements may have a bad impact on investment in the region that is already the most affected by the economic crisis.

“Carlos Costa argued that the Algarve is out of fashion, which is a very serious statement and raises many questions about its true extent. At the end of last year, however, the BdP results showed the Algarve’s tourism performance in a very positive light,” he said.

Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]