By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
Tour operators Thomas Cook and Tui will be discontinuing flights to the Algarve for the winter season due to “seasonal demand”, leading industry experts to fear for the safety of jobs in the tourism industry.
A statement by Thomas Cook UK & Ireland to the Algarve Resident said: “Thomas Cook operates its charter programmes based around the natural demand for package holidays and flights and adjusts according to seasonal demand.
“The Algarve remains a very popular place for our holidaymakers. Our programme to Faro runs from April to October each year with departures from many regional airports too.”
The statement continued by noting that Thomas Cook had received more customer demand for package holidays to the Canary Islands and Turkey this winter than in previous years.
Flights from both companies to Faro airport are due to restart from April 2011 for the new summer season in the region.
Commenting on the situation, president of AHETA, the association of hoteliers and tourism in the Algarve, Elidérico Viegas, said: “This is the first time in the last 40 or 50 years of tourism in the Algarve that a tour operator has cancelled the Algarve as a destination.”
He added: “This move accentuates the weakness of the region in that tourism is seasonal and obviously represents a huge loss for the Algarve while demonstrating that the region is losing its competitiveness to other new destinations.”
The decision to cut the flights will result in an increase in unemployment in the Algarve at a time when unemployment levels are already very high while the AHETA president also expects that a number of businesses linked directly and indirectly to tourism will “inevitably close”.
Secretary of State for Tourism, Bernardo Trindade, said: “The impact of the cancellation is the loss of around 20,000 seats this winter. This figure cannot be taken in isolation and we must compare this to the 500,000 seats available to the Algarve this winter from the nine easyJet and 18 Ryanair routes available in the Algarve.”
Meanwhile, President of the Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA) Nuno Aires also believes that the cut in flights will be countered by proactive campaigns of the Algarve as a tourist destination this winter.
He told the Algarve Resident: “The cancellation of operations from Thomas Cook and Tui in the Algarve this winter has not caught anyone by surprise as this had been announced some time ago.”
He added: “We will strengthen the international promotion of the Algarve as a destination in November in various ways including at the World Travel Market in the UK, IGTM golf travel specialist market and EIBTM meetings and events exhibition to take place this year either in Spain or Germany.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Cook has come under fire from AHETA following the announcement that the tour operator would be reducing payments to hotels in the Algarve by five percent for August and September this year.
A spokesman from AHETA said: “AHETA is monitoring the evolving situation with Thomas Cook with a view to using all possible legal means to try to compensate those who have lost out during this pseudo discount marketing scheme.”
“We aim to agree a joint strategy aimed at solving and overcoming this serious problem for the hospitality and tourism industry in the Algarve in general and for our members.”
The spokesman continued: “We have been treated in an abusive way and this situation is completely unacceptable and unprecedented, so we will stop at nothing to protect the interests of our members.”
A spokesman from Thomas Cook said that it had been a “difficult summer” and was asking for the cuts rather than being forced to reduce capacity from the UK.
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