Algarve misses out

According to the Portuguese Tourist Regions’ Association, all the Euro 2004 host cities – with the exception of Lisbon and the Algarve region – registered hotel occupation rates of 100 per cent, a rise of 36 per cent on most recent years during the recent tournament.

The news that tourist numbers in the Algarve were not boosted by the football championship has been confirmed by local hotel organisation AHETA. Its statistics point to a 12.5 per cent drop in the month of June compared to the previous year, bringing disappointment to the tourist industry in general. “As we always predicted, the Euro has not contributed towards a rise in occupancy rates in the Algarve,” confirmed Elidérico Viegas, President of AHETA, the Association of Hotels and Tourist Establishments in the Algarve.

One of the reasons for this drop, according to Viegas, was that the influx of visiting football fans did not compensate for the decline in usual summer holidaymakers. He claims that hotel owners have said that families who normally visit the Algarve in the early summer have instead, “chosen to travel at other times or to other destinations, fearing the possibility of unrest in the Algarve”.

Another reason was misplaced optimism on the part of some proprietors, who forecast that hotels would be filled to capacity during the tournament, leading holidaymakers to consider alternative destinations. Although exact numbers have yet to be revealed, it is thought that hotels that usually record occupancy levels of 70 per cent did not exceed 40 per cent.

There was the additional bad luck that the teams staying in the Algarve, such as Russia, numbered no more than 7,000 fans and only stayed for one week in the region. The Spanish, on the other hand, had many more supporters, but few of them stayed for very long and the Greeks failed to make a significant appearance in the Algarve at all.

Despite the fact that these figures are disappointing for the region’s hotels, many business people are still describing Euro 2004 as “the event which has contributed the most to the promotion of the country”.

Healthy success

Further statistics have also been released which offer a graphic illustration of the complex mechanics of staging a major tournament. For example, the hard-working teams from the Portuguese Medical Emergency Institute (INEM) treated an average of 55 cases per match during the tournament. The total number of 1,319 medical cases have comprised trauma situations, mainly involving falls (36 per cent), sudden illnesses brought on by sunstroke, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption or asthma (64 per cent). Throughout the tournament, 2,148 medical emergency staff worked inside the stadia – including 305 doctors, 501 nursing staff, 1,078 ambulance crewmembers and 48 psychologists. The remaining 216 people have been involved in co-ordination, planning, logistics and communications work. Having psychologists on hand has been one of this tournament’s innovations – the team assisted in over 80 medical cases, most of them related to situations of stress and anxiety.

Trains prove popular

The considerable effort made ahead of the tournament to improve and expand Portugal’s public transportation network has also borne fruit. The trains linking host cities have been full of passengers on match days and around 100,000 fans used the Alfa Pendular and Intercity train services. Inside the cities, public transport was by far the most popular way for fans to travel to matches.