Desidério Silva – President of Algarve Tourism Board
World Tourism Day (September 27) is this year dedicated to water and its efficient use in the tourism industry, all in the name of a common goal – protecting our future. The Algarve Tourism Board, aware that the local economy relies greatly on this precious natural resource, is calling on all businesses in the tourism sector to step up to the challenge and implement good practices to improve their environmental performance.
Desidério Silva, president of the Algarve Tourism Board (RTA), says it is “crucial” to promote the correct use of water in the tourism industry and protect hydric resources, and businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, golf courses and boating companies, have a vital role to play in this matter.
Despite acknowledging that tourism businesses are now more conscious of the importance of conserving and protecting our natural resources, he believes more can still be done to improve environmental practices.
Fifteen Algarve organisations and seven golf courses boast the ISO 14001 certificate for the implementation of good environmental management systems. “Some of our golf courses need to be praised for using treated wastewater for irrigating their green spaces, which helps reduce the effects of groundwater depletion,” said Desidério Silva.
As far as its beaches are concerned, the Algarve can report excellence at various levels, both by boasting 69 Blue Flags awarded by the European Blue Flag Association and 83 ‘gold quality’ beaches by the Portuguese environmental association Quercus. These accolades have been paramount in making the Algarve a top tourism destination for millions of people worldwide.
The tourism chief said: “The Algarve is a ‘water destination’. The fact that the Blue Flag continues to fly on so many of its beaches, and the region is consecutively awarded for its ‘sun and sea’ products, contribute to the region’s popularity and success with international visitors.”
On August 31, the Algarve was voted Best Beach Destination in Europe at the World Travel Awards (Europe) in Turkey. At the same event, Portugal also received the Best Golf Destination in Europe award, with the Algarve contributing greatly to this national recognition.
Although August results have not yet been released by the National Statistics Office (INE), positive vibes can already be felt in the industry with the Algarve hotels reporting 90% occupancy levels (+1.4% on 2012).
“Until the end of the year, growth predictions for the tourism sector appear to be very encouraging if we consider demand. Some golf courses are nearly fully booked and hotels are reporting higher-than-expected occupancy rates for September and October,” said Desidério Silva.
For 2014, the Algarve Tourism Board will be directing its promotional campaigns at traditional markets, such as the UK, but will also be reinforcing air routes from four “priority markets” – Germany, Scandinavia, Ireland and Poland – in line with the official government ‘Plan to Combat Seasonality in the Algarve’, which is expected to generate an additional 100,000 overnight stays in the winter.