João Fernandes, president of the Algarve Tourism Board

Algarve tourism boss with “moderate expectations” for Easter

While it’s still a few months away and the evolution of the pandemic is uncertain, the Algarve tourism board (RTA) president João Fernandes says he is keeping his expectations realistically “moderate” for the upcoming Easter season.

In normal years, Easter is viewed as the start of the tourism season in the Algarve which begins to welcome a steady stream of holidaymakers.

This year (just like last year), however, the pandemic has cast uncertainty over the Easter season.

Nonetheless, there are “many positive signs” for 2021 that Fernandes highlighted in an interview with Dinheiro Vivo website this week.

A study by online Scotland-based search engine and travel agency Skyscanner has Faro Airport in second place in terms of searches for Easter and summer flight bookings.

Meanwhile, reports from top airlines Lufthansa and Transavia show that the Algarve (alongside Greece) was one of the most popular destinations last summer.

He also highlighted that there are two airlines with bases at Faro Airport – Ryanair and easyJet (to be inaugurated in March) – which together account for “60% of passengers during a normal year”.

Even with the pandemic and the effects of Brexit, which “could reduce the spending power of British travellers”, João Fernandes is feeling hopeful.

“We have the expectation that this lockdown in Europe, including the UK, and the speed of vaccinations could create a heard immunity among risk groups, which would, starting in March, lead to fewer people needing intensive care and fewer deaths,” said the tourism chief.

“This could change the perception of risk associated with the pandemic and the opportunity to travel.”

On the other hand, it is not even clear yet whether there will be air bridges to other countries come Easter.

In any case, the Easter season will likely attract visitors from nearby markets such as Spain, as borders are likely to stay open between the two countries unlike last year.

Meanwhile, the confirmation that a MotoGP race will be held in Portimão on April 18 is another factor that is filling tourism officials with hope.

Says Fernandes, the event is expected to generate around €80 million for the local economy, including ticket sales, hotel bookings and money spent on food and travel. However, it is still unknown whether the race will be held behind closed doors like it did in November or in front of a limited crowd (click here).
Also important is the international exposure that the event provides.

“The MotoGP is one of the biggest motorsports events in the world,” he pointed out, stressing that official data from Doma Sports (which organises the championship) suggests that the races reach 428 million homes across the globe.

What is certain is that the region will be hoping 2021 will be a better year all-round than 2020, which turned out to be a record-breaking year but for all the wrong reasons.

“This is a region where tourism is the motor of the economy and it was obviously the most affected sector, which had an effect on other sectors such as fishing and commerce,” said Fernandes.

He also said that the €800 million losses reported by the Algarve hotel association (AHETA) are likely much higher – possibly double – when taking into account all forms of tourist accommodation in the region.

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