Algarve tourism’s Big Daddy says it is “time to take the bull by the horns”

2014 has been hailed by regional and national authorities as a “record-breaking” year for tourism, but the truth is there is a lot more that could be done to improve the sector.

André Jordan, variously dubbed the Father of Algarve Tourism – even “Portugal’s king of Tourism” – has set out how many things are far from perfect in an article entitled ‘Illusion and Reality in the Tourism Business’.

As the 81-year-old entrepreneurial grandee points out: “We still have an annual occupation level below 50% and prices that in the vast majority are not enough (for hotels) to break even.”

The low prices hotels have to charge to remain competitive leave them often struggling to make ends meet, while the country lacks a “clear strategy” in both the public and private markets that ends up affecting “the apparent recovery of the sector”.

At least some things are being done well, though. Jordan points to events like Vilamoura Atlantic Tour and the Volvo Ocean Race in Lisbon. These are the kind of fixtures that can fill up Portugal’s “excellent hotelier infrastructures” and bring more visitors to the country’s “cultural, historical and gastronomic attractions that are more and more often acknowledged for their quality”.

The bottom line, says Jordan, is that the country has to strive to organise similar events so that tourists keep booking into our hotels, particularly during the low season.

“Business organisations and the regional and national public authorities cannot miss this window of opportunity,” he warns, concluding it is time to “take the bull by the horns” as the sector is once again developing.

Recent data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that the Algarve registered record profits from tourism – €694.8 million – last year, representing a 13.9% increase compared to the year before.

The number of overnight stays went up 11.2% – thanks to an increase in the number of Portuguese (+19.3%) and foreign tourists (+8.8%) – bringing a record 16.4 million visitors to the region.

The UK accounted for most of the stays (5.3 million), followed by Germany (1.5 million), the Netherlands (1.3 million), Ireland (961,000), Spain (881,400) and France (536,700).

As the Resident reported last week, improvement was felt on a national level too, with more guests (+12%), more overnight stays (+11%) and higher revenue (+12.8%) than registered in 2013.