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Algarve unveils €1.5m plan to become ‘year-round’ tourism destination

In an ambitious bid to turn the Algarve into a “year-round” tourism destination, a new programme entitled ‘Algarve 365’ was unveiled last weekend. With a €1.5 million budget and over 1,000 events taking place between October and May, the programme is dubbed a big step towards turning winter into a thriving period for tourism in the Algarve. Some, however, question whether the events will be ‘big’ or interesting enough to attract tourists and stop hotels and businesses from closing during the so-called low season.

Concerns seem warranted, but for now politicians insist this is the best way to show tourists the Algarve is more than just a sunny, summer destination.

“The Algarve doesn’t ‘close’ during the low season and this is the idea we want to pass on,” Economy Minister Manuel Cabral said as the programme was launched Saturday (October 1) in Tavira.

The programme features over 1,000 events to be held all over the Algarve, including concerts, exhibitions, gastronomic events, theatre and much more.

Using the motto ‘Every Day Counts’, it is already being promoted abroad and can be consulted online at www.visitalgarve.pt

The plan has been praised by Algarve tourism boss Desidério Silva, who hopes it will have a strong positive impact on the local tourism sector though he has urged the government to invest more money on next year’s programme.

Others are not so optimistic.

Elidérico Viegas, head of the Algarve’s hoteliers association AHETA, welcomes the idea but warns that ‘Algarve 365’ won’t be the “saviour” of the tourism sector that many are hinting it will be.

“Saying this programme will help fight seasonality is a far cry from the truth,” he told the Resident.

“We are not questioning the programme’s good intentions. But what we really need is a true plan, with big international events that will undoubtedly attract people to the Algarve,” he explained.

At the launch of Pestana’s new five-star hotel near the Portimão racetrack last week, mayoress Isilda Gomes asked Prime Minister António Costa to try and bring an F1 race to the Algarve.

“That’s an interesting idea,” Viegas agreed. “An F1 race, the return of the Rally de Portugal to the Algarve, even a better promotion of the Portugal Masters golf event – these are all huge events that could help pull people to the region,” he said.

The AHETA boss also spoke of how many hotels continue to close for winter in the Algarve – an issue he believes won’t change because of the ‘Algarve 365’ programme.

“No hotel is going to stay open for the winter because of any of the events included in the programme,” he said.

ACRAL president Álvaro Viegas has a brighter outlook. The head of the Algarve retailers’ association told the Resident he supports the programme and applauds “any measure that aims to fight seasonality, the Algarve’s biggest structural problem”.

But he also stressed the need to develop other ‘niche markets’, such as tourism linked to the region’s “heritage, history and inland areas” as well as religious tourism.

Viegas added that the Algarve has to promote itself as a more attractive year-round destination, and to do so it has to “diversify” its offer of events.

He also pointed out that while hotels are packed in the summer, only 20% of their rooms are booked during the less busy months.

“It is important to increase the number of hotel bookings between October-November and March-April, as they are the weakest months and all economic sectors from commerce to restaurants suffer because of it.”

NERA, another regional business association, agrees the programme can help bolster tourism and local businesses in the process.

“Even though we’re aware this won’t solve all our problems, it is a positive initiative that we should welcome and support,” NERA president Vítor Neto said in a statement.

He added that NERA is available to provide any information people might need about the programme and encouraged other associations to do the same.

Neto said the programme is already being promoted abroad, which together with the increase of winter routes at Faro Airport may have positive effects on the region’s economic activity.

With ‘Algarve 365’ taking its first steps this week, what everyone seems to agree on is that the idea of the programme is spot on. But whether it will be enough to actually bring tourists flocking to the Algarve during the low season is a question that will only be answered throughout the coming months.

BY MICHAEL BRUXO michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com

Photo: Economy Minister Manuel Cabral and Algarve tourism boss Desidério Silva at the launch of the ‘Algarve 365’ programme held in Tavira

Photo by: CM Tavira