COMPARED TO the same time last year, hotel occupancy rates in the Algarve fell by around four per cent during February in almost all tourist areas, with the exception of Albufeira and Vilamoura.
Taking into account the fact that, since the beginning of 2005, occupation levels had been on the increase when compared to 2004, the worst year ever, results for last month are causing considerable worry among resort and hotel directors. Not even Carnival week, traditionally a good period for tourism in the region, was able to rescue hotels from suffering a drop in guest numbers. According to data released by the Associação dos Industriais Hoteleiros e Similares do Algarve (AIHSA), the average room occupancy for the month of February was just 47.4 per cent, representing a negative variation of around four per cent in relation to the same month last year. Cabrita Neto, president of AIHSA, described this drop as being “strange and abnormal”, because “we had been seeing increases every month”.
However, Elidérico Viegas, president of the Associação dos Hotéis e Empreendimentos Turísticos do Algarve (AHETA), commented that, despite worrying, the results were not surprising, as he had previously predicted that 2006 would not be a good year for tourism. Viegas pointed out that, over the last five years, hotel occupancy levels in the Algarve had, in fact, been falling year in, year out, but due to last year’s great improvement, any drop would be felt in 2006. He blames the situation on the fact that the tourism product has lost its competitive edge, and warns that the Algarve is showing negative signs in several key areas of the health service, security, hygiene and cleanliness, which are affecting the region’s competitiveness in the market. He also suggested that the current trend of increased competition created by the low cost phenomenon only impinged on the region’s efforts to attract tourists.