João Fernandes, president of the Algarve Tourism Board, and Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism, during a visit to the new Pure Formosa Concept Hotel in Olhão Photo: MARIA SIMIRIS/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

“Algarve’s tourism sector ready to recover,” tourism boss predicts

With summer just around the corner, the Algarve’s tourism boss João Fernandes has said he is confident that the region’s tourism sector is “ready to recover” from the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While he expects a better summer than last year’s, even a best-case scenario will still be a far cry from the record-breaking numbers of 2019, Fernandes admits.

Focusing on the bright side, the president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA) and tourism association (ATA) said this week that the region has an advantage over some Mediterranean rival destinations as it opened up to tourism earlier than most.

As he pointed out, Portugal was one of the few countries to be placed on the UK’s first travel green list, and while it has since been moved to the amber list, its initial inclusion helped increase demand. The country also opened its borders with Spain in May, two months earlier than in 2020, he pointed out. Meanwhile, the Algarve is also sparking the interest of more Irish travellers.

“Although we are still growing in that market, in 2020 we were practically closed to travel with Ireland for 10 months because of their border policy,” said Fernandes. “Demand is growing in Germany, France and traditional markets in the Netherlands.”

In terms of the national market, the tourism chief says he is expecting similar numbers to last year.

All in all, “if we continue like this, we will have a better summer than 2020. Still, it is a far cry from a record year like 2019,” he said.

The Algarve is also hopeful about its prospects for the last four months of the year, as demand has surpassed last year’s “by far”, the tourism chief said.

By September, hopes are that air travel and demand will have stabilised which will help attract more holidaymakers.

“We naturally are not seeing the same demand as in other years, companies are experiencing difficulties and there is a specific plan to help them. We still have some obstacles in our path. What the pandemic has taught us is that there are always factors that we do not expect,” said Fernandes.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism travelled to the Algarve on Monday (June 14) to present a new plan to establish the country as one of the most “competitive, safe and sustainable” tourism destinations in the world.

Entitled ‘Plano Turismo + Sustentável 20-23’, the plan features 119 measures to help the tourism sector recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Rita Marques is well aware that the regional and national tourism sector is facing a huge crisis.

“But the truth is that our assets, which set us apart as the World’s Best Tourism Destination and Europe’s Best Tourism Destination, have escaped unscathed. We are completely aware that we still have hard times ahead of us, but we believe Portugal has the potential to come out on top,” the secretary of state said.

Original article written by Maria Simiris for Barlavento newspaper