Casinos head  to battle

A legal dispute between casino establishments and the government is stopping gaming revenue from reaching the Turismo de Portugal coffers, a situation that is placing tourism promotion activities at risk, said the Portuguese Tourism Confederation (CTP).

In an interview with Lusa news agency, Francisco Calheiros, president of CTP, said that legal gambling revenue, a source of funds for the tourism authorities, is being jeopardised due to a legal battle between the casinos and the Portuguese government over the tax and concessions regimes in place.

In January, the Portuguese Association of Casinos (APC) filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the current tax legislation is a “paradox”, as taxes are higher than the revenue generated.

Jorge Armindo, President of APC, told journalists at the time that, in view of the court case, Portuguese casinos would not be handing over their revenue contributions to the government while legal action is ongoing.

Francisco Calheiros describes the situation as “extremely worrying” and says the CTP is following the negotiations between the two parties closely and offering advice where needed.

However, he warns that until a solution that is agreeable to both the government and the APC is found, “funds for promotional activities are at risk this year”.

The CTP president is thus concerned that the dispute will mean fewer funds for Turismo de Portugal and thus promotional actions may need to be reduced. Revenue from casinos represents 62% of the Turismo de Portugal budget, confirmed APC.

Francisco Calheiros admits he would like to see the situation resolved sooner rather than later. “We cannot allow sand to get into the works. Tourism needs to work like a well-oiled machine,” he said.

||Foreign tourists’ spending up

Foreign tourist expenditure in Portugal was up 5.6% in 2012 and represented the biggest contributor to the services sector trade surplus, according to data from the Bank of Portugal last week.

“Travel and tourism contributed significantly to the improvement of the services trade surplus by almost €1 billion (from €7.7 billion in 2011 to €8.7 billion in 2012)”, revealed a statistical information note from Portugal’s central bank.

Travel and tourism, a significan export earner in Portugal, contributed €8.6 billion last year, over the €8.1 billion registered in 2011.

||AHETA slams tourism plan

Portugal’s national strategic plan for tourism (PENT) presents a number of “intentions and some interesting initiatives”, but does not reflect on how they can be put into practice with “concrete solutions for the main problems affecting the sector”.

This was the message of the Algarve Hotels and Resorts Association (AHETA) in a recent statement to the press. The association does not believe the plan will ensure the healthy development of Portugal’s tourism industry as it merely provides “vague and inconclusive” objectives and does not define actions plans for the short and medium terms.

AHETA said: “The PENT does not identify funding sources nor does it reveal the amounts needed to turn projects mentioned into practice.”