Celebrities flock to region

Portuguese football international Rui Costa, currently playing with AC Milan, is lending his name to one of the biggest new tourist complexes to be built in the Algarve, Costa de Cabanas, in Cabanas de Tavira, east of Faro. This luxurious complex will comprise 76 apartments (prices from 185,000 euros) and 42 houses (prices from 325,000 euros), as well as various leisure activities. The development, belonging to a prestigious Irish firm, Kendar Holdings, will be completed in 2005/6. The land on which the complex was built cost five million euros and building the infrastructure will cost around another 35 million euros.Rui Costa will hold 10 per cent of the Portuguese stake business that Kendar will be contracting for the construction of the project.

Many professional Portuguese and international footballers, aware that their careers on the pitch are short, are now opting for a parallel career as entrepreneurs. And the Algarve has become one of the most attractive areas for those seeking to buy houses, bars and leisure complexes.

Luís Figo, Portuguese international and player with Real Madrid, has long been one of the Algarve’s most famous standard-bearers, opening ‘Bar Se7e’ in Vilamoura in partnership with business partner and friend Paulo China. Every year, famous faces from the world of sport, such as the French player Zidane or the Spaniard Raúl, can be seen strolling down the esplanade at Vilamoura near Figo’s bar.“Everything is going really well; it’s in a privileged location, one of the best places in the Algarve.Figo is an excellent calling card and, in spite of there being no concrete plans, it is conceivable there will be more investments in the future,” says China. Another ex-international, António Pacheco, who played for Benfica and Sporting in the past, has now been appointed as trainer of Portimonense.Pacheco, too, has made business investments in the region, buying the ‘Amuras’ bar on Lagos Marina as well as mooring his boat there. Paulo Sousa, Fernando Couto, Sérgio Conceição, Nuno Gomes, João Pinto, Beto, Sá Pinto and Abel Xavier are among the other players to own luxurious houses in the Algarve.English internationals Michael Owen and Alan Shearer also own houses in Quinta do Lago.

But it is not only players who are investing in the region. Sven-Göran Eriksson, England’s Swedish trainer, has long since been a lover of Portugal. He was trainer at Benfica between 1982 and 1984 and again between 1989 and 1991.He has visited the Algarve many times and is now planning an important investment in the region, a training ground to welcome teams from all over the world. However, it has been difficult finding an area of land big enough for the project envisaged by Eriksson, who has said he needs an area bigger than the Parque das Cidades.

The president of the RTA, Hélder Martins, is aware of the boost to the region that famous people bring. “It is very important, primarily in the domain of business, because some investments are considerable.” But he admits the Algarve has not really taken advantage of its celebrity caché. “Our philosophy, in this country, is different from that of other destinations, like Palma de Mallorca, for example, which has really taken advantage of the presence of stars. The Algarve is a destination that people feel is more guarded. Stars choose us for that very reason, since they want to spend their holidays in privacy, with their families and without being under the public eye.”

For this very reason, the Algarve looks set to attract many more celebrities in the years ahead.