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Consulate reaches out

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

Representatives from the British Consulate in Portimão were in Albufeira on Wednesday as part of a new outreach programme aimed at helping to inform both visitors and residents in the region about the work of the Consulate.

Ana Sofia Bono and Michelle Cull from the Consulate were meeting with guests at the Hotel Paraíso de Albufeira working in co-operation with the tour operator Thomas Cook to give information, answer questions and explain the ways the British Consulate can support British people travelling or resident throughout the world.

Michelle Cull told the Algarve Resident: “This is the first of these outreach initiatives to be held and we are hoping that it will prove to be a success.  In the past, we have been at exhibitions such as BLiP and have had great feedback and this new initiative is aimed at making the staff at the Consulate more accessible to the public.”

Different members of the Consulate in Portimão will be taking part in the initiative in a bid to let people see just who the faces behind the Consulate are and for them to be available in an informal setting to ask questions and gain advice.

“Although we are in a hotel, we are not just here for visitors to the region; we are also here to answer questions from residents,” said Michelle Cull.

“The information we can provide can be applied to any trips abroad and it is important that people know what to do in an emergency situation and also what we are able to do for them while they are abroad.”

The Consulate still runs an appointment-only office on Wednesday and Friday mornings from the offices of AHETA in Albufeira for people wanting advice but not wanting to travel to Portimão.

“The new Albufeira office has proved popular and we have had great feedback about it, especially from people in the east of the Algarve who don’t want to travel so far and these new initiatives are helping us to get closer to the community,” said Michelle Cull.

Jason Killer, the representative in the hotel for the tour operator Thomas Cook, told the Algarve Resident: “It is good to know that we have the support of the British Consulate and for not only the guests, but also us reps, to know more about what they can do to help British people when abroad.”

Jason Killer has worked as a holiday rep in Albufeira since April and previously held positions in Turkey and Fuerteventura.

He said: “To be honest I have not had any real contact with the Consulate since I have been working in the Algarve because nothing has happened that has led to us needing their assistance.  I see thousands of guests over the summer season and the vast majority enjoy their holiday in the Algarve without incident.

“There were stories in the press about Albufeira earlier in the season but I would have to say that the Algarve is no worse than any other holiday destination I have worked in and, if anything, is better while the increase in GNR in Albufeira has definitely made people feel safer.”

The outreach programme in hotels will continue throughout September with sessions in cooperation with TUI Travel being held at the Hotel CS Atlântico at São Rafael on September 20 and 27 between 9am and 11am and 5pm and 7pm.  Sessions will also be held at the Hotel Alto da Colina on September 21 and 28 between 9am and midday and 5pm and 7pm.