“Disney-like” amusement park planned for Algarve

The French-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce has revealed there are plans being discussed to build a year-long amusement park in the Algarve, “similar to Disney’s theme parks”.

The idea is to promote year-round tourism and give holidaymakers even more reasons to visit the Algarve outside the summer season. The project was discussed at the chamber’s yearly gala event last month in Faro.

Carlos Vinhas Pereira, president of the chamber, says the Algarve is lacking economic activity during the winter.

“We have to have the capacity to attract people during the low season,” he told Sulinformação news website, explaining that the idea of a new amusement park fits right into this goal.

“It is true that there are many theme parks in the Algarve, but they are all water-based. What is needed is something similar to Disney but with a size that is proportionate to the Algarve,” he said.

“We have many associates linked to this area and we are studying how we can bring this kind of activity here,” he added.

Pereira and many other businesspeople travelled from France to spend a few days in Faro and visit several locations such as the University of the Algarve, where they found a “very interesting ecosystem linked to technology”.

In fact, the president of the business chamber said he would speak highly of the Algarve at an upcoming forum that will be held in Paris in June and which will be attended by around 1,000 French and Portuguese companies.

Says Pereira, “the Algarve has many competitive advantages, starting with the fact that everyone speaks English which isn’t the case in France”. The climate and beaches are other attractive factors.

“Companies are becoming more and more interested in Portugal. It’s true that the focus has been mostly on Lisbon and Porto, but the Algarve has to communicate and promote what it has to offer in this regard.”

Meantime, the Algarve tourism board (RTA) has welcomed the news of the proposed park and believes it could increase the number of holidaymakers visiting the Algarve particularly in winter months.

“An amusement park like this could enrich the Algarve’s tourism market and cater to the region’s reputation as a destination for families,” Algarve tourism boss João Fernandes told the Resident.

But as he pointed out, the park would have to be adapted to the region’s size and adopt a theme that is historically linked to the Algarve such as “the Discoveries, which were a defining era in what became the first phase of globalisation”.

Fernandes was also thrilled to see that the Algarve “remains attractive in the eyes of international investors” and added that the number of French travelling to the region continues to grow.

According to data provided by RTA, around one million overnight stays by French holidaymakers were recorded in the region in 2018, when three years ago the number didn’t even top the 650,000 mark.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the project, Fernandes recognises that it is still just an “idea” and said that the RTA will comment further once it starts to gain shape.

The response has been much less enthusiastic among our readers, the overwhelming majority of whom have lambasted the project on our website and social media pages.

The consensus seems to be that the Algarve already has enough theme parks and that a new one would only ‘cheapen’ the region.

“Dear god, no! Hasn’t the Algarve been spoiled enough already? If ‘off season’ entertainment is needed to increase visitor numbers then how about offering some proper culture and enticing a better class of visitor,” one reader commented on our Facebook page.

Some have recalled the promises made decades ago that the Algarve would not “sell out to mass tourism” while others believe the project is unlikely to ever move forward.

“The Chambers of Commerce mean well, but, in reality, something of this scale would need a lot more resources than what’s outlined. If the local ‘365’ economy would support this type of venture, would it not have been built in the 80’s, 90’s or 00’s boom times? With EU instability on the horizon and homegrown tourism numbers increasing, the likelihood of something being built on a ‘Disney-like’ scale is increasingly unlikely,” wrote one of our readers.

Portugal tackles seasonality
Although the idea for the amusement park fits into the Algarve’s goal to attract an even larger number of tourists during the so-called ‘low season’, Portugal’s tourism chief Luís Araújo has revealed that the country boasts the lowest rate of “seasonality” among European Mediterranean countries.

“We have finally been able to fight seasonality, when everyone said it was impossible, especially in destinations like the Algarve,” he said last month during a debate in Lisbon.

The increase in winter tourism is attributed to the investment made in “cultural and religious tourism” and other niches like cycling and walking.

Araújo also revealed that tourism authorities will be focusing on developing the sectors of wine and literary tourism in 2019, which are described as those with “the most potential to grow”.

By MICHAEL BRUXO
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com