Entrepreneurs criticise lack of specific support measures for Algarve

Renewed calls for support measures that are tailored specifically for the Algarve were made last weekend during a webinar organised by the Portuguese Confederation of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Companies (CPPME).

Business owners in the region have repeatedly stressed that the government’s support measures are insufficient and do not take into account the devastating impact that the pandemic has had in the Algarve, a region whose economy relies almost exclusively on the tourism sector.

As the entrepreneurs explained during the webinar, the lack of tourism activity is leading companies to financial ruin. Making matters worse is the fact that the government’s support measures are either hard to access or do not fit the region’s needs.

Luís Agulhas, owner of a local lodging establishment in Olhão, said that the process of applying for support is “incredibly complex”.

He explained that the variety of support measures available is hard to understand for most people, making it difficult to know exactly which one business owners should apply for. And if they go for the wrong one, he said, they may end up losing the possibility to apply for another that may be more advantageous.

Application procedures are difficult to understand and “require specific knowledge”, said Agulhas, adding that owners of micro companies are forced to become “specialists in high-degree financial management”.

Meanwhile, Bruno Fraga from the Association of Quarteira Entrepreneurs said that the region will continue to struggle for as long as it is unable to welcome holidaymakers.

“If there are no flights or tourists, there will be widespread unemployment,” he stressed, also calling for specific support measures for the Algarve.

“Eighty percent of businesses are closed. Those that are open are working out of stubbornness and pride but are registering losses, paying rent and taxes and, like me, are not able to access the support measures because no one is available to simplify this process for us,” he said.

Gonçalo Valente, a travel agency manager, said that the support measures are “not reaching everyone equally” and lamented that there is “lack of information” and “uncertainty” about the future of the tourism sector.

“This lockdown and the uncertainty about the reopening of borders leaves us with a big void and a fear of continuing to invest, because it is impossible to know what will happen,” he said.

Also attending the webinar was Armando Santana, president of the Association of Car Rental Companies in the Algarve, who also targeted the lack of clear and specific measures for each sector and stressed that rental car companies have almost the entirety of their fleets ‘parked up’.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com