Europe reaches out to Brits with cheaper sunshine summer holidays

Whatever Brexit means in the end, this summer in Europe it means ‘cheaper summer holidays’ for beleaguered British families sick to death of the whole shambolic political process. It means time to banish ‘Brexit’ from the vocabulary (at least for a few weeks) and jet off to a place in the sun where prices are suddenly falling.

Popular UK tabloid The Sun announced over the weekend that the British Post Office’s annual Holiday Costs Barometer has revealed falls in prices across several European resorts – the Algarve included.

Airline prices too have suddenly plummeted with carriers offering one-way tickets, even in July, for as little as €26.

The developments have brought a welcome ray of sunshine in a landscape of compounding national gloom.

Says The Sun the costs of ‘holiday essentials’ have fallen in some resorts by as much as 20%, while overall holiday packages too are down.

Three days in the Algarve, said the paper, can be found for the knock-down rate of €99 per person, while the ‘typical basket of goods’ that any British tourist would need is down 16.2%, putting the Algarve in second place behind Bulgaria ‘across the board’ of 20 featured destinations.

Explains The Sun, ‘a basket of holiday essentials’ includes “a cup of coffee, a bottle of local beer or lager, a bottle or can of Coca Cola, a glass of wine, a 1.5l bottle of still mineral water, sunscreen, insect repellent, a three-course dinner for two with wine and two-course lunch for two”.

Bulgaria’s basket will cost €38.86 this year, while the equivalent in the Algarve will work out at €57.45.

Turkey, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy … they all work out more expensive, with Lisbon, too, coming way down the list with a whopping €118.99 for exactly the same items.

Thus, it’s plain to see that the Brexit torture we’ve all been enduring has honed Europe’s holiday sector’s resolve.

Said Nick Boden, head of the Post Office Travel Money: “The price falls could be an indication that tourist businesses in European resorts are keen to attract UK visitors and will keep costs low to do so.”

But in the wider context, most resorts’ Holy Grail is how to succeed in attracting visitors all year round – and to this end, the Algarve, too, has an answer.

New Algarve resort wants to become Portugal’s ‘Abbey Road’

It’s an ambitious plan to do away with the frustrating reality of the Algarve’s ‘low season’ when hotels close, staff are laid off and parts of the region take on the appearance of a ghost town.

The rural Ombria resort – a project that wrestled bureaucracy for as many as three decades before getting the green lights it needed – is setting its sights not just on year-round tourism but cutting-edge originality.

In an interview with Dinheiro Vivo last weekend, the resort’s Spanish CEO Julio Delgado said the overriding concept is to offer options that simply don’t exist in southern Europe.

One of these promises to be a professional recording studio – the idea being “to attract stars of the music world” to the otherwise comatose Barrocal region and transform it into a kind of Portuguese Abbey Road, the iconic recording studios in London that ‘shot to world fame’ after The Beatles recorded their album of the same name there.

“Beyond the studio, we’ll have an astronomical observatory and we want to organise artistic residencies with workshops hosted by artists from all over the world, aimed as much at clients of the resort as local inhabitants,” Ombria’s CEO told the online financial news site.

A veteran when it comes to launching resorts of international standing, Delgado has already seen to it that Ombria is reaching out to various local entities – including the board at Faro Airport and Portugal’s association of tourism – to “align strategies in a way never done before in Portugal”.

It was an interview full of positivity at a time when Ombria has suffered another setback in its timetable.

The project was due to officially open its doors by the end of this year. That now has “slipped” somewhat, again due to bureaucracy.

Says DN, the new forecast is for the project’s first buildings to start construction early this summer and be ready by mid to end 2021.

The entirety of what is a €260 million investment has a completion date of 10 to 15 years, “depending on the rhythm of sales”, says DN – laying out once again the ‘first phase’ plan for a five-star Viceroy hotel with golf course, conference centre, spa and restaurants, along with 65 touristic apartments to be run by the hotel but available to owners for 10 weeks of every year.

The overall project extends to 350 homes for ‘touristic use’ (i.e. available to owners for limited numbers of weeks) and 31 residential homes.

Feelers have already gone out to test enthusiasm since Ombria’s ‘soft launch’ last year, and Delgado believes everyone has had “a good surprise”.

He tells DN that the resort has received 1,200 manifestations of interest from 20 different nationalities.

Contrary to the nearby ‘Golden Triangle’ complexes of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, Ombria will not, however, be overridingly British when it comes to its owner-investors, or indeed clientele.

“By its nature, which is closely connected to the environment and open to local communities and culture, we are planning to focus on markets like Scandinavia and Central Europe,” explained Delgado.

And with the Viceroy brand, the resort hopes to attract visitors that “don’t often come to the Algarve” – “people from North America, Canadians and the Middle East”.

In other words, the threat of Brexit – however it eventually manifests itself – is expected to be minimal.

Another bright bit of news for Portugal is that Ombria’s creation is bringing with it a massive amount of revenue in taxes: €153 million – if a study commissioned by the complex is to be believed.

It’s another reminder that while so many expats have their attentions firmly fixed on what’s happening with Brexit, truly positive developments under our noses are changing the landscape.

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Viceroy, Ombria Resort