Any motorsports fan across the world now knows about Portimão and the Algarve thanks to the F1 Portuguese Grand Prix, held between October 23 and 25 at the Algarve International Racetrack. This has been hailed as the most important aspect of the event by the president of the Algarve hoteliers’ association (AHETA).
“In a truly atypical year, the main impact was the event’s considerable international media coverage,” AHETA boss Elidérico Viegas told the Resident.
While hotels and resorts in and around Portimão were almost completely booked during the event, this was not the case elsewhere in the Algarve.
Said Viegas, “we have to be aware that foreign spectators, due to restrictions in their own countries, were not able to attend, which limited the revenue of organisers as well as hotels, retailers, restaurants and rent-a-cars.
“The challenge will be to ensure that the event continues to be held here in the years to come,” he said, adding that major events like F1 not only attract thousands of fans but also provide the region with international exposure.
Viegas also lamented the announcement that MotoGP will go ahead without spectators this month due to the worsening situation of the pandemic in Portugal.
“It is a measure we were already expecting, given what happened at the F1 weekend,” he said, referring to the lack of social distancing that was reported in some sections of the stands.
While he admitted that this will translate into further losses for local businesses, the association boss also stressed that MotoGP does not have the same “size and impact” as Formula 1.
“Between the development of the pandemic and the pressure of public opinion, the ‘politically correct’ decision prevailed,” said Viegas.
Even if MotoGP did go ahead with spectators, it would hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.
Around 70% of hotels in the Algarve are expecting to close this winter, and no one believes the sector will see any sort of recovery earlier than Easter 2021.
“When I said this at the start of the pandemic in March, I was nearly lynched! Now I am told I am being too optimistic,” Viegas told Lusa last week.
Speaking to the Resident, he admitted that recovery will be slow and drawn out throughout several years.
“Tourists have not yet regained their confidence and they are not expected to any time soon,” he added.
Tourism confederation says “no” to new lockdown
The Portuguese Tourism Confederation (CTP) has voiced its opposition against a new lockdown and urged the government to instead “bolster” the national health service (SNS) and focus on protecting the most vulnerable population groups.
Said the confederation in a statement to Lusa news agency, a new lockdown would have “dramatic effects” on the national economy and particularly the tourism sector, which is facing one of its biggest crises ever.
“Tourism companies are facing huge difficulties and won’t be able to survive another lockdown. Many are already in an irrecoverable situation,” said CTP.
It added that a new lockdown would “put the country at risk of bankruptcy”.
This doesn’t mean that everything should go back to normal, it stresses.
“The outbreaks at old people’s homes cannot happen again. The government must protect the population,” said CTP president Francisco Calheiros, adding that people must continue wearing masks, disinfecting their hands frequently and social distancing, while the economy is allowed to remain open.
By MICHAEL BRUXO