High season kicks off as Algarve tourism expects another “remark able year”

Tourism and hotel officials are expecting another “remarkable year” for the Algarve. With hotels already doing better than last year, hopes are that a number of new air links to Faro, increased promotion in the Spanish market and the fact that Portugal is considered a “safe, low risk” country will bring even more tourists flocking this summer.

So far, things are going well. In the first four months of 2015, the number of overnight stays at Algarve hotels increased 2% compared to the same period last year. In May, the boost was even higher (+5.2%).

“The hotel sector has gradually been presenting better results in the last two years, and again this year more tourists are expected in the Algarve,” Carlos Luís, the president of the Algarve’s tourism association (ATA), told Lusa news agency.

Add to this the fact that many new air links have opened at Faro Airport, that the tourism board is promoting the Algarve heavily in Spain, that Portugal ranks as a low risk country for terror attacks and that the region’s health services have been making the news for all the right reasons and the prospects for this year are definitely bright.

It’s the kind of news tourism officials want to hear. Since a “remarkable” 2014, authorities have been hard at work convincing airlines to launch new routes to Faro airport, a measure seen as “vital” in their efforts to bring more tourists to the Algarve.

A long-sought route has been the one linking Faro to Barcelona. This has now become a reality thanks to Spanish airline Vueling, which inaugurated the air link on June 24.

This follows the launch of other routes in Faro this year including those to Madrid (Spain), Aberdeen (Scotland), Cardiff (UK), Stuttgart, Cologne and Memmingen (Germany) and Lyon and Nantes (France).

“These are routes that extend the tourism season and hopefully bring more tourists to the Algarve all year round,” ATA president Carlos Luís said.

The task of promoting these routes has been left for the regional tourism board (RTA), which is starting a campaign next week in Spain, one of the countries tourism officials believe continues to be a huge market for the Algarve.

Its new promotional campaign, entitled ‘Algarve, al lado de ti’ (Algarve by your side), is being launched on Monday (July 6) in Barcelona and Madrid.

Radio and newspaper ads, posters on buses and even a promotional campaign on Google will advertise the Algarve as the place to be this summer – now “much closer” thanks to the new routes linking the two cities to the Algarve.

Tourism boss Desidério Silva has said he is convinced the Algarve will reap great benefits for this campaign, as in the first four months of the year alone the region registered 159,000 Spanish overnight stays.

Terrorism – Portugal is low-risk country

A recent map revealed by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has shown Portugal to be a “low risk” country when it comes to a terror attack. Portugal’s threat level is described as “underlying” – the lowest of the list.

The map also shows the countries most susceptible to acts of terrorism, following last week’s massacre in Tunisia which saw a man gunning down at least 38 people on a beach.

France and Spain are among the countries with a “high terrorism risk”, alongside Turkey and other North African countries such as Algeria, Libya, Egypt and of course Tunisia.

A number of other holiday hotspots are currently on a general threat level, such as Greece, which receives a million British visitors each year, as well as Italy and Morocco.

Algarve healthcare praised

Meanwhile, the region’s health services have also been given a welcome boost with Faro hospital ranking among one of the best in the country, after its new administration implemented changes to ensure higher levels of quality (see story Faro hospital among nation’s best for clinical excellence).

Tour operators have also praised the region’s emergency authorities following their quick response to the tragic bus accident that killed three Dutch tourists on the A22 highway two weeks ago (see story Bus ride roulette).

Summer police presence reinforced

As a holiday destination that is known for being one of the safest in the world, it is standard protocol for the Algarve to reinforce its policing during the summer.

More than 500 agents from the PSP, GNR and border police will ensure the region remains a safe summer destination.

PSP police have deployed the largest number of policemen (294), followed by GNR (214) and border authorities (11). They will remain in the Algarve until September 15.

An additional 386 agents will be on call “when necessary” to ensure security at some of the region’s major events, such as this month’s Faro bike rally.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]