Importance of Portuguese tourism ‘way above European average’

A new report issued by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows beyond any shadow of doubt that tourism is the mainstay of the Portuguese economy, leading the way when it comes to employment, exports and investment.
Tourism accounts for a greater slice of GDP than anywhere else in Europe – even the world – but is enough being done to develop it? The Algarve’s legendary ‘King of Tourism’, André Jordan – an honorary member of WTTC’s governance committee – would suggest that there isn’t. Speaking to the Resident last week following publication of WTTC’s figures on just how much weight tourism carries in Portugal, Jordan agreed that the Algarve, in particular, is “not on the right road”.
“We need to attract a higher level of customer,” he told us. “With the exception of very few places, there has been a process of downgrading in the Algarve because of a lack of proper marketing.”
In the old days, when the indefatigable businessman was building up high-class resorts like Quinta do Lago and Vilamoura, marketing and “big programmes” involving both the private sector and government were commonplace. “Then it all came undone,” said Jordan. “That was a great loss.”
Since the crisis, there has been a “deficit in leadership in the private sector” and thus we have arrived at a moment where the golden goose is laying leaden eggs.
“Luxury new hotels are not getting the prices and customers they deserve,” said Jordan “and, yes, you are right, the government has not been taking the sector as seriously as it could.”
With all sorts of stumbling blocks littering the horizon – the infamously tolled A22 motorway, crippling IVA levels in restaurants and frustrating seasonality being top of the pile – can there be a way to turn things around?
Jordan thinks that there can. It revolves around “finding the right leaders” and going all out with strong marketing campaigns part-financed by the government.
“All the Algarve operators are rather small,” he explained. “They need to get together properly to implement policies and negotiate with the government. They need to come up with serious programmes of marketing and development.”
Reports like this latest by WTTC and consequent articles in newspapers go some way towards consolidating the importance of the tourism sector in Portugal, but a lot more needs to be done, he adds.
Now in his 80s, Jordan believes he is not the man for the job. “I have been trying to shed responsibilities,” he quipped. But he said he is quite sure there are people in the industry who could work wonders.
“I would be more than happy to suggest names and I am available to help get together and find the right leaders,” he told us.
It is a challenge laid down by a legend. Now we can simply wait to see what, if anything, comes of it.
WTTC report
Analysing the impact of tourism on the economy of 184 countries, the WTTC report found that Portugal’s contribution to GDP is in the region of 5.8%. That’s over two percentage points more than the rest of Europe, where tourism accounts for 3.1% of GDP and double that of the world (2.9%).
In terms of direct employment, tourism in Portugal accounts for 7.2% – again this is much higher than elsewhere in Europe (3.1%), or in global terms (3.4%).
When exports are taken into account, Portugal’s contribution extends to 19.6% of its international commerce – while in Europe the figure is just 5.3%, and globally it stands at 5.4%.
Investment, also, sees three times more in Portugal against Europe and the rest of the world.
“The contribution of tourism for GDP, for exports, investment and the creation of employment is so relevant that I do not hesitate to say that it is one of the principal sectors, if not the principal, of our economy”, Secretary of State Adolfo Mesquita Nunes told Público last week.
WTTC’s prediction for 2014 is of a 3.6% growth for the sector, with income from tourism reaching €9.8 billion.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]