Labour shortage cripples Algarve tourism industry

Businesses forced to limit services

The Algarve’s hotel and restaurant sectors continue to struggle with a chronic labour shortage which, in some cases, may force businesses to limit the services they offer.

Hélder Martins, president of region’s hotel association AHETA, says the sector remains unable to attract the number of employees it needs despite the fact that salaries have increased 20% in recent years to an average of €881 per month.

“We do not want to compromise our quality,” Martins told online newspaper Nascer do Sol.

“What will happen is, hotels that have two or three restaurants may have to close one of them, and in other cases, hotel may close some rooms because they don’t have the staff to clean them. That is a shame!” the AHETA boss said.

The situation is all the more serious considering the optimistic forecasts for this summer season in the Algarve.

As Martins explained, Portugal’s geographical distance from the war in Ukraine is playing a role behind the positive tourism forecasts. “But it is a shame that we cannot open our doors to everyone who wants to visit us because we lack human resources,” he said.

While the National Institute of Employment and Professional Training (IEFP) has reported that 6,000 people are seeking jobs in tourism, a pilot-project in the Algarve involving 20 companies was only able to attract 10 of them.

According to Hélder Martins, many of the applicants who attended interviews refused jobs because they did not want to work nights or shifts, “even when salaries were above those offered two years ago: (in some cases) 15, 20, 25 and 30% above.”

He added that around 60 people were called for interviews for housekeeping positions. “Ten showed up and none of them accepted,” Martins explained.

Algarve tourism boss João Fernandes has also called attention to the issue, providing another explanation for the worsening labour crisis in the region – the development of tourism in other regions where the Algarve would normally recruit workers.

“Tourism in those regions is growing, which means people do not need to come to the Algarve for work,” he told the paper.

Portugal has already signed mobility agreements with eight countries from the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), but Fernandes explained that each country must regulate these changes before any practical effects can come of them.

Similar agreements have also been signed with India and Morocco, he said, although they have yet to bare the “effects we desired”.

Cristina Siza Vieira, executive president of the Portuguese Hotel Association (AHP), also provided further insight into the crisis.

“We run the risk of seeing the quality of services provided affected by the labour shortage, and that is a real problem,” Vieira lamented.

The labour crisis is not exclusive to the Algarve nor the tourism sector, said Francisco Calheiros from the Portuguese Federation of Tourism (CTP). He also said the federation is working on finding solutions to this crisis as quickly as possible to ensure the sector has enough workers to respond to the busy summer ahead.

By Michael Bruxo
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