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New Algarve study reveals more cultural products are needed to attract “tourists who spend more”

According to the study, on average, Algarve tourists spend around 180 euros on cultural or entertainment experiences.

According to a study, creating new products to turn tourists into “temporary residents” is one of the Algarve’s main challenges when it comes to attracting tourists willing to spend more on culture.

“In an increasingly competitive market, with many more countries entering the cultural tourism market, with exciting offers, and where tourists are increasingly cultural, the Algarve has to follow this trend. Otherwise, it will become captive to less demanding and less qualified tourists, who spend less”, said Carlos Martins, executive director of the consultancy that carried out the study.

The study reveals that, on average, Algarve visitors spend around 180 euros on cultural or entertainment experiences. This corresponds to approximately 10% of their total spending during their stay, figures that, according to Carlos Martins, have the potential for growth.

“It is already very relevant, but there is room for growth because there are places where [spending on entertainment and culture] goes up to 40% of this [total] spending. In the Algarve, we still have a deficit compared to the average tourists spend on experiences in other countries. We are far from reaching [that number], and we have a considerable growth margin here”, stressed the consultant.

Speaking of an “opportunity for the economic enhancement of cultural experiences”, Carlos Martins reinforced that the region must work “to offer better experiences because people are willing to pay for them and already pay in other destinations”.

For this to happen, it will be necessary to make tourists feel “increasingly less like tourists and more like residents”, presenting them with what is “unique and specific” in local markets, such as products, recipes or intangible heritage.

“Taking a tourist to a municipal market to choose products or going with a chef to a restaurant that works with wines from the region, all these are cultural experiences that are not yet available. He pointed out that these are specific things that are more or less temporary”.

He noted that tourists give increasingly more importance to sustainability, in the sense of “not wanting to be a factor of loss in the community” hosting them. “If I get to know the wine producer, if I get to know the person who has that recipe, if I get to know that craftsman, I am helping that community to have better living conditions and more income”, he highlighted.

Training cultural agents to offer more qualified experiences, offers, places, and events is another one of the main challenges. “At present, cultural agents in Portugal find it difficult to stay afloat and even more so post-pandemic”, Carlos Martins stressed.

Mastering digital tools to “segment and tailor offers according to types of interests” is another goal he pointed out, not least because increasingly more tourists plan their visit, “curating their own experience” instead of opting for predefined packages.

With 610 tourists surveyed, in addition to interviews with tourism and cultural agents and focus groups, the study – segmenting differences between the main tourist emitting markets – confirmed that cultural motivation is increasingly present in tourist demand.

“In the Algarve, this trend is confirmed. Even if it is not the priority, for 97% of people, it is always something worth discovering, experiencing, and attending,” said Carlos Martins.

Around 20% of the tourists that visit the region are already related to the cultural sector – they are artists or have creative functions – looking for more permanent cultural habits and not one-off events, such as a music festival.

The Dutch, French and German markets are the most predisposed to cultural activities, such as museums, theatre, monuments and heritage. The Portuguese, Irish and Spanish are more superficial consumers, preferring more short-term events.

“This work allows us to identify what the demand needs. Regions often work on supply, [creating] another event, another visitable place, another route – but nobody asks the tourist what he actually wants”, he observed.

According to Carlos Martins, this work helps to understand the tourist profile “so that later it is easier to adjust the offer to the type of interests”. He believes it is necessary “to continue to evaluate the demand” and not to create offers for “vague and diffuse tourists”.

The study that outlined the profile of the cultural habits of tourists in the Algarve was carried out by the Opium consultancy within the scope of the “Algarve Premium” project. A project that benefits from community funding and is promoted by NERA – Associação Empresarial da Região do Algarve, the Algarve Tourism Board, and the Algarve Tourism Association (ATA).