By DAISY SAMPSON
COMBINING THE past while embracing the future is what staff at the new consulate offices in Portimão are trying to do as they endeavour to cope with ever increasing demands made on them by almost 50,000 residents and 1.3 million visitors to the Algarve each year.
Although the new offices for the consulate are modern and professional, British Consul Paul Rodwell is keen to point out that it has been important for the past to be respected. He told The Resident: “We want the consulate to be an approachable place where people feel at home. We have many older residents in the Algarve and we wanted to honour the history of the consulate in the region. To do this, we had a plaque of the Royal Coat of Arms, which was placed outside the original consulate, restored in Lisbon and placed above the new entrance to the consulate.”
He added: “The number of British residents in the Algarve is growing and our services need to reflect this. The offices have expanded, we have more well trained and professional staff than ever and we hope to increase Algarve specific services at the consulate.”
The new premises, located at Apartado 609, Edificio A Fábrica (next to the Mitsubishi dealership), are now easy to find and in a safe and well lit area.
“There is now plenty of parking for customers and this area is very safe for clients to come to without feeling threatened,” said Paul Rodwell.
Security is of a premium at the consulate, however, staff have had extensive training in dealing with members of the public and, from the moment you are greeted by security in reception, the team hope to make clients feel at ease.
“António, our security guard, will greet people as they come into the office. He will assess the needs of each client and ensure those with emergency cases are prioritised and dealt with by a senior member of staff as quickly as possible,” the consul said.
The new reception area is light and contemporary with a counter for clients to meet with members of the team. For private and personal matters, there is an adjoining interview room which has been sound proofed to ensure privacy.
For serious cases that require a less austere backdrop, a special crisis room has been created at the back of the offices.
Paul Rodwell said: “I took a lot of time and care choosing the lighting and furnishings for this room to make it feel comfortable for people. When you travel, everything is new, exciting and challenging but when something goes wrong and you are abroad, suddenly what was tantalising becomes alienating. We want this to feel like a home from home.”
British residents are invited to visit the new consulate in Portimão to make themselves familiar with the new premises and to meet the team.
“We want more people to come to the consulate, not less. I would urge residents to come down and have a look at what we have to offer clients,” said Paul Rodwell.
If you would like to contact the consulate in Portimão, please call 282 490 750 or alternatively visit www.ukinportugal.fco.gov.uk for further information.
The Resident apologises for inadvertently publishing the British Consulate emergency number incorrectly in the December 5 edition of the paper. The correct number to call in the case of an emergency such as a death, serious assault or arrest is 213 924 000.