North Africa conflicts may attract tourists to the Algarve

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

Political unrest in North African countries may provide a much-needed boost to Algarve tourism, say regional industry heads.

The Algarve’s hoteliers, who benefited from the 1990-1991 Gulf war, are now hoping to take advantage of the instability in North Africa at a time when occupancy rates in the region show a decline of around 15% compared to the same period last year.

Tourism chiefs in the region hope that tourists who have cancelled holidays in Tunisia or Egypt for security reasons may now chose the Algarve as an alternative.

Algarve Tourism Board (ERTA) President Nuno Aires told the Algarve Resident: “The tourism operation planned for the summer will inevitably be adjusted due to the conflicts in Egypt and Tunisia.

“The Algarve has been positioning itself as an alternative destination and I can confirm that we have already established contacts with several travel operators.”

He added: “The hotel industry in the region could benefit from the arrival of more British tourists, and also tourists from Germany, Russia and France, who are seeking to find an alternative to the North African countries that are going through troubled times.”

Thomas Cook and Tui fly thousands of tourists to Egypt and these visitors are now choosing other destinations. However, according to Elidérico Viegas, president of the Algarve hotels and tourist resorts association (AHETA), this will not have an immediate effect in the Algarve.

He told the Algarve Resident: “Customers wanting to change flight destination from North Africa to the Algarve will not be able to do it immediately because Tui and Thomas Cook are not operating during the winter season. These travel companies will only restart their operations in April.

However, travellers who had been considering North African countries as a holiday destination this year but who have not already made bookings could potentially choose the Algarve.

Elidérico Viegas added: “This could help the region to improve its income in the tourism sector but will not solve the serious economic problems that the region is suffering.”

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Government has sent letters to tour operators and airlines trying to convince them that Portugal is an alternative to the North of Africa.

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