Popular Praia da Rocha, Portimão Photo: INÊS LOPES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Portuguese tourists arrive in Algarve in force … but not enough to fill gap left by foreigners

August has arrived, and with it has come the expected waves of Portuguese tourists who have chosen the Algarve to enjoy their summer holidays.

All three of Portugal’s national television channels (RTP, SIC and TVI) were in the Algarve last weekend, interviewing beachgoers and getting a feel for how this August is fairing compared to last year’s.

Said TVI: “The beach in Quarteira is not full yet, but the number of tourists is much more significant than last year.”

A local beach concession worker said that people in general “feel safer” this summer.

“There are more people now than last year. People feel safer because of the vaccines, they come to the beach in droves and enjoy their day,” he told TVI.

SIC also reported that the region saw a rush of tourists as soon as August started – the vast majority of them Portuguese nationals.

However, the number of Portuguese tourists hardly represents the crowds that the region is used to during the busiest tourist month of the year.

Paulo Vieira, a local boat tour company owner, told SIC that there are clearly more Portuguese tourists in the Algarve this summer than previous years – which nonetheless has not made up for the huge decrease in foreign holidaymakers.

“We practically have had no foreign clients,” Vieira told SIC. This summer he has only had enough clients for “two to three” boat trips a day, he said. In a normal summer (pre-pandemic), he’d be busy all day long.

Speaking to RTP, the president of the Algarve hoteliers’ association (AHETA) said that the Portuguese market has always been the region’s “strategic priority market” even before the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the number of Portuguese – while very important – is not enough to bring the occupancy levels close to the 100%-mark, which would be normal at this time of year,” Elidérico Viegas told the State television channel.

In other words, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the restrictions still affecting global travel are having a serious impact on the number of foreign tourists travelling to the Algarve.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com