Praia da Rocha business owners eye new markets

Business owners in Praia da Rocha, Portimão believe the time has come for the nightlife spot to “diversify” its tourism markets in order to stop relying “almost exclusively” on the UK.

“The limitations imposed by the UK have exposed the fragilities of our dependence on British tourism and accentuated the need to diversify our tourism markets,” entrepreneur Paulo Cabrita, who owns four restaurants and accommodation establishments in Praia da Rocha, told Lusa news agency.

Praia da Rocha is one of the Algarve’s best-known nightlife spots, popular for its sprawling beaches, casino and plethora of bars and restaurants.

But trouble was already on the horizon for Praia da Rocha even before the pandemic plunged the whole region into a crisis, according to Cabrita, who accused authorities and other entrepreneurs in Praia da Rocha of “inertia” and a “lack of strategic vision” ever since Clube Praia da Rocha, one of the area’s main tourist complexes, closed six years ago.

“For around 30 years, thousands of Brits and Irish would ‘invade’ the area for two to three months, which would keep establishments sustainable, but for six years there has been a significant drop in this market due to the closure of Clube Praia da Rocha,” he pointed out.

The complex’s guests accounted for a large part of the clients of local restaurants and bars, the businessman added. This led Cabrita to reconvert a property he owns twice in the last five years in an attempt to cater to the market.

“First it was an Irish bar, then it turned its focus to the Portuguese market, and in the last year it was turned into a charm hotel with 10 beds,” he told the news agency.

“It’s an adaptation to the new times and it will allow us to continue employing our staff all year round,” Cabrita said.

According to the entrepreneur, the pandemic has proven that the “future will not be like what we expected. We have to follow the markets and adapt to a new reality”.

Four other entrepreneurs also spoke to Lusa about the “lack of quality” that has seen Praia da Rocha’s number of foreign visitors decrease over the years.

“This is an area where a lot of what we have to offer is the same, but something is lacking in terms of quality. These new times show us that the future will be about diversifying our economic activity, but with quality,” a local bar owner said.

Fernando Romão added that Praia da Rocha has become a “dormitory”, with thousands of second-home beds that are rented mostly by Portuguese tourists during August.

He added that the decreasing number of foreign tourists in Praia da Rocha “got worse with the pandemic”, but that this was a problem that had been dragging for many years and that had led business owners to pull back on investments.

Said Romão, the time has come to “diversify, increase safety and create incentives to attract foreign quality tourism all year round”.

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