President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has promised to visit the Algarve every week this summer to help the region’s struggling tourism sector overcome the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK government’s decision to include mainland Portugal in its ‘travel blacklist’.
He made his promise moments before a dinner in Monte Gordo (Vila Real de Santo António) that brought together 15 of the Algarve’s 16 mayors as well as representatives from the region’s tourism authorities and hotel associations.
“We have to bolster the Algarve quickly so that we feel the positive effects as soon as this year,” he told reporters.
According to Marcelo, efforts should focus on promoting the region as a safe destination among Portuguese tourists and other foreign markets that can act as alternatives to the UK, although he still hopes the British government will reverse its decision before the end of the month.
“Just the other day I was in Albufeira, now I am here in Monte Gordo, and I will be visiting the region throughout the next few weeks whenever I have time,” the president said, adding that his goal is to travel to different parts of the Algarve “every week”.
Marcelo hopes his public appearances in the Algarve will show people there is no reason to believe the region is “any more dangerous than any other area affected by the pandemic”.
“We have to look to the future and see how we can turn things around,” he said.
Olhão Mayor and president of the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL), António Pina, also attended the dinner and said the meeting allowed local mayors to stress the importance of improving the country’s “diplomatic capacity and intensity” with the UK as well as the Irish government, which is due to present its own ‘travel blacklist’ on Thursday (July 9).
“The Algarve needs to be considered a safe destination on that list,” Pina said.
He also called for more government funding to help the region promote itself in countries like Germany, France and Belgium, which can help overcome the losses caused by the UK government’s decision.
Meantime, Vila Real de Santo António Mayor Conceição Cabrita believes the Algarve will rise to the challenge and must continue to show people that it is a safe destination that is “ready to welcome, with all the safety conditions, those who have chosen or will choose the region as their holiday destination”.
She also described the reopening of the border with Spain as a “very positive sign”, although the region must start welcoming more flights and more European tourists who, she said, are the “engine of the region’s economy”.