By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Beautifully organised, a great show of top resorts, estate agents and mortgage-related entities and bags of enthusiasm marked the first Algarve Property Show in Vilamoura over the weekend.
Held at the Tivoli Marina Hotel’s Congress Centre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the three-day event was designed to provide a welcome boost to a tourist and second home property market which is going through difficult times both in the region and country as a whole.
Organised by local businessman Bruce Hawker, CEO of luxury lifestyle magazine group Open Media S.A (Essential Lisbon, Essential Madeira, Essential Algarve and Essential Macau among other publications), the event also provided a solidarity and networking platform for a wide range of businesses linked to the tourism industries and seemed to send out the message that no matter how bad things looked, everyone is weathering the crisis together and united we stand.
While developers are more optimistic about prices than estate agents, overall the Portuguese property market continues to be depressed according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Confidencial Imobiliário (CI).
Some areas of the country are performing better than others with new instructions actually rising in the Algarve and Porto regions.
While prices have been falling across the country, the Algarve is seeing its property market stabilising and prices picking up again, a sign that the region hasn’t lost its appeal.
The good weather kept many potential buyers on the beaches until the late afternoon on Friday, but footfall certainly picked up towards the end of the day and the succeeding two days when around 800 visitors all told were recorded.
However, no one could accuse the organisers, their partners or the stand-holders of not putting on a cheerful face and really making the most of the event.
Most people I spoke to admitted that visitors were scarce on the ground, but said that the event had made a good start, an excellent impression and expressed the earnest hope that the event would become a regular fixture on the Portuguese tourism and property calendar.
Many of the big names linked to resorts and luxury properties were certainly represented: Dunas Douradas Beach Club, Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, The Residences at Victoria Clube de Golfe, Castro Marim Golf & Country Club, Grupo Constantino Jordan, Oceânico Group, Fazenda Caravela, Engels & Volkers, Vale d’Oliveiras Quinta Resort & Spa, Newlyn Portugal, Sovereign, Medal – Gestão & Mediação de Seguros, André Jordan Group, Balaia Village, Longevity Wellness Resort, Fine & Country Portugal , Jardim Vista, Cascade Resort, Open Media Group and The Resident Group (Official Media Partner) to name but a few.
The event, which was sponsored by the Algarve Regional Tourism Authority and opened by its President Dr António Pina, was billed as the perfect opportunity to find that dream home at increasingly accessible prices, whether for a budget of €200,000 or several million euros.
Each day, between 11.30am and 8.30pm, visitors could meet with exhibitors, chat with leading developers, find out how to arrange a mortgage, get insurance, understand more about property management, fractional ownership and buying to let and even private health insurance.
There was also a wine tasting session, a property auction, and seminars held by industry experts at midday, 3pm and 5pm, hosted by Simon Perks, the Vice Chairman of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in London.
Speakers included Mary Mangan, MD of Winkworth Portugal, Nigel Anteney-Hoare, MD of Sovereign-Consultoria Lda, Henrique Pinheiro, Medal Seguros, Paulo Garnel, Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Dr. Paulo Sousa, Hospital Particular do Alvor.
According to Bruce Hawker, the CEO of Open Media, “most exhibitors were generally very happy with the show even though overall visitor numbers were much lower than expected”.
“We had just under 800 visitors but amongst them were a high number of serious buyers looking for property in the Algarve at prices not seen for many years,” he said.
Local residents, foreign and Portuguese visitors made up around half of the footfall, with the balance led by visitors from the UK, Ireland, Holland and Germany. There were also some Swedish visitors and even one from Kazakhstan.
Many of the exhibitors got solid leads, in some cases resulting from viewings over the weekend and confirmation of one actual sale being made with a deposit put down during the show. Others had confirmed offers being made.
Most of the exhibitors said they would like to take part in the show again and were already making plans to repeat the initiative next year but wanted considerable changes such as a greater variety of attractions to draw people in and get them to linger at the show.
Some exhibitors and organisers also thought that the show should be held earlier in the year and with different opening and closing times.
Many people stayed on the beach and only turned up after 4pm although each day saw a peak of visitors at around midday before a lull until late afternoon.
“The general consensus was positive. We had to start somewhere and the lower than expected footfall was certainly not due to a lack of marketing. Apart from our previous campaign of press in the UK and internet marketing, with the show’s website attracting close to 2,000 visitors per week leading up to the show, we did an intensive marketing campaign in the Algarve,” explained Bruce Hawker, adding that 60,000 invitations were distributed, 40,000 by hand at Faro Airport, Oceânico Group golf courses, and numerous restaurants.
In total more than 175 businesses along the Algarve cooperated giving out leaflets and/or displaying posters. This was backed up by database email shots from the chambers of commerce, afpop and the exhibitors themselves with outdoor advertising, radio and, of course, local press including the Algarve Resident.