With a proposed 2004 budget of 12.727 million euros, the Algarve’s Regional Tourism Board, the RTA, is counting on the Euro 2004 football championship to give tourism in the region the boost it needs. “We are hoping that half a million tourists will visit the Algarve within the space of three weeks,” explained Hélder Martins, the president of the RTA, who is currently organising meetings with local authorities in order to set out an agenda for events during the tournament.
The RTA recently announced that it has been given authorisation by the Regional Tourism Commission to take out a medium to long term loan of 2.3 million euros, to be paid back over the next five years. According to Martins, who presented the organisation’s budget and activities plan for 2004 recently, the audit carried out in June, when Martins took up the post as president, revealed that the RTA was 3,750 million euros in debt. Martins also revealed that the organisation’s financial situation is “not easy”, but he is cautiously optimistic that the situation will improve in 2004. “The RTA is going to have to negotiate with the organisers of various events in the region this year,” he explained, “and determine the amount we will be able to contribute in funds.
“The athletic event, the Cross das Amendoeiras, is now going to be organised by the Algarve’s Athletic Association,” he said, “and the RTA will only sponsor the music festival, which will cost approximately 200,000 euros. We will be functioning under more frugal terms, while we negotiate financial support from the Ministry of Culture.”
Martins also announced that international voyages on the caravela Boa Esperança will have to stop, as they are too costly. “It takes 22 people to man the caravela,” he explained, “so we will only be taking the boat to the gastronomy week in Porto this year.” Cuts in funding will also be felt by the tourist offices across the Algarve, which cater for approximately 800,000 tourists each year. “We currently have 23 tourist offices across the region and, for the moment, we will not be able to expand this network,” said Martins. “This year, we are only setting up a new tourist post at Faro airport and plan to renovate Aljezur and Loulé offices.”
Meanwhile, golf will continue to play an important role in the promotion of tourism in the Algarve. The RTA recently signed a protocol with the Portuguese Golf Federation to hold the 2004 Open de Portugal at the golf course in Penina or Vale do Lobo.
As for promoting the Algarve abroad, the recently set up Algarve Tourism Association will be promoting the region in countries across the world from January 1. With a proposed budget of 7.8 million euros, the association will also take part in 32 international tourism fairs.
Looking back on 2003, Martins explained that, “the problems of the forest fires this summer and the fact that the German economy is still suffering were worrying, but not disastrous. We are hopeful that Euro 2004 will be a huge success and work in our favour, helping the tourism sector to recuperate.”