“Overtourism is not yet a concern. There is still room to grow” – Daniel do Adro, Algarve Tourism Association
The 20th anniversary of Ryanair’s arrival in the Algarve was celebrated this week in Faro, with tourism officials declaring that the Irish low-cost airline helped “transform tourism” in the Algarve.
It all started with the launch of an air link between Faro and Dublin, which now boasts 56 weekly fights. By providing affordable air travel options, the airline has helped shape tourism in the Algarve by doubling its visitor numbers from 2003 to 2023, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE).
“Growth has jumped more than 95%, with total revenue growing 200%,” said Daniel do Adro, one of the vice-presidents of the Algarve Tourism Association (ATA), at an event held on Tuesday, May 30 in Faro.
“There is this assumption that Ryanair is for low-cost tourists when, in fact, this isn’t the case. It’s about providing accessibility for all budgets,” he said, citing the latter as the most important aspect.
“Tourists who are offered good travel alternatives will use them; and we need to grow our accessibility so that those who hear about the Algarve, thanks to our marketing efforts, can get to the destination without any barriers,” Daniel do Adro said.
Dubbing Ryanair as one of the Algarve’s “biggest partners” in terms of travel accessibility and as the biggest airline operating at Faro International Airport, Daniel do Adro stressed that the airline currently operates 47 air links and has 10 planes based at the airport.
If forecasts are correct, the airline is expected to reach the 3.5 million passenger milestone at Faro this year.
Adro also acknowledged the profound impact Ryanair has had in terms of attracting other airlines, such as easyJet, to explore the region’s potential. He also noted that Ryanair’s investment in the region has helped further interest from other industry players and has improved air connectivity to both traditional and new markets.
“Ryanair has transformed the Algarve,” said Daniel do Adro, adding that while “tourism is dynamic” and is able to transform itself, accessibility remains a crucial starting point.
But can the Algarve’s success story as a tourism destination end up hampering the region?
“Overtourism is not yet a concern. There is still room to grow,” he said, adding that the Algarve has been trying to “diversify” the way it promotes itself.
The growing number of air links has also helped cater to new tourist profiles, which is “incredibly interesting for our economy”, such is the case of visitors who seek weekend getaways.
Seasonality – the word used to describe the fluctuation in tourism demand and visitor numbers based on a specific time of year – remains one of the Algarve’s biggest challenges. However, the tourism official stressed that “this is a ‘drama’ that all destinations dependent on the climate face”.
The good news is that tourists themselves are starting to do their own research and learning that the Algarve is not just attractive when the sun is out, he said.
This is where the wealth of air links comes into play again, allowing the Algarve to attract tourists who seek more than its famous sunshine and beaches.
“We are now welcoming more and more tourists who are interested in gastronomy, wine and creative experiences,” he said, adding that a similar tendency is being registered in Spain.
Ryanair expects 20% capacity boost at Faro Airport
Elena Cabrera, Ryanair’s Country Manager for Portugal and Spain, also attended the event and discussed the expected increase in passenger capacity during the summer season, which began on March 26 and runs until October 29.
According to Cabrera, the airline expects a 20% capacity boost on its Faro routes compared to last year, following the trend across Europe due to the strengthening of the dollar.
She also acknowledged that the ongoing strikes by air traffic controllers in France will have a significant impact on Ryanair’s operations, given that the airline operates solely within Europe.
“The problem is that strikes are announced only 48 hours in advance. For an airline like ours which has 3,000 daily flights, it is very complicated to adjust our operations. In Portugal, Spain and Greece, overflights are protected when there is a strike, as well as domestic flights. In France, there is no such legislation. So, what we are trying to do is pressure Brussels to implement such a measure because this loophole has an impact on peripheral countries which need these air links,” she explained.
Cabrera admitted that the strikes can lead to cancellations and delays, not only with Ryanair but also other airlines, if they are extended until September.
“Between January and April, we have already had 300 flights impacted by air traffic controller strikes,” the director said.
Meanwhile, Faro Airport director Alberto Mota Borges confirmed that the airport is finally back up on its feet after the Covid-19 pandemic, with forecasts pointing towards 2023 reaching the same levels as 2019, the so-called “best year ever” for tourism in the Algarve.
“We hope to surpass those numbers – and if we consider that, since October, we have already welcomed more passengers than the same period in 2019, then this is a likely scenario,” he added.
Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper.