Spain’s economic crisis benefitting the Algarve

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

The economic crisis affecting Spain means that the Spanish are either staying at home for their holidays or visiting neighbouring Portugal rather than going away to more exotic locations.

Demand from Spanish tourists soared by 33.4%, helping to offset a falloff in the number of tourists from Portugal and Ireland.

The number of visitors from the United Kingdom and Holland also grew this summer by 11.6% and 29.1% respectively as tourists from those countries opted for cheaper Portugal rather than Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

According to the latest statistics from the Association of Algarve Hotels and Tourism Developments (AHETA), the Portuguese and the Irish visited the Algarve less, with reductions of 9.1% and 18.7% respectively.

Algarve beaches which have been most sought after by the Spanish this year include the strip between Vila Real de Santo António and Faro and are frequented mainly by families that come on day trips to the area.

“The Spanish are definitely with us,” says AHETA president, Elidérico Viegas, who believes the Portuguese tourism boards need to “beef up marketing campaigns in Spain.”

The number of Spanish tourists visiting Portugal has increased in recent years thanks to improved road access – it is actually easier for a family living in the north of Spain to reach the Algarve than visit southern Spain.

In Portugal the number of bed occupancies has shot up by 7.1% since January, with a million visitors more than the same period in 2010.

And by June, Portugal had received an extra 102,000 visitors compared with 2010.

“The Spanish market has grown in all regions, but particularly south of the Tejo and the Portuguese islands,” the Portuguese tourist board Turismo de Portugal has confirmed.

Growth from the Spanish market is expected to maintain until the end of the year but even so will not make up for losses sustained in the national and other international markets because hotels and resorts have been forced to drop their prices.

However, the main international tourist market for Portugal is still provided by the British and other European markets have increased the number of tourists visiting Portugal.

The British prefer the Algarve, the Azores and Madeira while the Spanish dominate other regions such as Lisbon, the North, the Centre and the Alentejo.

A TP source explained that the Spanish were increasingly aware that quality and varied tourist destinations and facilities were easily reachable across the border by car in just a couple of hours.

The range of hotels and resorts in Portugal is considered varied, luxurious, sophisticated and different from many other resorts in Spain.

This year alone Turismo de Portugal invested €3.9 million in promotional drives in Spain in addition to the €2.9 million spent by various local entities, câmaras and other regional bodies on advertising different parts of the country.

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