2016 has been hailed another “record-breaking” year for Algarve tourism, with hotels, golf courses and Faro airport all doing better than ever. This is the right time, tourism boss Desidério Silva feels, to ask the government for financial support for a region that has always “survived” with scarce resources.
Data released by Portugal’s statistics institute (INE) shows that hotel bookings reached an all-time high (18.1 million), up 9% on 2015.
This was due largely to an 11.9% increase in bookings made by foreigners, “mostly Brits”.
Hotel revenue reached unprecedented levels as well (€904.6 million), growing 19.4% compared to 2015.
Faro airport also enjoyed its busiest year with 7.6 million passengers passing through, an impressive 18.5% increase on the previous year.
Most of them were from the UK (3.9 million), followed by Germany (882,000), Ireland (684,000) and the Netherlands (660,000).
France is also fast becoming one of the main markets for Algarve tourism. The number of French passengers at Faro airport skyrocketed an astounding 112.8%, reaching 418,000.
The number of planes flying to and from the airport also grew 18.7%.
Last but not least is the amazing performance of Algarve golf. The number of rounds played at the region’s golf courses reached 1.3 million, a 10.5% increase compared to 2015, which had been hailed the best year ever for the sector.
Data from the Algarve tourism association (ATA) shows that October (161,000 rounds played) and April (148,000) were the most popular months for golfing in the Algarve.
It is the kind of news that delights Algarve tourism boss Desidério Silva but has also led him to demand more financial support from the state.
“We had an exemplary year despite the scarce resources we receive,” he said.
As the success of tourism is paramount to the national economy, Silva wants the state to plough more money into the Algarve Tourism Board so that the sector can keep on growing and filling both public and private coffers.
Whether more support will be provided remains to be seen but what is certain is that 2017 is already off to a great start for Algarve hotels.
Data shows that 37.5% of rooms were booked in January, a 3.3 percentage point increase compared to last year.
Hotelier association AHETA says there were more Brits, Dutch and French booking rooms but fewer Portuguese.
But despite all the good news, many challenges remain. Establishing the Algarve as a “year-round” destination is the main goal for tourism authorities.
‘365 Algarve’, a programme to boost cultural events in the region during the so-called low season, was launched last year but has sparked criticism from hoteliers for failing to have a significant impact.
National tourism also on the rise
Tourism on a national level is also reaching new heights.
Data shows that 53.5 million bookings were registered at national hotels last year, most of them in the Algarve (18.1 million), followed by Lisbon (13 million) and the Madeira archipelago (7 million).
Revenue also reached €2.9 billion, up 17% on 2015.
The UK remains Portugal’s main foreign market, accounting for 23.9% of the country’s bookings, followed by Germany and Spain.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]
Photo: HÉLIO RAMOS