Worst year for tourism since 1993

2004 was the worst year for tourism in the Algarve since 1993, in terms of occupation rates which, on average, dropped 4.8 per cent.It is also evident that Euro 2004 did nothing to save the Algarve’s struggling tourism industry.

According to statistics, the region received 5.5 million tourists in 2004, but only half of these stayed in hotels. On average, hotels were only 44.6 per cent full, 10 per cent less than the desired figure. Albufeira, Lagos, Sagres, Vilamoura, Quarteira, Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago suffered the worst falls in guest numbers. The figures were announced at a recent press conference by the president of the Algarve Hotel and Tourist Resorts Association (AHETA), Elidérico Viegas.

Viegas mentioned “the fragility of the tourism framework, which has been declining for decades, could not continue to be ignored since it is responsible for our successive loss in a competitive tourism industry,” he underlined.

Referring to the figures on record, the AHETA president pointed out that the decrease in the number of tourists registered at the departures and arrivals terminals in Faro airport, represents a 0.8 per cent fall (35,044 people) compared to 2003. “It is worrying that we cannot foresee an increase in traffic over the short or medium term,” told Viegas, who also commented on the fact that there has been a continuous reduction in the number of German visitors (a decrease of 63 per cent over the last eight years).

British visitors not supporting tourism industry

In total, 58.3 per cent of the passengers using Faro airport are from the UK, however, “more than a third of these Britons are not staying in places that are officially classified by the Tourism Board. Many are staying in second homes, with family, or travelling on to Spain – it is estimated that nearly 400,000 tourists using Faro airport go on to stay in Andalucia,” told Elidérico Viegas.

Euro 2004 a disaster for Algarve tourism industry

The AHETA president lamented the disastrous results for the tourism industry during Euro 2004: “The exaggerated optimism of hotel and resort owners, who sent out the message that accommodation was totally full, led to thousands of tourists arranging to travel to other destinations in the months prior to the tournament.” Occupation rates suffered the biggest fall during and after Euro 2004.

Golf courses and theme parks performed badly

The inauguration of the new Victoria Golf Club at Vilamoura has brought the total of golf holes in the Algarve to 513 and disappointing results among the region’s clubs could indicate that the market is over-saturated. Golf courses registered an average of 33,902 rounds, a drop of 4.6 per cent compared to 2003.

Worse, though, were the Algarve’s theme parks, despite the refurbishment of some establishments. The Algarve’s marinas were also lacking the expected amount of visitors, with Lagos registering a fall of four per cent for the first time ever.

Contrasting opinions

on the “crisis”

However, not all the tourism-related entities are as negative as AHETA. Hélder Martins, president of the Algarve Tourism Board (RTA), says: “The Algarve has a host of other offers that translate into high numbers of tourists coming to the region. Euro 2004 was badly managed, but the post-summer period welcomed considerable numbers of visitors which offered a positive perspective for the industry.”

Casinos buck the trend

On a more positive note, casinos in the Algarve experienced the highest growth in the sector nationally, achieving an income increase of around four per cent.