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Tourism soars

All-in-all, 2016 looks set to see Portugal enjoy its best year ever in terms of tourism. Indications so far are that the first six months of this year were “very healthy” for the country’s tourism sector, and 2016 could be on track to becoming the best year ever for the Algarve.

The National Tourism Board has this week said it is “pleased” with the growth in tourism registered in Portugal, and added that everything points towards the first half of this year having been a “very healthy” one.
The National Tourism Board revealed that double-digit growth has been recorded throughout the country, both in terms of occupation and revenue, and that the trend is expected to continue, if not improve, with the peak summer season.
Luís Araújo, head of the national tourism board, said the outlook for the future is “very positive” and predicts a further boost to figures during high season.
“Based on the data we have, up until May, we are looking at double-digit growth: 10.4 percent in terms of guest growth, 11.3 percent in terms of nights spent, and 14.5 percent in terms of RevPAR (revenue per available room), which is a very important indicator for us”, Mr Araújo said in comments to Lusa News Agency.
That was bolstered by new figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) regarding the evolution of the tourist activity up until June, which confirmed “expressive growth.”
The INE’s data showed the number of nights spent in hotels in Portugal grew in all regions, although the biggest spurts were seen in northern Portugal, the Azores and the Alentejo.
Portugal’s hotels welcomed 1.9 million guests in the month of June alone, who spent an average of five nights each in a bed in Portugal, to total 5.5 million nights spent.
The INE said throughout the first six months of the year, guests were up by 10.8 percent, to 8.5 million visitors, with 23 million nights spent, even though the length of the average stay was shorter.
All main source markets emitted more tourists, although the British market slowed in June in comparison to April and May.
The German market also contracted while the French market registered the biggest growth. Tourists from Poland, the USA and Italy also notched up significant surges in numbers.
Luís Araújo believes the generalised growth will “maintain and possibly even grow a little further” during high season, thanks to inflated rates, particularly in popular regions such as the Algarve, Madeira, Lisbon and Porto.
“These are very positive indicators, not only because we are attracting more tourists, mainly better tourists, but also because the evolution of revenue and RevPAR means that we are able to earn more for the economy, as intended”, he stressed.
Firm in the belief that “this summer will be a very good one”, the head of the Tourism Board said early figures from June already indicate the month has been significantly better than May.
“There has been very positive development in all aspects, with indications of growth in all fields, but also an increase in the level of quality, services rendered, knowledge about tourists and their markets, and a diversification of markets that is hugely important for our country “, stated Luís Araújo.
In his opinion, this behaviour “has a lot to do with the positioning of Portugal and the promotion of the country, as well as how operators and Portuguese hoteliers have evolved in recent years” something Mr. Araujo says should be seen as a “‘case study’ worldwide.”
“What is needed now is to maintain the sustainability of the destination”, he added.
On Wednesday this week the Algarve Tourism Board (RTA) issued a statement in which it confidently affirmed 2016 “will be the best year ever” for the region’s tourism.
Figures published in the statement showed that during the first six months of this year the Algarve notched up 7.4 million overnight stays, which it stressed is a 13.3 percent increase on the same period of last year.
This was in part thanks to a four percent rise in national tourists, the RTA highlighted.
Desidério Silva, president of the RTA, affirmed “all indicators show that 2016 will be the strongest year for Algarve
According to the RTA’s statement, during the first half of this year, 3,175,130 passengers passed through Faro airport, with airlines Ryanair, Easyjet, Monarch, Transavia and Jet2 contributing mostly towards the impressive figure and underlining the importance of low-cost airlines for the region.
The RTA’s figures also show the UK is still the Algarve’s main source market, for now putting paid to any concerns that may have arisen following Brexit.
British tourists made up around 70 percent of nights spent in the Algarve and generated revenue in the region of €1.5 billion of an overall national total of €2 billion.
“Predictions for this summer and for autumn too, are very positive as the Algarve accommodation sector already has a high number of reservations for September to November.”
Desidério Silva elaborated: “Occupation rates up until June have been higher than in the same months of 2015. We have registered important growth in the months that precede summer, a season which is normally tougher in terms of occupation for the Algarve.
“Summer is going very well and results from July and August will consolidate the good results from the season. It is also expected that the months of September, October and November register occupations rates that are higher than last year’s.”
Results from the first half of 2016, Silva says, clearly show that the RTA’s strategy to develop what it has to offer year-round is paying off.
“We are clearly on track for a ‘year-round’ Algarve”, he said.
Slightly more reluctant to crown 2016 with the accolade of best year ever for the Algarve is Elidérico Viegas, head of the region’s largest hotel association AHETA, who, in comments to newspaper i, was quick to point out that the Algarve is still clawing back revenue from poorer years, and the vast majority of companies continue to turn out negative equity.
Yet, with the region currently practically fully booked, charging prices on a par with Paris and a growing demand that shows no signs of slowing for now, it is undeniable that the Algarve is enjoying something of a newfound glory.
This, Mr. Viegas believes, is largely due to “a diversion of tourist flows from competing destinations in the Mediterranean basin and northwest Africa”, which when combined with the Zika epidemic “has brought more tourists to this region”.