The Algarve is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and certainly in Portugal. It is visited by around 10 million visitors each year, 7 million of whom come from outside the country. A lot of them come from the UK, but the region is also very popular with other northern European nations.
It is situated on the southernmost tip of Portugal, and was originally the centre of trade when the country was occupied by the Moors; in fact its name originates from the Arabic word for West. As a result the Algarve has a very rich history and culture.
However it’s attractions that extend far beyond this, as it has around 155 km of coastline along its southern edge, and some truly beautiful beaches. The western edge of the region has around 88 km of coastline that are home to picturesque rocky coves.
The climate makes it easy to take advantage of all these beaches year-round, as even in the winter the temperatures can reach as high as 25°C, while in the summer they can peak at around 48°C. These factors mean it is a very popular winter holiday destination.
The tourism boom originally began in the 60s, and since then this region has seen substantial investment into facilities. There is a huge range of facilities and amenities including excellent golf courses and water parks. Some resorts are more family oriented while others are aimed at couples looking for a quieter holiday. Although many of the results are busy, Portugal does have a laid back atmosphere, and its huge ex-pat population means English is widely spoken and understood.
Portugal is set to revise its tourism strategies, as National Strategic Plan for Tourism (PENT) is currently being assessed, and is likely to include smaller growth targets for tourism. PENT contains strategies for the tourism sector right through to 2015 and its aim is to promote the development and commercialisation of tourism products within the country.
However previous growth targets were far too ambitious and new strategies include methods to sell empty properties and hotels currently available on the property market. PENT is to work alongside tourism operators and airlines to help promote Portugal, and will try to ensure sufficient air routes are provided.
The tourism industry in Portugal has concentrated on traditional markets including the British and Spanish, but visitor numbers from these countries have declined significantly since the beginning of the financial crisis. New strategies are likely to concentrate on emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, Poland, India, China and Canada, as it is felt that visitors from these countries are likely to generate more revenue for the property market as well as for the tourism market.
One of the things that sparked these revisions is the downturn suffered by the tourism industry since the beginning of 2012, as it has been particularly marked this year. It is likely these revisions will include an emergency plan for the Algarve that will allow financial support mechanisms for new investment into businesses as well as the creation of training schemes. Several large resorts in the Algarve are seeing a worsening in seasonal demand, and unemployment rates are currently quite high. These are issues that will hopefully be addressed by these revised plans.
Buyers looking to purchase holiday homes or homes to rent out in Portugal have traditionally chosen to purchase property in popular resorts along the coast. It’s easy to see why as Portugal has miles of beautiful sandy beaches, and the longest coastal National Park in Europe. However the country has much more to offer than sun and sand, and more buyers are choosing to look for properties away from the major resorts.
The scenery in Portugal can be absolutely beautiful, and it can offer rolling hills, enticing vineyards and Roman ruins, all of which are easily accessible. Property here presents excellent value, and compares very well with popular areas in other countries such as Provence or Tuscany. Many travellers are becoming more sophisticated over their demands for holiday destinations, and are constantly on the lookout for something offering something a little different combined with the familiarity of holidaying in Europe.
The number of overseas visitors is increasing, as in 2011, 14.1 million people visited Portugal, an increase of 3.8% compared to the year before as the country enjoyed record levels of tourism. Some 1.2 million were British, and this figure had increased by 12%. All in all, British tourists spent 6.3 million nights in Portugal, an increase of 14%.
This is just as well as the Portuguese economy receives around 10% of its revenue through tourism. A recent report in Reuters showed hotel revenues increased by 1.5% in July compared to a year earlier, and 915,000 foreigners visited the country, spending more nights in Portugal on average compared to a year ago.