Algarve named top holiday destination – and Vilamoura, Lagos and Albufeira rental hot spots

The Algarve has been ranked fifth best holiday destination for 2014 by a leading holiday rentals agency, which said the region’s unrivalled mix of natural beauty, hospitality, sun-kissed climate and fabulous beaches has cemented its favour as one of the Med’s foremost destinations for visitors from Britain and across Europe.

To help property-buyers looking for a lettable holiday home, the agency has highlighted three hot spots and property rentals in the Algarve.

One of the Algarve’s most prestigious and popular resorts, Vilamoura is perfect for golfers, families and couples. Beyond its two excellent beaches and stunning marina, Vilamoura offers sufficient entertainment, activities, shops, bars and restaurants to provide the perfect holiday. A fully-equipped private villa with pool (sleeps 8), just minutes away from the marina, beach and town, rents from £859 to £1,612 per week.

A former fishing port turned lively and popular resort, picturesque Albufeira is a charming blend of historic cobbled streets and traditional architecture and all of the attractions and facilities expected of a thoroughly modern and enjoyable family holiday resort. A family apartment (sleeps 6) on a popular resort complex with pools and entertainments a short distance from Albufeira’s shopping centre, restaurants and beaches, rents from £210 to £690 per week.

Within its sixteenth-century town walls, this historic and beautiful town is renowned for its restaurants, modern marina, fabulous beaches and vibrant nightlife. Suitable for holidaymakers of all ages, Lagos offers relaxation and plentiful entertainment for everyone. A luxury apartment (sleeps 4) with every modern amenity on a secure complex located minutes from the town centre, beaches, marina and one of the Algarve’s finest golf courses, rents from £340 to £695 per week.

Portugal remains a key driver in the international golf tourism sector

Portugal is the second most important destination for golf tour operators around the world, according to the most recent survey by the global trade organisation of the golf tourism industry, IAGTO.

The IAGTO survey, which ranked Spain number one for golf tourism, also highlighted how Portugal and the USA stand out for attracting more golf tourists from a widening global market. This is good news for property-owners in golf resorts in the Algarve, where the majority of Portugal’s golf courses are located, including the famous Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo resorts near Faro.

Overall, sales in the golf tourism sector increased year-on-year in 2013, and things are looking rosy for 2014 too.

Speaking at the inaugural HSBC Golf Business Forum in Abu Dhabi, IAGTO Chief Executive Peter Walton said: “Not only has the cumulative growth in golf holiday sales exceeded, on average, 21 per cent in two years, but 2014 is set to be the third consecutive year of growth, with bookings taken in January being 14.5 per cent ahead of bookings taken in the same month a year earlier. Even allowing for variations in the relative growth of different outbound markets, golf tour operators on all continents will be handling over 20 per cent more golf holiday sales in 2014 than they were in 2011.”

For anyone wanting to experience some of the best golf in the Algarve, Vale do Lobo is holding a Golf Open Day on 15th May, when Club Members can invite guests to play in the Vale do Lobo Saturday Tournament and Non-Members can benefit from a promotional green fee price of just €50.

Albufeira restaurant rated a ‘world best’ and puts Portugal on the foodie map

Great news for foodies looking for a property in the Algarve – Portugal’s only restaurant in the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list has climbed to 22nd place in the 2014 rankings, up from 37th in 2013.

The Michelin-star restaurant, called Vila Joya and part of a luxury spa and beach resort in Albufeira, is run by chef Dieter Koschina. Originally from Austria, Koschina honed his skills in leading establishments in Vienna and Germany before settling in his adopted country of Portugal more than two decades ago. This is the third year it has featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

Overlooking the picturesque Atlantic coastline, the dining room at Vila Joya plays host to artfully arranged plates of guinea fowl stuffed with black truffles and artichokes, and roasted goose liver with tamarind and salted caramel. However, it’s the chef’s skill with local seafood that is most impressive. Stand-out dishes include ‘cataplana’ – a modern take on a traditional Portuguese stew with pork, cockles and lobster – and confit ‘bacalhau’ (salt cod) with beetroot coulis and yoghurt.

Vila Joya has also become a destination for international chefs, who attend its annual International Gourmet Festival. Top names, including Joan Roca, Björn Frantzén and Nuno Mendes, joined Koschina at last year’s event.

Homeowners planning a trip to their property in the Algarve should treat themselves to a meal at Vila Joya – just be quick to book though, as tables are highly sought after.

Vilamoura’s ‘inland waterway’ development gets the go-ahead

Vilamoura’s future as a desirable hot spot in the Algarve was confirmed in April after the Portuguese Government gave the green light to a huge billion-euro project between Vilamoura Marina and the village of Açoteias in Albufeira.

Called Cidade Lacustre, which translates as Lakeside Town, the development will see a network of canals, lakes and lagoons linking various residential, commercial and tourist properties. According to a report, some homeowners will have the option to sail their boats practically to their front door, as at least 150 of the properties will come with a private mooring.

A further 150 docks will be available throughout the development and the entire project is planned to cover around 1,680,000 square metres of land, 360,000 square metres of which is protected and belongs to the National Agricultural Reserve (RAN). Special conditions have been imposed before any development can begin on the RAN land, a strip of land near the coast that will be the site of lakes and canals, as well as natural flood defences. Red tape means work is not expected to begin on Cidade Lacustre for up to two years, however the project will be a shot in the arm for owners of property in the Algarve.

Meanwhile Vilamoura Marina has been names the Best Marina in Portugal for the fourth year in a row, at the Portugal Trade Awards 2014. In the last five years, much time and money have been invested in upgrading the Marina’s infrastructures. It is one of the first marinas to be awarded quality and environmental certification by ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, as well as the European Blue Flag and the maximum 5 Anchors distinction by the Yacht Harbour Association’s Gold Award Scheme.

Brits and Americans helping to drive record tourist numbers in Portugal

New numbers released on travel to Portugal in 2013 show that it was a record year with more than 14 million visitors in 2013, a year-on-year rise of 4.2 per cent with British visitors remaining the most significant and Americans seeing the highest level of growth in terms of inbound tourists.

Tourists from the UK totalled 1.4 million in 2013, up 7.4 per cent from 2012, generating revenue of circa €1.5 billion, an increase of 4.2 per cent. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Institute (INE) in Portugal also reported a 16.4 per cent increase in overnight stays by American hotel guests, accounting for a 21 per cent hike in revenue.

“In these uncertain times, American travellers are looking for two things – value for the dollar and the value of experience,” say Jayme Simões, a tourism spokesperson. “Portugal is strong on both counts. The country’s mild, year-round climate with its historical attractions, new and classic museums, and wine country make Portugal a memorable place to explore for the American traveller. Even with the exchange rate in Europe, Portugal is one of Europe’s best values.”

Every region in Portugal saw an increase in guest stays in 2013. Porto and the Alentejo regions had the biggest increases with up to 29 per cent and 14.6  per cent more guests. Lisbon was the most sought after city and recorded growth of 8.4  per cent. The Azores showed an excellent an excellent rate of growth with more 7.4 per cent increase.

Filipe Silva, UK director of Turismo de Portugal expects that 2014 will be a similarly successful year. He commented: “TAP Portugal, BA,, Ryanair, easyJet, Monarch, Thomson and FlyBe have added flight capacity to all four of Portugal’s airports, suggesting demand for flights to Portugal is increasing. We believe this is due to the diverse product we have on offer, from cities, beaches, golf, nature and culture, to world-renowned gastronomy and wine.”

Strong tourism numbers are good news for the Portuguese property market, helping to maintain demand for property in the Algarve and increasing rental demand for homes in Algarve resorts.

Increased activity from airlines BA and TAP confirm Portugal’s on-going popularity

Confidence in the Algarve as an international destination received a shot in the arm at the end of March – and getting there got easier – after British Airways reinstated its direct service between Heathrow and Faro.

BA re-launched a twice weekly service – on Saturdays and Sundays – between the gateway to the Algarve and London’s primary airport on March 30th, after stopping it more than 10 years ago. At the same time, the airline has increased the frequency of its service between Gatwick and Faro, from once to twice a day, launched a service to Porto in northern Portugal from Heathrow, and will re-open its route between London city and Faro for July and August.

In other airline news, Portugal’s national carrier, TAP Portugal, has reported full-year net income of €34 million for 2013, which is more than double the airline’s €15.9 million profit reported for 2012. The results reflect a fifth consecutive year of profitability for the Lisbon-based airline, which carried 10.7 million passengers in 2013 – a 5.1 per cent increase on 2012’s 10.2 million passengers.

TAP’s positive results reflect the airline’s continued efforts to boost sales, particularly in international markets, and to improve efficiency by increasing productivity and reducing waste.  TAP has strengthened its contribution to the national economy, as reflected in the field of exports and in the growth in tourism. In 2014 TAP is going to add six aircraft to its fleet, which will enable it to offer ten new destinations — Belem, Manaus, Bogota, Panama City, Nantes, Gothenburg, Belgrade, Hannover, Tallinn and St. Petersburg — and to improve others. This represents an eight per cent increase in supply and is the biggest ever increase in a single year.