The UK is spearheading a surge in tourist numbers to Portugal, proving that the Algarve remains a firm favourite with British holidaymakers, as well as owners of Portuguese property.
According to the president of the Portuguese Tourist Board, British visitors to Portugal grew by 15 per cent year-on-year between January and August 2014, reaching 142,000 visitors. Overall, foreign visitors for this period increased by 12 per cent year-on-year. It’s not only the Algarve that draws people to Portugal – Lisbon saw a 25 per cent rise in international visitors.
The Portuguese Tourist Board believes much of this growth is thanks to a shift in its marketing strategy, namely to move most of it on-line. Either way, it is good news for homeowners who let property in the Algarve – more interest in the regions should secure more holidaymakers who rent property.
This encouraging news signals a bumper year ahead for Portugal in terms of tourism, helped by no less than 600 new flights planned to the country throughout 2015. These include 350 new services from British Airways – mainly to the Algarve, Madeira and the north of Portugal – as well as easyJet, Norwegian, Flybe and Thomson.
Meanwhile, national carrier TAP Portugal announced at the recent World Travel Market exhibition that it is increasing the frequency of its Lisbon service from the UK next year. From summer 2015, TAP will operate 10 flights a week each from Manchester and London Gatwick to Lisbon.
TAP will also launch four new destinations in South and Central America, namely Manaus and Belém in Brazil, Bogota in Colombia and Panama City.
Big news amongst golfers in the Algarve this month is the opening of Quinta do Lago’s new North Course, on 7th October.
The course has been totally redesigned by renowned American architect Beau Welling, in collaboration with Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, with the revamp costing around €9.6million. It also reinforces why Quinta do Lago is one of the most desirable places to own property in the Algarve.
The new North Course has been redeveloped with the emphasis firmly on precision and strategy. While many modern-day developments tend to focus on length, Welling and McGinley were keen to design a golfing experience where accuracy and course management are the key factors, as well as make the course playable and fun for golfers of all abilities.
All greens, tees, bunkers, irrigation, drainage systems and cart paths have been rebuilt using the latest state-of-the-art technology, with multiple sets of tees introduced on each hole to accommodate players of all levels and a new all-encompassing short game area.
While the routing of the course has not changed, Quinta do Lago has addressed golf course strategy to make the par-72 layout significantly more playable for all golfers, while still being a challenging test for the better players.
McGinley said: “I’ve been coming to Quinta do Lago with my family for many years now and it keeps getting better and better. The new design will test golfers in many different ways and I believe this is a great addition to Europe’s leading destination.”
And John Dwyer, chief executive of Quinta do Lago, commented: “I think people will be blown away by the North Course. It is going to be very different but very playable and a real challenge, and it will be one that members and visitors will want to play again and again.”
With the Ryder Cup done and dusted, golf fans around the world can now switch their attention from Scotland to Portugal for the Portugal Masters, which takes place in the Algarve 9th-12th October.
The tournament will take place at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Course, an Arnold Palmer course in the resort of Vilamoura, close to Faro Airport and a popular place to own property in the Algarve.
The Oceanico Victoria, which covers around 90 hectares, is Portugal’s most recent golf course project in Portugal and described as one of the most sophisticated golf courses in Europe. Several lakes, occupying 13 hectares, provide mirrors of water and strategic reservoirs for irrigation.
The course has five or six tees per hole; wide, undulating fairways; extensive water hazards and cleverly positioned bunkers. In addition there is an exceptional driving range and a 2,500-square-metre putting. Oceanico Victoria was host to the PGA World Cup in 2005.
Property in Vilamoura is sought after, thanks to the area’s world-class golfing facilities, the resort’s marina with selection of bars and restaurants and its balmy year-round climate. The Portugal Masters will put the area in the global spotlight and showcase the best of Portugal’s golf facilities, as well as what’s available in the Portuguese real estate market.
At the Portugal Masters 2013, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson had spectators on a knife edge at the 18th when he came close to becoming the first player to score a sub-60 on the European Tour – unfortunately his chip stayed out.
Confirming the Algarve’s reputation as one of the best places in the world to play golf, England Golf, the governing body for all amateur golf in the UK, has announced that Quinta do Lago is to become the new winter training base for its national squads.
In a four-year partnership, the England Golf squads for men, ladies, boys and girls will stay at Quinta do Lago and have access to the resort’s South and North courses, the driving range and practice facilities, including the resort’s Paul McGinley Academy, and the new TaylorMade Fitting Center.
David Joy, chief executive of England Golf, said: “We are delighted to have Quinta do Lago as our partner. Their facilities are outstanding and having access to these during the winter period will bring real benefits to our performance programme and I am sure be appreciated by our squads.
“This relationship will make a great contribution to the identification and development of our most talented golfers and our ambition to achieve even more international success for English players.”
Quinta do Lago has become one of Europe’s most highly regarded golf and residential developments since opening in 1972. It is home to some of the most desirable property in Portugal, with luxury villas there attracting celebrity owner.
Since its creation, the resort has been at the forefront of golf in the Algarve with three 18-hole championship courses. This autumn the North Course will reopen as part of a €29million investment in the resort’s facilities.
John Dywer, chief executive at Quinta do Lago, commented: “Quinta do Lago is delighted to be partnering with England Golf on this new project and we’re looking forward to welcoming England’s new crop of stars to the resort over the next four years. We have undertaken a significant upgrade of our golf course and teaching facilities over the last five years and this new association is a ringing endorsement for all the hard work that has taken place to make the resort one of Europe’s top sports and leisure destinations.”
Resorts in the central and western Algarve are famous for world-class golf, but head west and one resort is making a name around the world for another activity – surfing.
The 100-acre Martinhal Beach Resort in Sagres is the first 5-star surf destination in Portugal. Surrounded by the Costa Vicentina National Park, it has been recognized as a surf hot spot in Europe, even in the winter months thanks to the Algarve’s balmy year-round climate.
Sagres is becoming recognized as one of the best surf spots, offering both south and west-facing coastlines and providing fine surf conditions for all surfer levels, regardless of the swell and wind direction. There are 22 beaches within a 30-minute drive from the resort. For beginners, the best beaches are Castelejo, Amado, Carrapateira and Arrifana, while more experienced surfers can enjoy beaches at Ponta Ruiva, Cordoama and Vale Figueiras.
Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel offers surf adventures for all the family. Experienced surfer instructors provide surf lessons on a daily basis for different ages and skills, keeping everyone focused on catching the best wave. During the lessons, kids and adults will learn about surf safety information, ocean awareness and different surf techniques needed to stand on the board. All the necessary equipment is included.
The resort features a 37 bedroom 5-star hotel and a selection of more than 150 spacious 1 to 5 bedroom Villages, 4 heated pools, gym, Spa with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, tennis courts, kids clubs, 3 restaurants and a family surf bar.
For residents or owners of property on the Algarve, learning to surf at Martinhal could make an exciting break away from the golf course.
Portugal’s appeal to foreign investors is continuing to grow, after reports in July confirmed that the country’s Golden Visa investment scheme has earned Portugal more in revenue during the first six months of 2014 than it did during the whole of last year.
According to Portugal’s SEF immigration office, by June the amount of funds brought into the country by Golden Visa candidates had reached €417 million, €100 million more than the €307 million generated by the scheme during the whole of 2013. A total of 670 new Golden Visas were issued during the first six months of 2014. This is good news for the mid to high end of the property market in Portugal, which in includes luxury villas in the Algarve.
The Golden Visa scheme gives foreign investors from outside the EU who invest in private property or a company in Portugal the right to live in the country. Successful candidates are also free to travel around the EU, thanks to the Schengen Agreement, and after six years they can apply for Portuguese citizenship.
To qualify for the Golden Visa scheme, candidates have the choice of investing €1 million in a public or private company or fund, setting up a business and creating 10 new jobs or buying property, which can be any type commercial, residential or land for a minimum value of €500,000.
Property can be owned jointly and loans can be obtained to finance properties over and above the €500,000 equity stake. An applicant can apply to bring his or her spouse and his under age children as well as those who are students, who do not have to be in full time education as long as they are attending a recognised course. Dependent parents (ie, those who are over retirement age) may also join the applicant.