With no Brits, cash-strapped Algarve continues to fight for survival
In his near-empty pub in the Algarve in southern Portugal, Samuel Tilley is fuming that coronavirus regulations in his home country of Britain are keeping tourists away, further jeopardizing an already gloomy summer season.
img decoding=”async” src=”http://algarvedailynews.com/images/news2/87algarve-struggle.jpg” alt=”87algarve struggle” width=”160″ height=”107″ style=”margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; float: left;” />In his near-empty pub in the Algarve in southern Portugal, Samuel Tilley is fuming that coronavirus regulations in his home country of Britain are keeping tourists away, further jeopardizing an already gloomy summer season.
span style=”font-size: 1rem; caret-color: auto;”>Usually packed with tourists at this time of the year, Vilamoura is quiet, leaving bar staff at Tilley’s O’Neills pub without much to do but brood over Britain’s decision to leave Portugal off a list of more than 50 countries safe enough for travel without restrictions.“It was very shocking. I don’t believe there’s any logic behind it,” Tilley told the Reuters news agency.
“There are some wonderful people here in the Algarve and beyond and I feel this decision by the British government really hurt them.”
Portugal initially won praise for its quick response to the pandemic but a persistent count of several hundred new cases per day concentrated in and around Lisbon in the past two months has worried authorities within Portugal and abroad, leading Britain and other European nations to impose restrictions on Portugal. This deprived the Algarve’s tourism-driven economy of his primary resource.
Last year, Portugal welcomed about 2 million Britons, with 64% of them heading to the Algarve. So far in 2020, only 92,000 Britons have made it the region.
Sunbeds are left empty and lonely waiters stand outside restaurants with menus in hand but no holidaymakers to speak to. “It used to be so busy that you would stand shoulder to shoulder,” Welsh tourist Nadine said as she walked around nearly empty streets in nearby Albufeira.
Eliseu Correia, head of the Algarve-based destination management company EC Travel, said not being included in the British safe travel list had been devastating for his business, with revenues dropping around 60% this year compared to 2019.
“It is obviously a tremendous hit on everybody,” he said. “We had no revenue in March, April, May, June…so we were counting on that.”
Britons pumped around 3.2 billion euros into Portugal’s economy last year and without that cash, the Algarve’s businesses, which mainly rely on the busy summer months to make ends meet, will find themselves in a tight spot.
The travel list, which allows holidaymakers to dodge a 14-day quarantine upon returning home, is expected to be reviewed by next Monday but, even if Portugal is put on the list then, it might be too late.
“It is obvious part of the damage can’t be reversed,” said Eliderico Viegas, President of Algarve’s AHETA hotel association. “Many people have already opted for other destinations.”
On average, the Algarve’s hotels, which are usually fully booked in July and August, are currently surviving with only 40% occupancy, according to AHETA.
The Algarve saw its number of registered unemployed in June rise 231% compared to the same period last year, increasing from around 8,000 to more than 26,000 people.
Most rely on the so-called seasonal jobs, which were wiped out as demand collapsed and businesses closed doors. The government has acknowledged the Algarve needs urgent help, and announced on Tuesday it would spend 300 million euros to support its struggling economy.