Algarve and tourism

Tourism pier in old Faro. The airport is in the foreground

The tourism development of Algarve, the southernmost region of continental Portugal, began in the 1970s. This development has boosted the local economies, especially in the coastal areas, as the sun and beach model has been the norm.

The integration of the Faro airport into the low cost airlines networks has helped to increase the tourism arrivals to the area, which receives mainly by Britons, Germans and Spaniards.

The coastal landscape, with beaches and high cliffs, is interesting, and but for some limited exceptions it is less disturbed that in the Spanish Mediterranean coast. But there are also more deficits in streets and services networks; a development pattern in which urban planning is more a tool to confirm previous real estate structures than to create urban quality is equally present. Developing the area later than in Spain has allowed to learn from the experience, but the shortfalls of the public space and infrastructure (not in central cities, but on newly developed areas) and the lack of coherence of some urban projects can make this advantage short lived.

Biblio (6) Tourism planning in Portugal

The Plano Estrategico Nacional do Turismo de Portugal de 2007 (PENT) (Resolution of the Council of Ministers 61/2007, adopted on february 13, 2007) is a document approved before the present economic crisis, which has provoked substantial reductions in public expenditure in Portugal. It is a document that illustrates a vision of the role of tourism in a small European economy that configures a tourist market that can be considered as an alternative to the Spanish one.

In 2004 tourism in Portugal represented 11% of GDP, with a descending trend in world market share, a relevant dependence on four client countries, and three main regions (Algarve, Lisbon and Madeira) touched by seasonal oscillation of demand and limitations in air links.

The Plan defines three kinds of markets:

–           Strategic markets (Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and France)

–           Markets ripe for consolidation

–           Markets for diversification, including China

The plan also defines 10 strategic tourist products:

–           Sun and sea

–           Cultural and landscape touring

–           City Break

–           Convention tourism

–           Nature tourism

–           Nautical tourism

–           Health and wellness

–           Golf

–           Integrated resorts and residential tourism

–           Food and wine

Priorities are defined for each region of the country. The strategic actions include 6 new tourist nodes to diversify the offer:

–           Douro: Porto wine and food, wineries, heritage, local culture and a combined offer with urban tourism in Porto.

–           Serra da Estrela: snow, natural park, rural hamlets, food and local culture

–           West: castles, churches and monasteries; golf, food and wine; beaches and a combined offer with urban tourism in Lisbon

–           Alqueva reservoir: new lake, food and wine, Evora and historical hamlets

–           Alentejo coast: climate, unexploited beaches, natural parks and areas, combined offer with urban tourism in Lisbon

–           Porto Santo (Madeira): climate, beaches, natural heritage, golf and a combined offer with tourism in Madeira.

The document specifies that PENT implies parallel measures to ensure coherence with regional level spatial planning. From a territorial viewpoint, the actions with the highest potential impact are those of Alqueva (which has implied in recent years the approval of many development plans for tourism housing with thousands of beds) and of Porto Santo; the effect of the current crisis on these projects is relevant.