There is no future without tourism – nor without sustainability

The future of tourism was in focus on the last day of AHP's 32nd National Congress of Hotel and Tourism, which took place in Albufeira

The President of the Republic in Congress – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação

«Without tourism, there is no future», but the future of tourism in the Algarve necessarily involves a concern with sustainability and a serious look at the territory, for those who live there and for the enhancement of human resources.

These were some of the strong ideas that resulted from the last day of the 32nd National Congress of Hotel and Tourism, in which, in addition to the panel “Algarve: where are the threats and opportunities?”, spoke the President of the Republic and Rita Marques, secretary of State of Tourism.

And the message left by the various participants in this final stretch of the congress of the Hotel Association of Portugal, which took place between the 10th and the 12th at the NAU Salgados Palace hotel, in Albufeira, was that tourism has a future, but that work needs to be done. it, so that it is laughing.

«We are already in the full rebirth of tourism in Portugal. And the important thing is to rebuild, not resume. What we are building is different, in a context and with different challenges», warned Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who closed the congress.

«Tourism is fundamental for the Algarve, but it is not enough. There are territorial, social and other activities-related issues. Tourism is very important, but it is not the only important one», added the President of the Republic.

"Those who make the most progress are those who value human capital," he warned, referring to one of the hot topics at the congress, the lack of manpower.


President of the Republic in Congress – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Earlier, the Head of State had already stated that “tourism is the future and the future, to a large extent, is tourism”, an idea in line with that which Rita Marques had left moments before, in her speech.

“Tourism had, has and will have a future. I would say more: without tourism there is no future," said the official, who argues that this sector should be the "engine and farol of the economy'.

Earlier, during the session dedicated to the region hosting the congress, Marta Cabral, executive director of Rota Vicentina, was, as expected, a warning voice for sustainability and territorial issues.

"Tourism will only be sustainable when the priority is the territory and the people who live there", he believes.

The solution is to invest in culture and identity, which tourism “needs”.


Marta Cabral – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


But for activities linked to the territory and tradition to be really attractive, "there must be long and sustained investment", based on networking and in which economic results are not expected in the short term, believes Marta Cabral.

João Soares, AHP representative in the Algarve and who moderated, with hotelier Rodrigo Machaz, the panel “Algarve: where are the threats and opportunities?” makes the same relationship between tourism and territory. "It's the future, there's no going back," he said.

In addition to Marta Cabral, João Fernandes, president of the Algarve Tourism Region, and Mário Azevedo Ferreira, CEO of the NAU Hotels & Resorts Group, participated in this panel. The qualification was guaranteed by Eduardo Abreu, partner at Neoturis, the keynote speaker the panel.

The basis for the conversation that would follow was launched by this specialist, who immediately drew attention to the changes that have been taking place in the sector, in the Algarve, in recent years.


Photos: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


“Portugal and the United Kingdom represented around 50% of the market this summer. But the weight of these two markets was already 60%”, he illustrated.

At the same time, markets that were not so expressive before, «such as Brazil, France, the United States of America or Italy, grew by around 30%».

«It can be said that the basis for comparison is low, but they are already starting to be expressive numbers. With the French coming to the Algarve, we could fill this hotel 12 times, throughout the year», exemplified Eduardo Abreu.

"This indicates that UK dependency is fading, which is good," he added.

On the other hand, the same specialist pointed out that the performance of the Algarve, in the low season months, has grown at a rate greater than the annual average for the region. In other words, “there is a blurring of seasonality”.

As for the main threats, Eduardo Abreu pointed out «the geographic and product concentration – sun and beach and golf», and the planning of the territory, taking into account «the diversity of plans that exist (I gave up at 554)», something that, in his vision, "is harmful".

The “obligations” faced by entrepreneurs, the many entities involved in licensing and the lengthy bureaucratic processes, as well as the “scarcity of human resources”, are other identified threats.

As for opportunities, they include the potential integration of the hotel and residential tourism segments, which do not have to "have their backs turned" and which can be complementary, as well as "the capitalization of recent and announced investment", namely abroad.


Mário Azevedo Ferreira – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Mário Ferreira, from the Nau Hotels group, was particularly concerned about the workforce, even assuring that hoteliers are "being terrified of the prospect for 2022".

The hotel manager considered that, in the Algarve, there is "an imbalance between the dominant activity and the distribution of employment", since there are activities that take a larger share of the available labor than their weight in the economy . Tourism, on the other hand, loses out in this comparison.

In Mário Ferreira's view, in addition to poor distribution, there is a deficit of active population in the region. "The Algarve needs another 50 to 60 thousand people" of working age, he said.

However, attracting this workforce is difficult, considering that affordable housing is something that is scarce in the Algarve.

“The main reason is that there is no housing, that is the big problem. (…) The Algarve is extremely attractive for tourists, but not for attracting and retaining active residents. There is a huge difficulty in hiring doctors, nurses, teachers and security forces, mainly due to the lack of housing», believes the CEO of Nau Hotels.

The same official also points out the "lack of a transport network" and "a labor law that is not employment-friendly, rigid, generic, inspired by the industry and not suitable for a region affected by seasonality" as obstacles to solving the problems of human Resources.


João Fernandes- Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


João Fernandes ended up being the defender of the public sector, from the outset of the local authorities, which «have been at the forefront of solutions», recalling «basic sanitation and waste collection», which are a strong commitment of the Algarve Councils for the past decades, thinking about tourism.

On the other hand, there are plans outlined, at the municipal level, in the Algarve, to create affordable housing and central government funding to leverage existing projects.

In other areas, the Algarve ends up being harmed by being a region in phasing out of the European Union's Convergence Goal, where the poorest regions are located, which means that they do not have access to as many community funds.

"There are many plans, what is often lacking is the funding to implement them", believes the president of RTA.

"I defend regionalization as a way to solve many of the existing problems, namely in terms of bureaucracy", said João Fernandes.

Despite the problems facing the sector, João Soares, who is also a hotel manager, in this case from the D. José Beach Hotel, closed the panel with a note of hope: «I think 2022 will be a good tourist year».

"I leave here convinced that we are going to have a different and better Algarve", he concluded.


Photos: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação