This topic generated several opinions in various media outlets and highlighted the 4% reduction in national tourists in the Algarve this summer. The diversity of opinions is great, focusing on aspects such as prices, quality of services, competition from other tourist destinations outside Portugal with more competitive prices, discrimination in service between national and foreign tourists, etc.
Living in a democratic country with freedom of expression, I can't help but be outraged, not to say shocked, by so much unfair, little-reflected criticism, even bordering on tame resentment.
The Algarve, like the entire country, suffered a general rise in prices for goods and services.
The Portuguese middle class became impoverished and this did not originate from the prices charged by the Algarve tourist offer.
Portugal has one of the highest tax burdens in Europe and has suffered wage devaluation caused by underlying inflation, coupled with the increase in production costs for raw materials and energy resulting from the war in Ukraine.
The region, however, has different prices for the different economic segments that visit it. A stay in Quarteira has a different price than Quinta do Lago. When comparing tourism prices, you have to settle by region, as there are several Algarves and not just “ALGARVE”.
In relation to competition from other destinations, namely the south of Spain, any tourist has the freedom to choose what suits them best, taking into account their financial, family or other expectations.
Comparing, for example, the beaches of southern Spain with the Algarve, with all due respect to those who do so, must suffer from proportional bias syndrome. The beaches in the Algarve were considered among the best in the world; therefore, the comparison measures are disproportionate to say the least.
Apart from the aesthetic factor, if we talk about the service, I don't see any difference, except in the salary of the Spanish worker, which is much higher than the Portuguese.
Is the cuisine poor? One of the many interviewees said something like “Apart from Guia chicken, the Algarve doesn’t have any other relevant food.” This opinion infers from several distortions. It's like someone saying that in Porto you only eat francesinhas and nothing else interesting!!
One of them is to reveal, on the part of the sender, a total ignorance of this region. I could tell you about Santa Luzia, known as the capital of octopus, to taste more than 50 ways to cook it with unparalleled flavors, or tuna glanders or razor clam feijoada or even live horse mackerel.
Such ignorance, proclaimed on the radio, cannot be overcome in a short time, and I prefer to leave this entity to the taste of the illusory wisdom of Algarve gastronomy.
As for discrimination in service and care, which some participants felt when they spent their holidays in the Algarve, in relation to foreigners, due to their greater purchasing power, I believe that this feeling exists. However, if you are in Felgueiras, and you are with a businessman who exports shoes and a Portuguese customer appears to order 1000 pairs of shoes, and another, a German, 100000, does anyone think that Portuguese patriotism would prevail in the North? Who do you think would be served first? Who would have a more personal treatment?
I conclude that Tourism, particularly in the Algarve, has been the main driver of the Portuguese economy, in the export sector. I would add to this fact that the Algarve region has been the region most negatively discriminated against in relation to community funds, as it was considered ineligible in some parameters.
However, it is a region that thrives on low wages and seasonal employment. The SNS is one of the most limited in terms of human and financial resources in the country, due to a lack of investment from the State. Ditto for Transport, Education and Justice.
It is a fact that the occupation of territory in the Algarve was uncoordinated, chaotic in some cases and aberrant in others. Its territory was, over the years, massacred with construction, not following any plan. And the rest of our central and northern coast, is it better?
I end with this statement: The Algarve region has been treated, and badly, like a hotel room for national tourism. I would like to see this area of southern Portugal treated with the due respect and justice it deserves.
Author Armando Barata is an economist and certified accountant
Note: article published under the protocol between the Sul Informação and the Algarve Delegation of the Order of Economists