New Algarve tourism boss André Gomes believes the industry is stronger than ever and must continue to improve

Moving forward

– January 23, 2023 | Text Michael Bruxo | Photos Associação Turismo do Algarve (ATA)
© Algarve Tourism - Ilha do Farol 2
© Algarve Tourism – Farol Island

Opening up the Algarve to new markets and attracting new direct air links to Faro Airport is one of the main goals of the region’s new tourism boss, André Gomes. The announcement came in his first ever in-depth interview since taking up the position.

It has been a busy time for André Gomes since he took charge as the new president of the Algarve Tourism Board (Região de Turismo do Algarve, or RTA) in August 2023. One of his priorities is to reinforce the Algarve’s position in terms of air connectivity.

André Gomes, Presidente da Região Turismo do Algarve. Loulé, 22 Agosto 2023. FOTO: VASCO CÉLIO/STILLS
André Gomes, President of the Algarve Tourism Board, Loulé, August 2023 – FOTO: VASCO CÉLIO/STILLS

“It’s clearly one of our priorities. There is a strong focus on promoting our air routes from Faro,” he said, highlighting the growing number of American and Canadian holidaymakers seeking to discover the Algarve. “Having a direct connection with these markets would be advantageous for everyone. So, it’s clearly a worthwhile endeavour,” the tourism boss said.

“We also welcome, with great satisfaction, the new flights operated by SATA between the Azores and Faro, which will start in 2024. The Azores, with these new flights, could serve as a stopover for North American travellers coming to the Algarve,” said Gomes. [Editor’s note: No sooner had the RTA president expressed his feelings about improved air connectivity for the Algarve than news of a direct flight between Faro and New York/Newark (USA) had been announced by United Airlines to be launched on May 24, 2024.]

© Associação Turismo do Algarve (ATA) 9
© Associação Turismo do Algarve (ATA)

Whilst a slight decrease in Portuguese tourists in the Algarve made headlines in 2023, André Gomes believes the decrease was more than compensated by increases in other foreign markets. “We have to highlight the significant growth in other markets, which largely offset any potential decrease in the number of Portuguese visitors. Also important was the substantial growth we experienced in the first half of the year [January-May, still considered ‘low season’]”, a trend that was also seen later in the year – in October, occupancy rates were above 80%.

Once again, the North American market could play a key role in bolstering tourism numbers outside of the summer season. “It was already experiencing significant growth before the pandemic and now, in the post-pandemic period, it’s growing at a rate of over 80%. It’s an extremely interesting market, as it also represents investment opportunities – we just need to look at the number of hotels being acquired by funds backed by American companies and investors.” André Gomes also said that American and Canadian tourists are interested in more than just the Algarve’s sun and beaches, often preferring what the region has to offer in terms of nature tourism.

© Associação Turismo do Algarve (ATA)
© Associação Turismo do Algarve (ATA)

The Algarve’s recent history of hosting major international events – as well as training camps by world-famous football teams – has also been playing a major role in the establishment of the region’s international reputation.

But more can be done, André Gomes believes, and more government support is needed to do so. “It comes down to the government recognising that it’s worth investing in these types of events, just as it invests in events like the Web Summit, hosting the 2030 World Cup, and the World Youth Day. I believe there needs to be a clear and obvious acknowledgement that [the central government’s] investment in these large international events pays off,” he said.

The MotoGP Grand Prix held at the Algarve International Racetrack (AIA) in Portimão, the Volta ao Algarve cycling competition and the Portugal Masters golf tournament were highlighted by André Gomes as the three leading sports events held in the Algarve, despite the latter not being held in the region this year. “The issue of hosting major events in the Algarve largely depends on the funding provided by central government, which must exist and which I have advocated and fought for,” the tourism chief said.

Even hosting an F1 race, which the Algarve did in 2020 and 2021 when it served as a replacement for GPs cancelled in other parts of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, could be a reality once again with enough support from the government. “I wouldn’t say it’s unrealistic, especially because, in sports, opportunities do arise. Even in the current F1 season, at a certain point there was a possibility that a Grand Prix might not have taken place (which it eventually did), and we were pleased to see that Portimão and the AIA are always there as a homologated ‘backup’ with all the conditions to host these events,” André Gomes told us.

Sustainability commitment

André Gomes believes that the golf sector in the Algarve is often unjustly targeted for consuming too much water. “The golf sector, which is so often unfairly criticised when it comes to water consumption, consumes 6% of the water made available in the Algarve. There are other sectors, such as agriculture, which consume much more water,” he said.

“Nonetheless, the sector has already carried out or is carrying out multiple investments worth millions of euros in wastewater treatment plants, in monitoring systems which use cutting-edge technology to measure the humidity of golf courses to know when they need to be watered, and in planting different trees that do not require as much water,” Gomes added.

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