With last year being a record year for tourism in Portugal and the Algarve, discover the trends and changes predicted for 2018 in this crucial market economy.
Off-season popularity of Portugal and the Algarve grows
A big trend for 2018 is also the off-season popularity of tourism in Portugal. Being mostly known as a summer destination, the recent statistics of the number of tourists during other seasons, with a special emphasis on the number of visitors in Portugal during winter, is proof of the increasing popularity of Portugal throughout the entire year.
António Costa, the Portuguese prime-minister, has recently expressed his opinion on the matter, stating that it is not only tourism in the peak season that is growing, but mostly the off-season tourism, emphasising that in the first semester of 2017 there was an increase of 20% in the number of people flying to national airports. The prime-minister spoke during the inauguration of the recent and improved Faro Airport, one of the many infrastructures being renewed by the government in the hopes of attracting even more tourists, adding that a diversified and better quality offering has managed a shift in the touristic paradigm in Portugal. World renowned golf courses all over the Algarve and Portugal, a pleasant and mild weather with temperatures around 15degC in Algarve, plus the region’s more than 300 days of sunshine, make it a perfect off-season destination.
In fact, the Algarve is becoming more and more popular as an out-of-season destination, with most of its attractions and activities extending its working schedule, so as to catch other months apart from June to September, as is the case with most water parks. Activities such as paintball, horseback riding, buggy safari, karting, stand up paddle (SUP), surfing, tennis, renting private charters and mountain biking are among the most popular attractions one can try during the whole year (see here for further details). With its low prices, delicious food, plenty of night clubs and pubs, the Algarve is not only the perfect destination for summer holidays but for the entire year.
Job vacancies increase due to lack of accommodation
A trend for tourism in the Algarve is also the lack of qualified labour to address the number of tourists in the Algarve. This constant problem is expected to be aggravated this year, in part due to the decreasing rate of unemployment, with the Algarve having the second lowest unemployment rate of Portugal for the second half of 2017, and also due to the increasing difficulty in finding accommodation.
Increasing rents and the growth of companies like Airbnb or Booking.com mean that many properties traditionally available for rent by seasonal workers for periods of 3-6 months, have been changed by the owners to holiday lets which are typically available for 1-2 weeks at vastly inflated prices. This has discouraged many potential workers from travelling from other areas of Portugal to the Algarve for the crucial summer season and exacerbating the labour short-fall.
The low unemployment rate is also proof that there are more job positions than workers willing to fill them. The most wanted professionals are waitresses, cleaning employees or chefs and since most of the time there are not enough qualified people, companies end up hiring interns, which leads to lower salaries.
Workers from other parts of Portugal help the Algarve and its 300 000 residents to answer the demand of the about 12 million tourists that visit the region every year, however the increasing difficulties in finding somewhere to live can make it even more complicated to find a solution for the problem.
Safety first as Portugal is elected the third most peaceful country in the world
Another trend for 2018 is the growing popularity of Portugal and the resorts in the Algarve due to being perceived as safe destinations and with a very stable political regime. Portugal was voted the third most peaceful country in the world by the Global Peace Index in 2017. Excellent recovery economic signs after the Financial Crises of 2008 which resulted in stronger internal stability led the Institute for Economics and Peace to award Portugal with the third position (a better position than the 5th place of 2016).
Being perceived as one of the most peaceful countries in the world helps tourists to feel comfortable in choosing Portugal as a holiday destination. Such index has particularly influenced tourism in the Algarve, with the resorts being more booked than ever. An atmosphere of instability as a direct consequence of the recent terrorist attacks in North Africa like Turkey, Egypt or Tunisia, has forced tourists to look for other options. The sunny and coastal Algarve, filled with some of the best resorts in the world, has been the chosen alternative and the prospects are for this recent boom to keep going in 2018. Prevalent destinations in Europe such as France, Sweden or Belgium are now seen as unsafe options, allowing for untraditional markets such as India, China or the United States to focus their curiosity in a country capable of offering beach vacations as well as historic retreats in cities like Lisbon or Porto.
Airbnb grows in popularity in Portugal and in the Algarve
One of the biggest trends in tourism for 2018 is the growing popularity of Airbnb. Airbnb is an electronic platform which allows for renting houses and rooms. This is part of the famous peer-to-peer economy, where a decentralized model allows for two individuals to interact to buy or sell goods and services directly with each other, without intermediation by a third-party.
Two articles from December 2017 from Jornal de Negócios examine how Airbnb intends on expanding its business in Portugal and, in particular, in the Algarve. One way to do that is by associating itself with the organisation Tourism of Portugal, where Airbnb hosts can now register as hosts in the Tourism of Portugal association as well. This comes as no surprise after Airbnb grew 28% in the number of houses listed in the platform in Portugal (there are now more than 60 000 rooms available) and after an increase in the number of foreigners visiting Portugal and staying with Airbnb of 59% in 2017.
Airbnb has become so popular in Portugal, that 25% of Lisbon’s population has used Airbnb as either a host or guest, numbers similar to cities like Paris or San Francisco. In fact, the region of Algarve is among the 3 most sought out regions for holiday destinations, reports Arnaldo Munõz, general-director of the platform for the Iberian Peninsula, and three cities of the Algarve appear in the top 10 ranking for Airbnb’s most welcoming cities in Portugal (Lagos in 4th, Portimão in 8th and Albufeira in the 10th place). Algarve is also a popular destination for Portuguese citizens as well, as Airbnb reports that it is the most desired region for tourism for people older than 60 years old.
Another evident example of how Airbnb is definitely a trend for tourism in 2018 comes from the newspaper Público. An article from November 2017 discusses how Airbnb is planning on becoming a family friendly platform looking to complement its urbanistic and leisure options by offering shows, tour guides or dinners in exotic locations. Lisbon was one of the first cities in Europe to welcome this pilot experience, precisely due to its popularity. But above all, the most exciting thing about Portugal is its potential to grow as stated by Arnaldo Munõz. The fact that Portugal has created a 5 year strategic plan on how to grow its tourism and a strong law from 2014 recognizing homesharing allows for Airbnb and other similar companies to see Portugal as the perfect country to expand their businesses.