There has been discussion recently, in the local press about what tourists and in particular Brits, do, when they invade the Algarve in the summer. Some bring cash and swimming costumes. Some come to party and some to relax. Some come to learn about the culture. There have been suggestions that tourists do not seem to have spent much this year. As the Algarve depends upon tourism, its more than a shame that tourists are holding onto their cash when they get here.
The Algarve offers so much, but look behind the festivals, beaches and restaurants, it could still do better. Tourist offices are often closed during the high season, not just for long lunches, but like the one in Silves, in August, just closed. This tourist office has been vandalised. It has broken windows and graffiti. What message is this sending?
It is well know that information about events is poor and many tourists find out what is going on by accident. But even knowing what is going does not necessarily mean visitors will spend given the current economic climate.
There is of course all sorts of aspects to the reduced amount of spending. Some British home owners seem to have had a little difficulty, this year, renting their properties which has meant in some cases a reduction in cost, with bargains being picked up by tourists from the UK. Bargain hunters are not necessarily the drunks that make themselves easy targets for criminals. But does getting something for less make you appreciate the bargain less? I heard of more than one home being wrecked this year and one place needing to be repainted and compensation given to the guests who followed. I have also heard of one home owner, who is now not going to offer their property again. The guests that tipped the balance for them, were some educated, employed professionals who during their two week stay threw all their rubbish outside the back door including stinking nappies. They also left an over flowing bin inside the house with stinking nappies and a wet bed. When asked to cover the costs of cleaning up their mess they basically said F*** O** Nice people!
These attitudes are not caused by economic problems. These are choices that people are making, because they do not give a damn. Some Brits who come to Portugal seem to have lost old fashioned courtesy, if they even had it. Of course there are lots that would not be so abusive and come year after year, for the culture, the richness of the environment and the people. Lets hope they will continue to come and add to the diversity of the region.
One Tourist Office that seems to be getting it right is the Tavira office. It was remodelled before the summer rush and is now in a prominent place in the main square. The staff seem friendlier and maps of Tavira are now freely available. A year ago, getting a map was not easy and getting two was impossible. The multilingual staff, smile and are polite.
If the tourists offices, stay open, train their staff in customer relations and continue to promote the cultural aspects of Portugal, along with opportunities to party and play golf, then the tourists that come will be better informed and perhaps spend a little more. What the Algarve does about attracting Brits who have some decent values, is not that simple though.