The prospect of yet another weak summer in the face of restrictions to contain the pandemic could lead to many companies not being able to withstand the winter.
Algarve businessmen crave tourists and anticipating yet another weak summer in the face of restrictions to contain the covid-19 pandemic fear that many companies will not be able to withstand the winter and go bankrupt.
Although, for many, the most common image of the Algarve continues to be the sun and the beach, it is the golf courses that at the end of winter “open” the tourist season in the region, attracting thousands of golfers, mainly British, to some departures in the mild climate of southern Europe.
For a few years now this has been the driving force behind the typical seasonal Algarve tourism during the low season, but the pandemic is causing a real "disaster" in the sector, since practitioners are prevented from playing.
300,000 rounds of golf that have not been played
"In the Algarve, we are in a very bad situation, because we only live on the tourist golfer, there are very few residents who play golf in the region. In the first three months of 2021 alone, there are more than 300,000 rounds of golf that have not been played. It is a disaster", regrets the administrator of the Pestana Group for golf.
Speaking to Lusa, José Matias recalls that there are already "two high seasons of golf without tourists", since in October last year, the other time of the year when the golf courses are full in the Algarve, "there was also confinement ".
The five golf courses that the group manages in the region represent 60,000 rounds not made in 2021, which is equivalent to losses of two million euros, underlines the also president of the Algarve Golfe association.
"Our August is now. The high season of golf is in winter, we are in our very high season", he stresses, surprising that, with the cases falling in the region, the modality "cannot be practiced", as "it already happens in Wood".
"Golf is played by individual people, in the open, does not share anything with the other player, neither the ball nor the golf clubs. Therefore, it is not understood that we are closed and other activities are open", he says.
Foreigners residing in golf ventures are "closed at home"
Many of the residents of the golf ventures are foreigners who bought a house to practice the sport and are "closed at home", only being able to go hiking on the courses, as is the case of a Dutch resident who approaches the Lusa report to ask José Matias when you can play. But the answer is vague: "Maybe after Easter".
The official reveals that they continue to "receive and reschedule reservations" from the English, Irish, Scots, Germans and Swedes, who are "eager to come and play golf for the Algarve", he stresses.
Closer to the sea, the dismay is similar, with some maritime-tourist companies in “very critical situation”, after a “very short” summer, without the British market that would allow them to collect revenue for the “crossing the desert” in the winter , points out Carlos Viegas.
"There are companies, at this moment, that have boats for sale, experiencing difficulties and the support is also not enough", stresses the businessman, who belongs to the board of the Portuguese Association of Companies of Congresses, Tourist Entertainment and Events (APECATE).
The hope now is that the "vaccination passport" may allow opening the air corridors and justify the resumption of activity, he says, warning that this summer "is going to be very short".
With the moratorium on credits ending in September, Carlos Viegas fears that many companies "cannot take it" another winter, after in 2020 they only managed to start operating in July.
"There are many families" living off six months of work
Another entrepreneur in the sector reports to Lusa that “there are many families” living on six months of work, but that they have to face the costs when “they are stopped”, which is not possible with just “a month or a month and means of work ”.
However, there is still some hope for this summer: “[O] United Kingdom here for us is the world, it is everything. If they open [os corredores aéreos] and we have good expectations and no pandemics and confinements, I think we will have a good summer ”, estimates Pedro Gregório.
In the restaurant area, optimism does not reign and a stroll through the streets of Albufeira in the last days of March reveals a city stripped of the usual excitement that many British tourists bring at this time of year to what is called “the capital of tourism” in the Algarve.
In Praia da Oura, the main entertainment area in the city, one of the beach support bars is subject to maintenance, but forecasts for opening, for now, "there is not" and everything is dependent on the "opening of the air corridors", he tells the Lusa the owner.
"If there is no tourism it is not worth opening"
"I'm doing maintenance. I don't know when I'm going to open and if there is no tourism, it's not worth opening, because last year I had to pay 38 employees for three months as if they were working and they were at home", assumes Jorge Brito.
The businessman reveals that "at this time" – March and April – English bachelor parties are often an "important source of income" and that they came to mean "more profit than in July or August".
Forecasts for the summer do not make, since in Praia da Oura, "90% of the clientele is British", and everything depends on the opening, or not, of the air corridors with Portugal.