In the ten minutes that elapsed between the news that Portugal was finally off the red list and my conversation with Rúben Paula, COO of JJW Hotels, he received bookings for more than 90 nights at his properties. There was palpable relief in his voice.
He explained: ‘Although this is too late to save our summer, the timing for the golf, which is an enormously important part of our market, is excellent. Whereas in summer we get the Portuguese and Spanish and French staying, although in lesser numbers than our regular British guests who have been missing this year, the golf crowd are exclusively British. So this news, at last, gives us great hope for September and October.’
A little further along the Algarve coast, Vila Vita Parc’s sales director Katya Bauval, echoed these thoughts: ‘We are sad not to have had the British who are actually our highest spending guests, but we have loyal German visitors, and many Portuguese visitors came for the first time this year, which has helped us. And now, bookings are pouring in from the United Kingdom. Since last night,’ she told me this morning, ‘we have had 51 bookings from the UK for August alone. And we are hoping with the exciting announcement that Formula 1 will take place in the Algarve this October British racing fans will come through our doors too’.
Four Seasons Fairways, in the upmarket Quinta do Lago area, has also seen an immediate rise in bookings since yesterday, with their offering of 132 colonial-style villas and apartments with their own private pool or hot tub finding favour.
For many, this reprieve offers a last chance of a summer break before schools return. Long popular with families, the Algarve is hot long into September with the sea this year warmer than I have ever known it in my 19 years here. With the Portuguese slowly returning northwards after their own holidays the beaches are emptying out ready for a British invasion which will, despite everything, be so very welcome.
Capital Lisbon has been hit even more than the Algarve in terms of visitor numbers, with people avoiding cities. Right now, occupancy is, according to Nick Roucos, GM of Bomporto Hotels, is averaging about 15 per cent at his Lumiares and Vintage hotels. The popularity of their roof-top restaurants and bars has kept them afloat during the summer but already he was seeing reservations beginning to come in last night.
Up in the Douro Valley and in Porto, hotels have been busy with Portuguese staycationers, although this harvest time traditionally sees British visitors.
‘It literally, immediately exploded’ was what Nick Yarnell, GM at the luxurious Six Senses Douro Valley, said about bookings coming in from the UK after the announcement was made. ‘Some of the bookings are already for this weekend. I am just sitting with my team right now to try and accommodate all the requests’.
Finally, a happy problem.
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