Algarve

Portugal

The Algarve has always been one of Europe’s biggest holiday spots and, as tourism returns, it is poised to bounce back strongly.

It’s long been one of the most popular tourist destinations for Brits looking for a place in the Sun. However, a year and a half of COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on tourism leaving some to question whether it’s still the sure bet it always has been. The good news is that, yes. As tourism returns, hotspots such as the Algarve will be as sought after as ever.

Tourism

Stretching along Portugal’s beautiful south coast and looking out onto the Atlantic the Algarve offers an incredibly varied experience. For families looking for beach holidays there is a host of world class beaches and resorts. The towns offer the benefit of a buzzing night light, and waterparks which will keep the kids – and some adults – entertained all day.

For those who want to get away from it all, there are beautiful whitewashed fishing villages where you can experience a more authentic way of life. The Algarve is often associated with traditional tourist resorts and packed beaches, which might put off some people. However, with more than 200 miles of coastline there are plenty of more secluded beaches if you know where to look.

Turning inland things get very different with mountain landscapes, spectacular scenery and tranquil nature reserves. As tourist destinations go it has everything. It’s hassle free with plenty of amenities, good connections and a welcoming population. English is spoken widely in a region which has long positioned itself to cater for tourists.

Even so the last year has been tough. With lockdown in place and travel restricted, the 2020 tourism season was something of a write off. Things will be a little better in 2021 but it is likely to be only in 2022, when the pandemic is truly behind us, that we can expect to see a return to normal.

Despite the uncertainties of COVID-19 and the possibility of further increases in numbers, experts are cautiously optimistic with the government expecting tourism to grow by around 30% in 2020. In 2022, things are likely to really pick up and we may see something of an elastic band impact as people – starved of foreign holidays – do everything in their power to get out there once again. The cash starved Algarve tourism industry is beginning to look optimistic.

Economy

As with tourism, the Portuguese economy has not escaped COVID-19 unscathed. The economy shrank 3.3% in the first quarter of 2021. As the pandemic drags on the government has been forced to cut its growth forecasts for the post pandemic recovery to 4% from over 5%.

However, growth is still expected to come – it’s simply a question of how quickly restrictions can be lifted and when the economy can get back to normal.

The underlying picture of the Portuguese economy is somewhat healthier. Prior to the pandemic the Portuguese economy had been one of the success stories of Europe. After the crisis of 2008, it had recovered strongly attracting private investment and seeing GDP take a leap forward.

Private investment returned and with it a surge in property prices. Lisbon saw property prices rise by 49% between 2016 and 2020. Once again, prices have stuttered during the pandemic, but all the ingredients for a return are still there.

In the future, tourism remains key to the Algarve’s economy and when that returns so will growth. Ultimately, the local economy – like most of Europe’s – is in a strange place. There has been contraction and there has been suffering, but this crisis was caused by a disease rather than any major economic problems. Many people have escaped with their finances intact and are intent on spending again as soon as they can. In the long term, the prospect for overseas buyers remains as it ever has been – excellent.

Our experts say

“We see the Algarve slowly recover from COVID. With so many forgoing their holidays during the Pandemic tourist will have an appetite to return and make up for lost time.”

“The road to recovery may have be longer than many expected, but Portugal’s economy will bounce back, making it an attractive place for foreign investment once again.”

“In 2022 we may see a boom in the travel market meaning that it will be a good time to invest in the Algarve. With incentives offering investors residency the future for real estate in the area is looking bright.”

– Tom Haworth, Property Consultant

How to get there

By road

Once at Faro the drive to the most popular destination in the Algarve will take about an hour. Driving in the Algarve is relatively easy when compared to the larger Portuguese cities of Lisbon or Porto as the roads are general quiet with low levels of traffic. Most visitors collect their car from Faro airport, and this saves on transfer costs and delays.

By train

The length of the Algarve rail line is approximately 140 km. It crosses the entire region from east to west, from Vila Real de Santo António to Lagos with 30 train stations in total. The only link to other train lines occurs at the Tunes station, near Albufeira, establishing the connection with the south line towards Lisbon. Currently there is no direct train connection between the Algarve and Spain. International trains are only available from Lisbon and Porto with the connections Lisbon-Madrid-Hendaye and Porto-Vigo respectively.

By air

Air travel is the fastest way to get to the Algarve. Faro airport is only 3 hours from most European destinations. There is another small airport in the Algarve, in Portimão, though it receives far fewer flights.

By boat

There are no direct boats to the area, but there are lots of boat excursions on offer. From Sailing trips to Snorkelling in the Benagil Caves.

Weather

Spring/Summer

For sunseekers the best time to visit Algarve is between June and August. The hottest month of the year is July with an average daily maximum of 30 C and an average low of 22 C.

Autumn/Winter

The coolest month of the year is February with an average daily maximum of 16 C and an average low of 10 C. The rainy season begins in November and December, meaning fewer sunny days, but the country still experiences more sun than rain and warmer temperatures than much of Europe.

Why invest

As a destination for a second home or any kind of overseas property the Algarve will always be a popular option. An outstanding climate and a regular source of rental income when the property is vacant make this perfect for anyone who wants a second home in the sun.

A pleasant lifestyle, with plenty of amenities, means this is a great place to either holiday or retire to. A relatively low cost of living compared with other major European countries also gives you plenty of value for your money.

It was named the best place to retire to by Forbes magazine for its amazing living conditions and sun kissed climate. For anyone who’d like to spend their golden years in the sun, this remains top of the list.

Portugal has purposefully set itself up to appeal to overseas investment with a golden via programme offering residency for people who invest more than €500,000 in a Portuguese property. However, this is being amended and will apply to areas away from the major cities such as Porto and Lisbon.

Similarly, to other visa schemes in Europe, the Portuguese government is looking to encourage investment into the interior away from the usual hotspots such as the Algarve. However, the new rules are being phased in and the previous visa regulations will continue to apply for anyone who currently has a property purchase in progress.

Even without the incentives this remains an extremely attractive proposition. The market is robust with good demand from people of all ages and of all buyer types. As tourism picks up, it is likely to be the familiar destinations such as the Algarve, which experience the quickest pick up with alternative, off the beaten track, locations taking longer to get back up to speed.

With the hospitality sector looking to entice customers, we can also expect to see plenty of deals which means the 2022 season should be one of the busiest for years.

Overall, this is a robust, reliable and dependable market which offers good value even in the midst of a pandemic. The uncertainty around COVID-19 has prompted investors to fall back on assets which they know and trust. Just as gold represents a popular fall back option to hedge against recessions, traditional holiday hotspots also represent reliable safe havens during challenging times.

For the short term and the long term, the Algarve will remain a property superstar.