Ryanair in talks with Algarve tourism chiefs to survive seasonality

Last Friday a meeting was held between representatives of Irish low-cost airline Ryanair and executive members of the ATA external Algarve promotion board, with a view to boosting regional tourism throughout the year but more specifically to combating the region’s low-season troughs.

Ryanair at Faro airport car hireA source from the Algarve Tourism Board told The Portugal News that the objective of the meeting was to “try and find forms of joint action, both within the guidelines of the initiative:pt programme (an official programme to support air routes) and outside of it, for this coming summer and more essentially for the coming winter.”

On the other hand, the same source stressed, in 2011, the Regional Algarve Tourism Promotion Agency alone invested over one million euros to promote several airlines’ routes, that figure being the result of joint action from ATA and support for the initiative:pt programme.

Less fortunate, however, is the Alentejo city of Beja and its airport, which last week completed its first full year as a fully operational international airport but has yet to welcome its first regular airline.

The airport, which cost €33 million to convert from a former military base, last week celebrated its first birthday but continues to fall below the local population’s expectations.

Nonetheless, national airport management company ANA continues to invest in the aeronautical industry and expects more traffic and passengers for Beja from 2017.

Since its official opening in April last year only a handful of airlines have used the airport and for limited periods of time.

A one-off inaugural flight to Cabo Verde took off from its runway – the longest in the country – on 13 April 2011, and since March 31 last year the airport has processed 2,568 passengers from 104 movements of charter, private and executive flights.

Last summer British holiday operator Sunvil carried out weekly flights to and from Beja, between 22 May and 9 October, and while interest has been shown by French low-cost airline Aigle Azur and German travel operator Olimar, as well as by Swiss aircraft parts multinational company Jetlease, little else has materialised.

It suffered another blow last week when Ryanair’s vice-president unceremoniously rebuffed the airport in favour of Lisbon’s Portela Airport. The Irish low-cost airline has long been hinted as a possible candidate to fly to Beja, suggestions the airline has always played down.

Beja airport currently receives one charter flight which is operating between Hannover (Germany) and that city, which commenced last month on 8 March and will see flights until 28 April.

The infrastructure’s director Pedro Beja Neves said that the first year activity “allows us to nurture founded expectations of a good performance in the medium/long term”, with regards to passenger traffic, and that the airport could enjoy “a moderate and sustained growth” from 2017.

“Short-term it will be the maintenance and parking of aircraft segments that could grow and with significant sustainability”, particularly through the maintenance hangars that company Aeromec intends to build, he stressed.

Beja Neves says that the airport has also enjoyed an “interesting demand” from the executive aviation sector.

Initially the local population voiced great expectations of what the airport could bring to their city, hopeful of Beja enjoying a new lease of life.

However, over the past year these expectations have fallen despite the positive portraits that local dignitaries and commercial representatives have painted.


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