11 October 2009

The Algarve after Maddie


praia da Luz, May 7, 2007

In 2007 the newspapers were filled with the Madeleine McCann case and pictures of the four-year-old girl, now, two years on, press coverage has died down and the story is no longer front page news. Laura Suter asks what happened to the town at the centre of it all when the disappearance happened?

Shortly after Madeleine's abduction reports emerged that the former fishing village of Praia de Luz, which once thrived on tourism, was a ghost town, that cancellations had flooded in and the beach was empty.

Many families with children were dubious about going to the resort, while some felt that the police and media intrusion would taint their holiday. In the weeks following the incident the Mark Warner Club, which runs the Ocean Club where Madeleine disappeared, had a number of cancellations or families transferring to other resorts.


praia da Luz, August 2009 

However, Cristina Teixeira, who runs Luz Holidays, which rents villas to many nationalities, said her firm did not see this effect. The company had two cancellations out of 300 in 2008 and even then "clients did not offer the Madeleine justification".

In addition, figures were released in September this year which suggested that Portugal and the Algarve are having their best seasons in a number of years and families are flocking to the region. The statistics from the country's Office of National Statistics state August had occupancy rates of 90 per cent in the Algarve and equalled figures from 2008, which was the best on record for Portugal. So it seems tourists may not have been put off from visiting the region.

Chris Gladwin, 23, of Darlington, was one holidaymaker who braved the press reports and went to Praia de Luz just a few months after the disappearance, having pre-booked his holiday. However, he said that the break was not too different from a usual holiday – families flocked to the beach, the bars and restaurants were busy and toddlers played in the sand – albeit a little closer to their parents.

Mr Gladwin added that going in 2007 was a little off-putting when the town was littered with posters of Madeleine and the hunt was still very much alive. "It was a bit hard to escape from the case and the media and it was talked about in many of the bars," he explained, adding that the intrusion was not to the extent that it ruined the holiday.


Baptista Supermarket

Ms Teixeira admits that the 'Madeleine effect' did concern some holidaymakers and that those with young children were perhaps put off in 2008 "and maybe some are a bit nervous but the effect has mostly disappeared now".

And, it seems it is hard not to be won over by Luz's charm, with Richard Gaisford, a GMTV reporter who spent most of last year in the Algarve covering the McCann story, saying he liked the town so much he wanted to take his family back. It's a view that Mr Gladwin echoes, saying it's hard not to fall in love with the scenery, pace of life and people in Luz.


media outside Portimão's Judiciary Police Station, September 2007

Since his visit in 2007, Mr Gladwin has headed back each year, seeing no drop off in tourism numbers in the town, apart from this year. "Luz was a bit less busy this year, but I think that is the same everywhere with the euro, because Brits are getting a lot less for their money."

Ms Teixeira agrees, saying the global economy has had more of an impact this year than any fears following the McCann case. "[I] have no doubt that the value of the pound must be a big factor," she said, adding: "In particular, we found that clients from the UK were systematically asking for discounts this year."

This was seen last month when the Ocean Club released a ten per cent discount for bookings in October at the Star of the Light and Village Bay resorts in Luz.

Figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics for the 12 months to June 2009 stated that there was a ten per cent drop in Brits heading abroad, compared to the same period the previous year, while those taking a break in the UK rose.

So, it seems the recession may have had more of an impact than the McCann case and Ms Teixeira adds that if it is sea, sun and golf courses you are after: "Portugal generally, and the Algarve especially, has plenty to offer all holidaymakers."


in travelbite.co.uk


10 comments:

  1. No one I know beleives madeleine was abducted.

    The idea that she was targetted is crazy, why target a flawed child, sweet though she no doubt was.

    The McCanns left her with only one check for two hours at least, I suspect more on other days. I have the view that She died in an accident, maybe due to beign drugged and being unsteady on her feet, maybe she choked on her own vomit.

    I dont think this is any reflection on Portugal or the region.

    I do, however, worry about the country in terms of its constitutionn, its executive and judiciary, it seems on the edge of falling too far from the rule of law.

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  2. Since tourists returned to the Algarve in 2008, I'm sure the decrease in numbers this year is due to the world wide recession. My son-in-law's family is from Madeira. My daughter and he visit Madeira every year and visited the Algarve on their honeymoon. I have yet to visit Portugal but look forward to doing so, hopefully in the Spring.

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  3. It's nice to read that, despite the British media's efforts to cripple the tourism industry in the Algarve, tourism continues to flourish. I think the only thing the tourism industry in the Algarve has to worry about is the possibility that the McCann will attempt once again to plaster the Algarve with posters. If it happens it will be a temporary annoyance to the locals who will quickly remove the garbage.

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  4. Since everyone knows who the two criminals are and that they are now in th UK, why should anyone be concerned about going to Portugal.

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  5. Great and informative post, thanks Joana!
    I think it got a little bit sandwiched between other posts, I almost missed it! But I was glad to know that it's been business as usual in PDL.

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  6. Madeleine case did not affect the tourism in Algarve. I spend the last August in Praia da Rocha, Portimao, and was full of Familys with small children, completly relaxed, enjoying the beach and the night life.

    The case affected only the Ocean Club and their employers which are gagged and forced to leave their jobs and not speaking about what they maybe saw on Mccann's holidays. I speak about Mccann's and their friends routines. At the beginning, severam criminologists talked about swing habits inside the group. Cleaners, Nannys and restaurant workers must saw very inconvennient situations, this is why the owner of the resort was forced by the Mccann's to gagg them. But the saturation of the story will make tis people talking one day....

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  7. Actually, the 'Madeleine effect' spread far further than Praia da Luz and the Algarve; my sister works in tourism in southern Spain and a few months after Madeleine's disappearance she was contacted by clients who were renting a holiday villa from her. They were in a panic because some people had driven through the open gates of the property and up to the house. The people apologised and said they thought it was a bar (there used to be a bar-restaurant very close to the house)but the clients got into a dreadful state because they had young children with them and thought this was a preliminary visit by would-be abductors. The clients said to my sister "After all, look what happened to Madeleine McCann. These people must have seen that we have two small blonde girls with us, and they want to abduct them".

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  8. What has happened to the Ocean Club workers who were going to sue the McCanns because they were laid off by Mark Warner? Is that still going ahead or has it all gone quiet on the legal front? Does anyone know????

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  9. I was in Praia da Luz three weeks ago and infact went to look at the 5A apartment. I did not notice anything unusual in Praia Da Luz in general that could be the result of the McCann case, ie. lack of tourists. In fact if Praia da Luz was anymore crowded it would be a very irritating place to spend one's holidyas in. I travelled all along the Algarvian coast, from Vila Real the Sto. Antonio in the extreme East to the Ponta de Sagres, extreme West and visited almost all resorts along the coast. Praia da Luz was as lively as it always was. Interesting that everyone seems to be saying that foreign tourism is the blood of the Algarve. That is rubbish. I estimated, from being there three weeks ago and from my own observations that at least 70% of tourists in the Algarve are Portuguese people. This archaic idea that the Portuguese are on their knees begging foreign tourists to come and visit us is just ridiculous. Also the idea that they 'fear' that the McCann case has 'irreparably damaged' revenue from tourism is just as ridiculous. If people are eger to give a rest to the McCann case it is only because (1) they've
    lost faith in the honesty of the McCanns and (2) they want to enjoy their hard earned holidays without disruption.

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  10. the more coverage of Maddie, the more sad it is.

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