Portugal: ‘Excellent’ summer for small hotels in interior, north

The pandemic may have left several sectors empty-handed, but tourism in the northern interior of Portugal is seeing “excellent” and “sold out” results in a summer marked by demand for family holidays, away from crowds.

“For us, and given the circumstances, the results are excellent. We keep the 2019 numbers. We couldn’t ask for better”, said Rui Marinho, owner of 11 houses and 14 bungalows in the tourist village created in Arcos de Valdevez, near Viana do Castelo.

For the owner of ArcosHouse, the summer of 2020 “surpassed, a lot”, all the predictions, for a sector that, “first stopped deep” and then, from May, and with the beginning of the easing, “accelerated, completely”.

Until the end of the year, according to Rui Marinho, the perspectives are also very encouraging”.

“In September, until the 15th, we have an occupancy rate of 85%, but there are still many last-minute reservations. Many people still don’t know if they’ll be able to take holidays. We will wait, but we have expectations that September will be excellent,” said the manager, currently with a 100% occupancy rate.

A few kilometres to the south, near the Caniçada reservoir, with Serra da Cabreira in the background and Gerês just around the corner, Pousadela Village, in Vieira do Minho, is also sold out for this month of August.

“In July, we had around 90%. This month the occupation is practically total, with only one ‘little hole’ here or there”, said Rafael Viana.

There, the accommodation is in individual houses, which, she said, is an extra asset in times of pandemic.

In the Douro, there has been a gradual opening of hotels, restaurants and wine shops since May that had closed to tourists because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Quinta do Vallado was the first in the region to reopen its doors. The Wine Hotel Casa do Rio with six rooms and two suites, in Vila Nova de Foz Côa, opened on 15 May and then, on the 29th of this month, the 13 rooms of the Wine Hotel do Vallado, in Peso da Régua opened.

Cláudia Ferreira, Quinta do Vallado’s tourism director, said that the demand rate for the two units is 100% for this month of August and was around 90% in July. For September, the occupancy rate is around 60%, but, she admitted, this year reservations are being made at short notice.

However, the greatest difficulty felt is in wine tourism, in terms of visits and tastings, a segment that had foreigners who came in the coaches as its main clients to spend a day in the region.

“Although we are already beginning to see one or other foreigner, 80% is the domestic market”, she stressed.

Also dedicated to wine, and inside the Porto district, the Monverde – Wine Experience Hotel has sold out for August, after a June with 55% and 77% in July, months mostly filled by Portuguese, some Spanish and French.

In the 30-hectare property, which is divided between Amarante and Felgueiras, guests have been able to feel “at home outside the house”, Miguel Ribeiro, general director of the hotel told Lusa,

With a recovery “increasingly capable” in the face of the pandemic, Miguel Ribeiro believes that this is a “double opportunity” for the region, by allowing it to stand out from the rest of the country and make a product that, although familiar, is not well known: the grape harvests, especially to the domestic market

In Albergaria-a-Velha, in the district of Aveiro, Isabel Costa, owner of Vale da Silva Villas, says that the pandemic “changed everything” and the rural space composed by eight houses of different sizes, surrounded by nature, which is usually crowded with foreign tourists. This year, it is equally sold out, but to Portuguese.

“Last week I received the first Germans, I have a Spanish couple and the rest are Portuguese. This is the Portuguese year”, Isabel Costa said.

The president of the Porto and Norte de Portugal tourism entity said on 5 August that the pandemic had reversed the numbers of tourism demand in the region, with the interior now attracting 80% of tourists, most of them Portuguese.

Rural tourism is the engine of this dynamic that has left large cities like Porto with inverse occupation rates to the period before the pandemic, namely around 30% in Porto, still “double the hotels in Lisbon”, he stressed.