Occupancy rates in hotels in Portugal’s Madeira region over the Christmas period are currently around 40%, rising to 50% by the end of the year, the regional secretary for tourism said.
Eduardo de Jesus was speaking on Wednesday in a hearing of the committee on economy, finance and tourism of the regional assembly, during a debate on the budget and spending plans for 2021 of the coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and People’s Party (CDS-PP).
The secretary noted that in a survey conducted on 4 December, occupancy rates for Christmas and New Year’s had stood at 26% and 36%, respectively, suggesting that the market is reacting to the tourism supply on offer.
“In August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic period, domestic market demand for Madeira was higher compared to the figures of August last year,” he said, without providing numbers.
He added that a large part of this domestic demand was for the island of Porto Santo.
On the regional government’s budget for 2021, he stressed that it aims to respond to the new challenges posed to the tourism sector by the pandemic, foreseeing the largest-ever amount of spending on promotion of Madeira as a destination, at €15.5 million.
This area has €46.7 million allocated to it in the budget, representing an increase of around 14% from this year, he said.
The secretary for tourism pointed out that a lot of work had been done with various entities, resulting in many achievements since tourism began to recover in July, following the full lockdown of March and April.
“Due to the situation we are experiencing, we have also maintained a permanent dialogue with the government of the Republic, with the governments and ambassadors of various countries and institutions, to highlight our pandemic reality so that we can be treated in a fair and differentiated manner,” he said.
The screening operation at Madeira airport, he added, had been a selling point for the region; he noted that Madeira was in October chosen as a safe Christmas destination by the European Association of Best Destinations.
According to the regional secretary, all the conditions are in place for Madeira to emerge from its current difficulties, putting into practice not only the campaigns and actions planned but also strongly reinforcing its presence in its main issuing markets.
In the area of culture, which is also under his department, the secretary said that it would see a 14.2% increase in spending.
Refuting accusations by Elisa Seixas of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) about a lack of support for artists, the secretary said that next year 278 cultural initiatives were already planned, including 44 exhibitions and a similar number of concerts, among other activities.
Another Socialist member, Sérgio Gonçalves, questioned the promotion and certification process of Madeira as a safe destination.
In his reply, the regional secretary revealed that air traffic at Madeira airport was down 65% on last year, comparing well to the 88% average drop that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) calculates for the world. For December, he added, Madeira airport expects to see 72,000 passengers whose reservations are already made.
As for a possible reduction in airport charges, supported by Brício Araújo of the PSD and Ricardo Lume of the Communist Party (PCP), Jesus stressed that this measure had been sought, but that it was dependent on the national government.
The assembly on Wednesday started the debate of the proposals for the 2021 budget, which foresees total spending of €2.03 billion, and the Regional Investment and Development Expenditure Programme (PIDDAR), with total spending of €800 million. The final reading and vote is scheduled for Friday.