Irish low-cost airline Ryanair recently celebrated the second anniversary of its Algarve hub at Faro Airport with a press conference, a flash mob and the launch of new routes.
The celebrations were chased up days later with comments from the company’s second-in-command, who following a closed meeting in Lisbon last week made it clear that Beja Airport is of no interest to the airline; its sights are firmly set on the capital.
Speaking at the press conference held at Faro Airport on Thursday last week, Ryanair spokesperson Luis Fernandez-Mellado described the airline’s investment in Portugal as “pioneering.”
“Ryanair has made pioneering investment in Portugal by deciding to established the country’s first low-cost base in Oporto, in 2009, and the following year in Faro, and today we are celebrating the anniversary of the second low-cost base in Portugal which is now two years old”, he said.
Active in this country since 2003 the airline currently operates 30 routes to and from Faro, among them the only domestic flight between the Algarve and Oporto, a route it described as a “resounding success.”
The Faro-Oporto route is “an example of what can be done for national growth on an economic level”, said Joana Henriques, sales and marketing executive for Portugal and Spain. She said the route has “started off timidly” but now is “a resounding success, especially in summer”, when people traditionally travel more between northern and southern Portugal.
“Seasonality is a problem that affects us all, from the hotel industry to aviation; it is not a drama, it is something we need to take care of and even though our growth so far has always been ascendant and very positive, at this moment we have a situation of seasonality”, she explained, adding that the airline plans to tackle the matter with promotion.
Fernandez-Mellado also acknowledged that, while “no airline has problems in flying to the Algarve in summer”, low-seasons require a different type of destination promotion. In his opinion a long-term strategy plan is the answer to boosting seasonal dips during Algarvean winters, as are low fares.
He also said that the airline was open to talks with airport and regional tourism officials with a view to overcoming seasonality, despite already enjoying a “fluid communication” with the Algarve.
During the next fiscal year Ryanair predicts it will carry 3.8 million passengers to and from Portugal, nearly half of those, 1.5 million, to the Algarve. Joana Henriques described this as having an “enormous weight on the tourism scales.”
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