Coastal trail to boost off-season tourism

The opening of the Rota Vicentina, a 340-kilometre coastal trail in Portugal’s south-western corner, should help attract foreign visitors outside the peak summer season, according to the region’s tourism chief.

Rota Vicentina Algarve Alentejo Car HireAntónio Lacerda, director of the Turismo do Alentejo, was speaking at the World Travel Market in London, where Portugal’s six regional tourism authorities and dozens of companies had stands until Thursday.
There is growing interest in the Alentejo in the UK, with the first eight months of this year showing a 51 percent increase in the number of British visitors - despite the region lacking the mass appeal of the Algarve, just to the south.
“The area is a completely different one, where the traditional products – sun and sea – don’t have much room for expansion,” Lacerda told Lusa News Agency.
“The beaches are small, almost reserved, some have waves that are good for surfing, but not for families.”

The Rota Vicentina has two main sections: the 240-kilometre Caminho Histórico or historic road, between Cabo São Vicente in the far south and Santiago do Cacém, which Lacerda said can safely be done by bicycle as well as on foot; and the Trilho dos Pescadores, whose longest stretch of path is between Odeceixe and Porto Covo, south of the port of Sines. The latter “is only to be done on foot, with care,” he stressed.

Points of interest are marked along the trails, and there are places to stay or eat – with the latter also prepared to supply walkers with packed lunches.

“North of the river at Odeceixe it’s all marked, with bridges to cross small brooks already made and signs put up,” Lacerda said, adding that this section is already being marketed. The section to the south of Odeceixe should, he said, be ready by early next spring.

Interest in the Alentejo urged after a UK airline operated direct flights from London to Beja for part of 2011. Even though this was for just 21 weeks, from May through toOctober, Lacerda noted, “it put the Alentejo on the map.”
The interest remains, he said, but future development depends partly on what happens with the planned privatisation of Portugal’s airports operator, ANA.

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