In a special report by Lusa News Agency this week, Joaquim Lourenço, secretary for the Alentejo and Algarve Campsite Association (APCAA), said “hundreds of motorhomes, 95 percent of them foreigners, stay overnight illegally along the beaches of the south-western Algarve and the Alentejo coast, and there is no effective supervision to put a stop to this penalising situation for businesses and the country’s economy.”
The increase in “wild” camping in motorhomes is also a problem acknowledged by the National Maritime Authority (AMN) and the Algarve Tourism Board.
The spiralling situation, Lusa’s report claims, has driven campsite businesses to submit a proposal to the State Secretary for Tourism, suggesting new laws for the sector.
“We have made proposals to the Government to regulate motorhome tourism, but unfortunately, we have been waiting for several months for action by those who have the competence to solve it”, Joaquim Lourenço lamented.
Among the main bones of contention is that hundreds of the vehicles park up and stay alongside beaches in areas that fall under the public maritime domain, and while this is seen as “illegal” by the AMN, it is nonetheless a problem that “will only be solved by amending the legislation”.
Nuno Cortes Lopes, head of the Algarve branch of the AMN, told Lusa that the parking of motorhomes outside parks provided specifically for the purpose, largely goes unregulated because “Portuguese legislation does not allow for the Maritime Police to act immediately.”
“What the Maritime Police and other supervisory authorities can do is notify them and give them the deadlines provided by law [to move on] so that they can challenge the offence. However, due to the fact that the majority of the motorhomers are foreign, it creates difficulties in identifying them and obtaining their addresses, which is a difficult and thankless task and makes the inspection ineffective”, Cortes Lopes argues.
The official further alleges that the Maritime Police have struggled to attain a more effective inspection because there may also be a degree of discrimination between foreigners and Portuguese.
“We end up only being able to penalise the Portuguese, which seems to us a touch discriminatory, because they are all, and mostly foreigners, improperly parked, but we can only indict and commence procedures foreseen by law against the few Portuguese”, he explained.
In the AMN commander’s opinion, a legislative amendment that allows for the assessment and the immediate payment of fines for foreigners is needed.
“This is a way towards solving wrongful parking and for motorists to opt for authorised sites instead. If that happened, it would naturally bring more benefits to the Algarve”, he added.
Desidério Silva, President of the Algarve Regional Tourism Board (RTA) also highlighted the need for laws to be adapted to motorhome tourists, which is a growing market, particularly outside the summer months.
“It has a relevant importance for the region’s economy, but [the Motorhomers] have to stay on sites with all the necessary conditions of safety and hygiene, factors that are required to comply with rules so that it is no longer an anarchic issue which can entail the destruction of natural and sensitive spaces”, said Desidério Silva, adding that “the RTA is working with municipalities to take better advantage of this tourism segment.”
The Alentejo and Algarve Campsite Association estimates that the number of motorhomes currently in the Algarve is around 180,000, and that there are losses of around €65,000 per day in taxes not collected by the State, due to the lack of legislation to guarantee effective surveillance, which would put an end to illegal parking and camping practices.