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Algarve companies and tourism agencies have been working to strengthen ties with the every growing French tourism market to help increase tourism levels in the region.

Hotel and tourism operators from the Algarve travelled to Paris and Lyon to take part in specialist workshops and to network with some 160 French travel agents.

The initiative was organised by the Algarve Tourism Association (ATA), the entity responsible for the promotion of the Algarve as a tourist destination, with the aim of establishing contacts and potential business partnerships between Portuguese and French tourism agents.

To be able to present a complete picture of tourism in the Algarve ATA invited hotel and tour operators along with a selection of airline representatives including Transavia, Portuguese flag carrier TAP and Aigle Azur, all of which have direct flights between Faro and France.

Traditionally, the Algarve has been a popular tourism destination with British and German visitors but the market is increasingly becoming broader with those from Scandinavia, eastern Europe and other parts of Europe choosing the Algarve for beach holidays.

There have long been ties between France and Portugal, with a large number of Portuguese descendants living now in France and often returning each year for holidays and to purchase property thanks to the very favourable tax conditions, especially in comparison to those found in France.

A holiday in the region is considered by many to be the first step to potential long term investment, so the importance of encouraging visitors from all across Europe continues to grow.

"With this action, the objective of ATA is to create the conditions conducive to establishing contacts and possible partnerships and commercial relations that result in the increase of the businesses of the agents involved and, consequently, translate into added value for tourism in the Algarve "Said Dora Coelho, executive director of ATA.

The initiative will enable "greater knowledge and cooperation between agents in the region and important players in the French tourism market", a market considered strategic for the Algarve, according to ATA.

In 2016, the French market grew by 41% in the number of overnight stays in the region in relation to the previous year, which corresponded to a record number of approximately 900 thousand overnight stays.

In this context, France now occupies the 6th place in the list of most overnight hotel stays in the Algarve.