What does that mean to you? To us it means we are officially old. We started The Villa Agency in 1984 from a dark and windowless basement with a handful of villas in The Algarve, plus some in Italy, France and Spain.
Over the years, the travel industry, and indeed The Algarve, has changed beyond recognition. In 1984 it was really only possible to go Portugal for 1 or 2 week holidays due to the very tight regulations surrounding package air travel. The Algarve was one of the most exclusive destinations in Europe, with a clientele to match; from movie stars to minor royalty. We prided ourselves on offering everyone, no matter what their background, a friendly and personalised service – that is one of the few things that hasn’t changed over the years!
There were only a small number of golf courses dotted along the coast – in those days golf was very much a rich man’s sport. It was advisable to learn a few useful phrases in Portuguese as English was not widely spoken. Indeed, when the first English Restaurant, The Beefeater Carvery, opened in Albufeira the local residents were apoplectic.
Communication was something of a challenge – pre mobile phones, computers and the internet we had to rely on telex machines or the occasional international call which had to be booked in advance. This usually involved shouting down the line and enduring a horrible delay before receiving the shouted response.
We have seen numerous villa rental companies come and go during the thirty years and are proud to say we are still going strong. We even still rent one of the original villas from 1984 although it has of course been much modernised since then. We have seen package holidays fall out of fashion, cheap air travel monopolise the industry (which is now going full circle and becoming not so cheap!) and of course the rise of websites that allow individuals to advertise their own villas, thus cutting out companies like The Villa Agency.
So are these changes for the better? Yes and no. European accommodation has become much more affordable which has to be a good thing but surely the internet is a double edged sword? This year we got almost weekly calls from poor souls who had paid their money to a private “owner” only to find out the villa didn’t exist, or it did exist but was next to a building site or that their identity and passport information had been stolen or cloned and the website in question taken down.
What do the next thirty years hold? We shall see. One thing I can guarantee is that I will have handed The Villa Agency over to younger blood and shall hopefully be sipping a gin and tonic in The Beefeater Carvery or it’s modern day equivalent.