Portugal’s green list removal frustrates industry

A scene in Carvoeiro, Portuagal

Insight Comment
Even by the standards of the UK government this was a pretty dramatic U-turn. Of course there are plenty of reasons to be cautious but it begs the question of whether there’s any point in having a traffic light system if it can change so rapidly. After all those in the tourism business need some degree of certainty.

 

The UK government’s decision to remove Portugal from England’s green list of travel destinations is a big blow to the country’s plans for a significant rebound in travel and tourism revenue.

Portugal was one of the only established holiday destinations when the UK government released its first traffic light list of countries and travel agents and tour operators reported a surge in interest and bookings, showing that the demand is still there. Now that flow of incoming tourists has been turned off, for who knows how long.

“This latest announcement is another step back for our industry. After promises that the Global Travel Taskforce would result in a clear framework, removing the damaging flip flopping we all endured last summer, the Government decision to move Portugal straight from green to amber will do untold damage to customer confidence,” Andrew Flintham, managing director for TUI UK, said.

“We were reassured that a green watch list would be created and a weeks’ notice would be given so travellers wouldn’t have to rush back home. They have failed on this promise.”

Understandably, those in Portugal are confused and upset by the latest set of developments.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear that the UK government has made the decision to remove Portugal from the green list. We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation and thank the support of all our partners and friends in the UK, especially our trading partners that have been essential in quickly reinstating flight capacity into Portugal,” Luis Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal said in a statement.

Hoteliers in the Algarve, a region popular with British guests, were equally frustrated.

“It’s profoundly unfair, because the Algarve has a very low infection rate, it throws into doubt our chances for a good summer,” Elidérico Veigas, president of the Algarve Hotel and Resort Association, told the SIC Notícias news channel. 

The worry now is that even if Portugal gets added again at some point in the future, the damage has already been done.

“Even if the measure is reversed in three weeks, as I expect, it will lead to lots of cancellations,” Veigas said.

While it might be only one source market, UK tourists represented 15.4% of all inbound tourists in 2019, ahead of the likes of France (12.6%) and Germany (7.9%) according to Statistics Portugal. In fact in terms of tourism income, UK visitors actually generated more than any other country — €3.3 billion — ahead of France, Germany, Spain and the United States, representing 17.8% of the total amount. 

"This news has caught us by surprise, it’s received with great sadness by the hotel and tourism sector,” Rodrigo Pinto de Barros, president of the Portuguese Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Association, told TVI24 television.

The UK’s decision was driven by a rise in the positivity rate and the identification of the so-called Nepal variant in the country. Anybody visiting Portugal from the UK is still free to go but must quarantine when arriving back for 10 days.