Luís Araújo, president, Turismo de Portugal, told us that the country was working towards “building trust” as it hoped for growth in tourism.
Key to this was a “stamp of approval” to distinguish tourist activities which were compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements.
Talking through the country’s progress to reopening, Araújo told us: “Each week seems like a month. Three or four weeks ago we were worried about the tourism companies, but they put their activity on hold and stayed on track to reopen. Our concern was giving them everything they needed; giving them money very quickly, helping them payoff workers but be able to take them back, helping them negotiate over fixed costs such as insurance.
“Now we see that companies are focused on recovery. We have some issues with airlines, but we are working on that. The hotels here were never closed, only the restaurants, but most of them closed because they had no clients.
“We have been doing lots of online training. We have 12 hotel schools in Portugal and we have 100 teachers preparing courses on everything you might need - mostly digital marketing. We have 25 delegations abroad who are training on markets. We are keeping busy and keeping people informed.
“Now we are starting on building trust.”
The “stamp of approval”, distinguishing tourist activities which were compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements for the prevention and control of COVID-19 and other possible infections, was intended to reinforce the tourist's confidence in the safety of the destination.
Turismo de Portugal said that the validation was free and optional and valid for one year. It required the implementation of an internal protocol for companies that, according to the recommendations of the Directorate-General for Health, ensured that the necessary hygiene measures were in place to avoid risks of contagion and a guarantee of safe procedures for the operation of tourist activities.
The organisation said: “With this measure, the national tourist authority intends to inform companies on the minimum hygiene requirements and cleaning measures to ensure the safety of various establishments, but to also promote Portugal as a safe destination with measures in place prevent the spread of the virus via a coordinated action plan from the sector which will soon expand to other areas of activity across numerous expressions of interest.”
Araújo said: “It’s not a certification - that would be very costly- we want rules which will allow people to reopen, to be able to say that they have done everything they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We have more than 20 different processes, from training employees to cleaning protocols. We have a platform where they will declare that they will fulfil the requirements and then we will check to see that they have done as they say - we are currently training the people who will check. It gives people the basics to open their businesses.
“We also have the benchmarks and best practices from the hotel companies, which we are training on top of that, then we will have third-party certification, but first we have the basics.”
Commenting on the plans by countries including the UK to consider so-called ‘immunity passports’, Araújo said: “Everything we are doing is working with the health authorities and the government. Safety is out priority, for our population and for those coming from abroad. It will all depend on the evolution of the pandemic.”
For now, the country is looking to open up again. Araújo said: “We’re working with the airlines and the airports as well as with cars and trains - our priority is the internal market, then how to stimulate Spain. The UK is our biggest source market, then Germany and France, countries where they know about us.
“In February we were seeng double-digit growth, but with reduced flights the numbers are extremely low. Our priority is to prepare everything. We need to be at the front like and have our motors running and give everyone the service they had before this. We’re not alone in this, it’s affecting everyone, but our assets are intact and this will pass.”
Insight: As countries in Europe edge towards reopening, processes like these will be of great fascination. The EU27 met earlier this week to look at best practice and shared experience will be at the heart of a successful approach.
Most-repeated throughout this pandemic has been Winston Churchill’s comments after the British drove German troops out of Egypt: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
There is hope that, in China, it is the beginning of the end. That cannot be called yet in Europe, but preparing for the new normal is well underway.