Portugal’s tourism sector has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but Ambitious Plans Will Help Bring Tourists
By Quinn He
As COVID-19 has and continues to sweep through the entire world, one sector of revenue for cities and countries has been hit particularly hard, tourism.
Tourism makes up a large chunk of revenue for many countries across the globe, and with COVID-19 causing essentially every aspect of tourism to shut down, a lot of countries and jobs are taking a hit.
In recent years, Portugal has been growing the tourism sector at an alarming rate, raking in large amounts of revenue for the country and companies involved in the tourism sector. Sadly, COVID-19 put away any hopes for the country of who knows how many travelers wishing to vacation in the beautiful country.
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Portugal is Faring Well
But Portugal has received international acclaim for its efforts to slow the spread of the virus within the country.
Immigrants and refugees to Portugal were welcomed and given temporary full citizenship by the government, thus enabling them to receive the benefits of the healthcare system.
With only a little under 35,000 cases as of June 2020, Portugal continues to do well in the midst of the pandemic when comparing it to countries like France with about 154,000 cases and Spain with about 241,000 as of now.
Due to swift and strict measures to contain the virus, Portugal is now on its way to reopening the country and allowing tourists to consider keeping their plans solidified.
The airline, TAP Portugal began allowing flights to operate from Newark to Lisbon on June 4th, but whether they will see an increase in tourists that accept the risks of air travel is currently unknown.
Policies to Lighten the Load
“Don’t Cancel, Postpone” and the “Clean & Safe” certification are being echoed by officials right now.
The Clean & Safe certification is used as a “stamp of approval to distinguish tourist activities which are compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements for the prevention and control of COVID-19 and other possible infections,” according to a Portugal tourism website.
Clean & Safe certifications are meant to reassure tourists that safety and the health and wellness of guests are of primary concern for these businesses.
Hotels, monuments, museums, golf courses, restaurants, basically anywhere you think a tourist would want to go, can apply for a “Clean & Safe” stamp of approval.
Don’t Cancel, Postpone
Don’t Cancel, Postpone refers to Portugal’s plan to give vouchers to tourists who were forced to cancel trips due to the virus. The plan encourages tourists to reschedule their trips instead of canceling them outright until the end of 2021.
Once 2022 starts, tourists will be eligible to apply for a refund if they were unable to make the trip during the previously allotted time.
Both of these programs aim to keep tourists open-minded about keeping their plans to go to Portugal, even under the weight of the pandemic over us all.
Jayme Simões, President of Louis Karno & Company Communications, says, “With dozens of natural parks well-preserved mountains and coastal regions, very good roads and excellent rail – Portugal makes it easy for Americans to explore.”
Portugal’s Plans to Reopen
In order to reignite the tourism sector, Portugal and Portuguese companies are taking measures to bring tourism back to where it was pre-COVID-19 and beyond. They acknowledge they must intervene in order for improvements to be made.
The government of Azores Islands, Portugal is financing Ryanair, an Irish airline, €1.1M to promote Portugal in the UK market.
On May 17th, the mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina announced there will be a tax exemption for the installation of outdoor terraces for restaurants until the end of the year.
It’s a sign of how dedicated the mayor and the rest of the government are to bringing Portugal back to its former tourism glory.
A tax exemption such as this will make it easier for restaurants and bars to create more space to house customers and remain within the safe guidelines of social distancing.
If restaurants were already considering a renovation to this scale before the pandemic, now they have no excuse not to pull the trigger.
Travel Bloggers to the Rescue
The Association of Portuguese Travel Bloggers announced they will help relaunch Portugal’s tourism by sending 46 of its members to multiple regions throughout the country. Once there, the bloggers will create content and display the beauties of Portugal to potential visitors.
The initiative is noted that bloggers will shift their focus away from major cities and spotlight small, rural villages, those whose businesses are primarily family-owned.
It’s truly heartwarming to witness the ABVP thinking of the little guy and businesses hit especially hard by this pandemic.
Simões remarks, “Small and locally owned hotels dominate the Portuguese market. And these smaller more intimate hotels will be where Americans want to go next.”
It doesn’t come as a surprise that travel bloggers will focus on rural areas of the country.
Easier to Social Distance
Social distancing is a key guideline that has helped slow the spread of the virus, thus cities with a larger population like Lisbon and Porto may be avoided by tourists since it will be hard to fully distance oneself.
Travel bloggers have the potential to reach millions of readers across the globe, making this particular initiative one that could have a greater impact on Portugal’s bounce back than people may think.
What Next for Portugal?
A new normal is going to be an aspect of our lives we cannot turn away from. In the foreseeable future, social distancing, masks, and general COVID anxiety will fester throughout society whether we like it or not. For Portugal, as well as the rest of the world, we must ask ourselves “What’s next?” “Where is it safe to vacation?”
Jayme Simões notes, “Portugal is a mostly rural nation, with only a few modest-sized cities. And, Americans were starting to ask what to see after Lisbon or Porto.”
We should expect to see outdoor vacation destinations start to become more popular since safe social distancing practices will be much easier.
Places like golf courses and National Parks have the advantage of already being places where people aren’t always in close proximity to other guests.
Amusement parks and beaches will have to keep a close eye on the number of visitors and the social distancing protocols because it’s easy for the virus to spread in such places.
Fortunately for Portugal, they’re overflowing with outdoor destinations on both ends of the spectrum.