As Portugal continues to argue its case for the country to be added to the UK quarantine exclusion list, government and tourism authorities have been stressing their long-standing commitment to health and safety for travellers.
Expressing his disagreement and displeasure with the decision by the British government to exclude the mainland and archipelago islands from its “air bridge” deal, Turismo de Portugal president Luis Araújo noted that Portugal had been the first European destination to receive the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Travel Safe” stamp.
In the wake of the controversial UK decision, Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vowed to visit the Algarve – one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations – every week during summer to help promote tourism in the region and encourage the UK to allow visitors to Portugal to return home without having to endure a 14-day quarantine.
In a meeting with Algarve mayors and tourism and hotel representatives, Rebelo de Sousa said efforts should be focused on promoting the region as a safe destination among foreign markets that could – in the interim – act as alternatives to the UK. He expressed optimism, however, that the British authorities would reverse the decision before the end of July.
At the same time, Portuguese foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva noted that no quarantine would be imposed for travellers arriving by air, including at Faro Airport in the Algarve. Instead, he said, the focus would be on “minimal health controls” to keep travellers and locals safe, and he stressed that “those arriving in the Algarve are welcome in the country right now”.
Latest travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office notes, “From 4 July, Madeira and the Azores are exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. However, the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK from Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, remains in place. See guidance on entering or returning to the UK.”
Portugal Offers “Safety, Warmth and Kindness” to British Tourists
In his official statement “strongly refuting” the UK’s air bridge decision, Luis Araújo said, “The reality in Portugal is totally different from the one portrayed by this decision. We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation to welcome back international visitors. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Portuguese government and tourism industry has worked tirelessly to implement a carefully strategised and thoroughly actioned protocol for the tourism industry and wider society.
“From our viewpoint, the entire national territory should have been appropriately included in the UK travel corridor owing to the successful containment of the outbreak. We recall widespread praise from across Europe as recently as May for the handling of the pandemic in Portugal, in which time the situation has only improved. As of 1 July, the majority of the country took a positive step reducing to the minimum level of public restrictions, thus mirroring the improved situation. Since the beginning of May, the number of hospitalisations in intensive care units has halved, overall hospitalisation is down 60 per cent, deaths down 70 per cent, and active cases at just 13,060 for the entire nation.
“Safety measures and adequate control saw Portugal become the first European destination to receive the ‘Travel Safe’ stamp by the World Travel & Tourism Council. Our Clean & Safe hygiene protocol has been decisive in accounting for more than 18,000 voluntary memberships from various establishments in the sector and more than 20,000 staff across the hospitality sector trained to meet professional-devised practices.
“We wish to place on record that Portugal is the sixth highest country in Europe for the number of people tested and traced for COVID-19. Having already completed more than 1.1 million tests, which account for more than 10 per cent of the population, the virus has been controlled in a safe manner. Naturally, logic would suggest that if other nations followed such a measure, statistics may have been reflected differently.”
Araújo noted that, in addition to receiving the “Best Destination in the World” accolade for three consecutive years (World Travel Awards 2017, 2018 and 2019), Portugal was also ranked the third safest country in the world (Global Peace Index 2020). In addition, he said, it had been chosen to host the final phase of the Champions League, “which denotes international confidence in the country. All of these arguments justify the frustration with which we received the decision from the United Kingdom because we believe that the decision could and should have been different, especially given the improvement in the pandemic control indicators that Portugal is experiencing.”
Specifically referring to the Algarve, Araújo said it had experienced minimal impact, with just 1.5% of Portuguese cases since the beginning of the pandemic. “The British public, who have been our primary source of inbound visitors for many regions in Portugal, have celebrated our culture, traditions, landmarks, and history for decades, by our side. We will continue to implement strict safety protocol with the cross-sector cooperation of multiple establishments.
“We can only reiterate our full commitment to welcome all British tourists who choose to have their vacations in our country by providing them with safety, warmth and the kindness of the people of Portugal.”
Find out more here about why the Algarve is such a popular tourist destination.