Photo: MARC WINTER/PEXELS.COM

British and Spanish help ‘save’ tourism in May

May brought a short respite to Portugal’s tourism sector in what has been an otherwise dismal year, thanks in part to a considerable influx of British and Spanish tourists.

A report by Dinheiro Vivo website has highlighted how May saw Portugal finally begin to emerge from a lockdown that started almost immediately after Christmas when Covid-19 cases began to skyrocket.

Nearly 60,000 Brits and 61,000 Spanish holidaymakers visited Portugal in May following the reopening of the Portuguese-Spanish border (to non-essential travel) and the British government’s decision, albeit short-lived, to place Portugal on its travel ‘green list’ (effectively freeing them from having to quarantine upon Brits’ return to the UK).

The 2020/2021 Champions League final, played in Porto between Manchester City and Chelsea, has also been singled out as an important event that attracted thousands of tourists to Portugal in May.

In fact, data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that Spanish and British holidaymakers accounted for more than one third of all overnight stays at Portuguese hotels and accommodations units by non-Portuguese nationals in May.

However, Portuguese tourists were responsible for the vast majority of overnight stays at national accommodation units (including hotels, local lodging establishments with more than 10 beds and rural tourism acommodation).

Data shows that out of the 989,000 guests welcomed in May, over 707,000 were Portuguese.

It was a huge leap compared to May 2020, when the tourism sector was still ‘paralysed’, but is still a far cry from May 2019, as the number of overnight stays by foreigners and Portuguese dropped 69% and 22% respectively.

INE adds that there were around two million overnight stays in Portugal in May -1.2 million by national holidaymakers, and the remaining 800,000 by foreign visitors.

Spain stood out as the main tourist market for Portugal in May. Just over 60,000 Spanish travellers visited the country, representing around 114,000 overnight stays.

“Spain is a market of proximity,” explains Dinheiro Vivo. “In the periods following crises, the behaviour of consumers is typically to travel to nearby destinations. Travel between the two countries, which was already common before the pandemic, continued to occur whenever possible.”

Meanwhile, the online news website also highlights how the announcement that the UK had placed Portugal on its travel ‘green list’ – along with the decision to move the Champions League final between two British teams to Porto – led to a boom of flight and hotel bookings in May.

Nearly 60,000 Brits visited Portugal that month, accounting for almost 200,000 overnight stays. Only August and September 2020 saw more Brits spend more nights at Portuguese hotels since the start of the pandemic, DV reports.

The website also adds that Britain’s ‘green lighting’ of Portugal also provided “some sort of validation” to other countries, which may explain why more French and German travellers visited Portugal in May.

Data shows that the country welcomed over 28,000 French (accounting for over 72,000 overnight stays) and over 26,000 German holidaymakers (accounting for over 86,000 stays).

The impact of Porto hosting the Champions League final is very clear in how the North region welcomed more holidaymakers (nearly 248,000) than the Algarve (167,000) in May.

Still not enough
Even the improvements registered in May were not enough to bring back any kind of normalcy to the country’s tourism sector.

Revenue for Portugal’s hotels and accommodations units dropped nearly 69% in May compared to the same month in 2019.

Data also shows that the number of guests dropped 42.3% in the first five months of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com