European Commission predicts “significant recovery” of tourism this summer 

In an upbeat section of their latest economic forecasts, the European Commission envisages a “significant recovery” of tourism across the bloc this summer – with rural/ coastal destinations likely to benefit the most.

With regards to Portugal, there is ‘good news’ and ‘not-so-good news’.

The good is that forecasters see people coming on holiday this summer ‘more inclined to spend’ than they were last summer.

Reports describe the concept as “revenge consumption” – a response to the months in which populations were locked down with very little to spend their money on.

This of course doesn’t apply to the hundreds of thousands of people who may have lost wages, jobs and/ or businesses. 

But the Commission is adamant: there will be a strong recovery of national tourism – principally in holidays within the EU – even if the sector as a whole remains below pre-crisis levels until at least the end of 2022.

Key operators in Portugal’s tourism sector show some optimism in this regard, but are still erring on the side of caution.

José Theotónio , CEO of the Pestana hotel chain, told ECO online: “Right now it’s still very difficult to predict”.

Improvement will be “gradual”, he suggests. “Better than 2020 but still a long way from 2019”.

It won’t be “a summer totally lost, but it won’t be normal either”.

Says ECO, Pestana’s expectations are for “something” to start opening up in the second trimester (April to June), “which contrasts with the sector’s earlier expectations that Easter could signal the return to demand”. That notion “has already fallen to the ground”, particularly since the announcements made yesterday by President Marcelo and PM António Costa (click here).

Eduardo Miranda, president of the Alojamento Local (short-term holiday rentals) association is equally uncertain.

Says ECO, Brussels experts don’t give any concrete figures for the recovery of tourism in 2021 – and they admit that business trips and urban tourism will remain ‘strongly compromised’.

But that favours destinations like the Algarve.

Said José Theotónio: “It’s true, people will be looking more at the interior, but the sun and beach are going to be the most sought-after product, I have no doubts about that”.

For Eduardo Miranda, Portugal’s vaccination programme – and the delivery of promised vaccines in time – is key as it will reduce pressure on hospitals, and allow for reduction in the level of restrictions “giving tourism some breathing space”.

Mr Miranda believes tourism will only start returning significantly when there is ‘herd immunity’ (which in Portugal is unlikely before September).

Now for the ‘not-so-good’ part of the European Commission’s predictions: “with the country in the world’s spotlight at the beginning of 2021 due to maximum levels of people infected and deaths, operators fear reputational damage”, say ECO.

According to José Theotónio, the UK’s closing of borders against travellers from Portugal “in the face of competition from destinations in Spain, Italy and Greece” could be another cause for ‘medium term damage’.

But in a week when over 46,573 people have been pronounced ‘recovered’ from active Covid infections, and numbers in hospital are ‘dropping’ as are deaths, the European Commission’s optimism – along with news of recovery funding closer to being on its way – is a welcome ray of sunshine.

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