Photo: Inês Lopes, Open Media

Holiday reservations for Portugal “go through roof” 

Since making it onto the UK’s ‘safe travel green list’ a little over 24-hours ago, Portugal has seen a major surge in the number of people booking summer holidays.

Elidérico Viegas, president of AHETA (the association of Algarve hoteliers) confirms “there’s a growing demand, which opens good perspectives” for the high season – while in Britain tour promoters’ online platforms were deluged.

David Child, head of PR and brand at Thomas Cook, said reservations for Portugal were “through the roof” straight after the announcement as eager travellers were “poised, ready and waiting to go”.

“We took in the first hour from 5pm to 6pm as many Portugal bookings as we took in the whole month of April,” he said.

HomeToGo, one of the largest holiday rentals search engines reported that ‘searches for holiday homes abroad with a check-in date between May 17-31 have jumped by 113%’ with regard to Portugal –  with destinations in the Algarve being the five most-searched spots in Portugal. 

Those destinations are Albufeira in first place, followed by Vilamoura, Carvoeiro, Tavira and Alvor.

Outside the Algarve, Madeira, Lisbon, Cascais and Porto are other locations attracting travellers.

But there are still major questions – not least when it comes to the cost and availability of PCR tests for homeward journeys.

A number of would-be holidaymakers have contacted the Resident: they want to know if bars are open (which they aren’t, yet) and they ask questions like “will Faro airport set up pre-departure testing so you can take a test when you arrive at the airport?’ 

The answer to the last question again is very possibly ‘no’ if non-vaccinated people are required to show negative Covid PCR tests. These tests tend to need at least 24-hours in which to report back their results.

Other ‘unknowns’ are how much travel will be ‘slowed down’ by the need for airport checks on arrival (and departure).

Reports in the UK press have suggested passengers could face up to ‘six hours’ being checked through both ways.

In other words: there are still a number of uncertainties – but the will at least is there, and clearly raring to go.

One question we have been asked is “can people travel with one jab of a two-shot vaccine without having to take a PCR test?” The answer to that one would seem to be ‘no’ as the stipulation for vaccinated travel into the EU is that passengers must have completed their complement of shots at least two weeks prior to arrival (click here). If they haven’t, they will still be required to take PCR tests on the outward and homeward journeys.

Prices generally are another concern. Will hotels be raising them? Will airlines be raising them?

The answer to the first is ‘for the time being hotels are not increasing prices’, but second has already been answered.

LBC radio reports that “ahead of Friday’s announcement, demand for flights to Portugal had already driven up prices as holidaymakers anticipated its green categorisation.

“On Friday night, one of the most expensive travel options for May 17 appeared to be a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Faro in the Algarve, costing £436 or £530 depending on the time of day”.

On the same day, low-cost airline Ryanair was offering flights from London Stansted to Lisbon for £65 however – so good deals could be ‘out there’.

Changes too may come in the requirement for PCR tests. 

Sources from UK have told us that “Portugal may not request a clear PCR test upon arrival by the time we get to June – and we have heard that free lateral flow tests will be handed out in UK airports for the test before return to the UK. This leaves a single expensive PCR test back in the UK within two days of return”. 

Even if this happens, it will still add at least another £200 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four. Thus, further information anticipated in the next few weeks will help British citizens a long way towards deciding how far they are willing to go for an escape to southern sunshine.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com