New airport threat to tourism industry

THE PORTUGUESE association of travel agents and tourism, Associação Portuguesa das Agências de Viagem e Turismo (APAVT), has voiced concerns over the effects the new airport at Ota will have on the tourism industry.

The association believes the airport’s distance from central Lisbon will push up airport taxes, road tolls, fuel prices and, therefore, prejudice the industry and its clients, who will ffectively pay more for their holidays.

Despite being resigned to the fact that the new project will be 100 kilometres from Lisbon and will lead to the eventual closure of the existing airport at Portela, the association believes the project will adversely affect the industry. Fears were voiced at the 31st Portuguese Travel Association Congress last week in Maputo, Mozambique, under the theme ‘Tourism: Co-operation and Development’.

Vitor Filipe, president of APAVT, brought up the controversial issue, saying that air transport was vital for Portuguese tourism and particularly for the travel agency industry. On the question of the new airport, Filipe said that the association had voiced serious reservations and concerns about a project which could mean the end of the airport at Portela.

In the presence of the Secretary of State for Tourism, Bernardo Trindade, the APAVT president said that the future plan of action for Portela needed to be decided now and hinted that the tourism industry was not being looked after by the government.

Filipe also called for assurances that the quality of service at Portela would be maintained to the highest standard until the new airport was up and running, and added that airport taxes should be more competitive than those presently charged at Portela.

Other proposals were for a fast and cost-effective rail shuttle service between Ota and the capital and for coaches running to and from the airport not to be penalised by high toll taxes were assured. “We are against additional taxes being charged to our clients in order to finance the construction of the new airport, although we realise that because of its distance from Lisbon, taxes will be more expensive than those currently charged at Portela,” he said. It has already been suggested that a tax of seven euros could be charged on each plane ticket issued for Portela to help pay for the new airport at Ota.

On November 22, the government officially unveiled its plans for the new airport, saying it would invest 400 million euros in improving Portela, while work was being carried out at Ota, which will be ready for operation in 2017. At the same time, the government said that it would only foot the bill for 10 per cent (three billion euros) of the 30 billion euro project, which would be incorporated into the State Budget on a yearly basis until completion.