Portuguese tourism entities have described Germany’s decision to ‘red list’ Portugal for safe travel – albeit for just two weeks to start with – as a “drama”.
Millions of euros-worth of reservations are being cancelled; German holidaymakers already here are scrambling to get home before the Tuesday deadline – and fears are that this is just the beginning of a whole new nightmare.
President of Turismo do Algarve João Fernandes has told TSF radio: “We know that Austria and Switzerland normally follow the measures of Germany, and that in following the United Kingdom, this position by Germany will have an impact on other markets”.
The decision, announced early yesterday evening, has already provoked a cascade of cancellations, Pedro Costa Ferreira, president of APAVT (the Portuguese travel and tourism association) concedes.
Describing the situation as “a drama”, he said: “There are hotels in the Algarve that opened, hired workers, took workers out of lay-off, bought provisions, made-up beds to accommodate these tourists … and then suddenly someone says none of them are coming and the money has to be returned…”
He stressed that far from things getting better for the sector, this summer seems to show them getting worse.
If the government doesn’t maintain support measures there will be a wave of business collapses right across the board, he predicts, stressing that most tourist-oriented businesses are already in ‘technical failure’. They are simply buoyed-up by State support measures.
The only way forwards is to focus on “not allowing the support to fall” – and ensuring that it remains non-refundable, as no business will be in a position to take on any further debt.
Meantime, the German exodus is denuding beaches and holiday spots.
Germany is habitually Portugal’s ‘second largest tourist market’. In 2020, even in spite of the pandemic, 1.75 million Germans arrived for holidays – an increase of 10,000 on the previous year.
Smarting from this new body-blow, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva stated the obvious: the German decision has ridden roughshod over the whole premise of Europe’s “Covid Digital Certificate” as a means of allowing citizens free mobility, and it has also totally ignored regional differences (meaning some areas of Portugal are much less blighted by the high case count than others).