Portuguese travel more on a shoestring

DESPITE THE economic crisis, evidence shows that the Portuguese are travelling abroad now more than ever before. However, many families are cutting their cloth accordingly and opting for cheaper destinations, such as Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Spain.

Travel agents and tour operators are also slashing their prices to lure cash-strapped holidaymakers to more exotic far-flung destinations, such as the ever popular Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico and Cape Verde.

Travel agencies are talking about a 20 per cent rise in business so far this year, with regular and charter flights increasing by 2.4 and six per cent respectively. The average price per person stands at 800 euros for most destinations outside Spain and its islands, Madeira and North Africa, while the main concern for tourists is how to have a good holiday while spending less in the country they choose. Evidence also suggests that the Portuguese are prepared to take out short-term bank loans to pay for holidays.

Pinto Lopes, vice president of the Portuguese Travel Agents Association, said that, today, the Portuguese consider trips abroad as an indispensable necessity.

One of the new tendencies becoming popular in Portugal is the couch surf holiday, whereby people all over the world allow holidaymakers the chance to stay in their homes in exchange for a return trip in their country. Many people are even logging onto a site specifically for such holidays – www.couchsurfing.com – with each person defining his or her profile, interests and needs. Portugal is already the fourth country worldwide associated with this trend.