Welcome back! Tourism demand surges as Portugal drops Covid test requirement

Welcome back! Tourism demand surges as Portugal drops Covid test requirement

The Algarve is already seeing tourism demand surge just days after Portugal dropped the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test for arriving air passengers with a valid EU Covid-19 Digital Certificate or another recognised proof of vaccination – such as the UK’s NHS Covid Pass.

Negative tests are now only demanded from those without a certificate or another form of proof of vaccination recognised in Portugal, and must be carried out within 72 hours (PCR) or 24 hours (antigen) before the flight.

These other forms of proof include “valid vaccination or recovery certificates issued by a third country, under reciprocal conditions”. This applies to air passengers from the following countries and states: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Cabo Verde, El Salvador, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Iceland, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and The Vatican.

The announcement was met with praise by hoteliers in the Algarve who believe this could mark an important turning point for the region’s tourism sector which has been hit so hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These are very important measures for the Algarve and Portugal,” the president of the Algarve hoteliers’ association (AHETA) told the Resident.

“They come at a time when we are seeing growing interest from tourists looking to return to the Algarve, when we are starting the golf high season, and when summer holidays are being booked,” Hélder Martins told us.

Many of the Algarve’s main foreign markets are also easing their “restrictive travel measures” which could bring more holidaymakers to Portugal’s sunny southernmost region, explained the man who recently took over the helm at AHETA.

The changes have not led to an immediate increase in holidaymakers as many of those arriving at Faro Airport on Monday were still unaware of the new measures, said Martins.

However, tourism recovery could begin as soon as March, but it will most likely start around Easter when hotels and tourist establishments in the Algarve will better assess the impact of these changes and how events will unfold for the sector in the coming months.

The good news is that demand is already surging “even in areas which we would have expected it the least, such as congresses.

“The crushing majority of entrepreneurs have manifested that feeling of an increase in demand,” said Martins.

He admitted, however, that the unpredictability of the pandemic still poses a threat and that tourists will feel “safer” about visiting the Algarve when they are confident that the incidence of Covid-19 is truly decreasing.

While he cannot predict the future, Martins feels 2022 will be “a year of clear growth”.

“Our expectation is that by 2023 we will return to the numbers of past years or even surpass them,” the hotel association chief added.

The new rules have also been applauded by the Portuguese Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Similar Businesses (AHRESP).

“The easing of restrictions at the border is very positive for tourism because citizens who hold a Digital Covid Certificate of vaccination or recovery now have freedom to circulate without the need to also present a negative test upon arrival, no matter the epidemiological situation of their country of origin, which we consider of great relevance,” the association said in a communiqué to the press.

Joining the chorus of praise this week was the president of the tourism board of Porto and the North (TPNP), Luís Pedro Martins.

“This is good news, we are now looking at 2022 in an even more optimistic way,” he told Lusa news agency.

“We already believed 2022 would be the year of recovery, so this easing of restrictions is another strong contribution to our belief that we will be able to return to numbers very similar to those in 2019,” Martins said.

The new rules will also allow tourism entrepreneurs to plan the upcoming Easter season with more “confidence” than in past years.

“We are looking at the future with optimism, particularly for companies, even if they have to work very hard to recover in one year what they lost in practically two years. But we are optimistic,” the tourism chief added.

The Resident also contacted Algarve tourism chief João Fernandes for a comment, but he was unable to respond at the time of going to press.

Portugal’s decision to drop the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test for arriving air passengers follows a European Commission recommendation, which advised Member States that COVID-19 measures should be applied considering “the status of the person instead of the situation at regional level, with the exception of areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels.”

In other words, a traveller’s COVID-19 vaccination, test or recovery status should be the “key determinant.

“A person-based approach will substantially simplify the applicable rules and will provide additional clarity and predictability to travellers,” said the EC.
All the latest Covid-19 measures implemented in Portugal are listed in English at www.visitportugal.com

By MICHAEL BRUXO
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com

Photo: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP