The British ambassador to Portugal has praised the country’s efforts to open up its tourism industry before the crucial summer season and said it had demonstrated a template for attracting holidaymakers in a “Covid-19 world”.

Speaking during a Travel Convention workshop on health and safety and recovery in destinations, Chris Sainty said Portugal had been “extremely unlucky” to be impacted by rising infection levels after doing “so much right” to establish a basis for the safe reopening of tourism.

Sainty said he had been particularly impressed by protocols put in place to ensure beaches could open safely without overcrowding, and the introduction of the country’s Clean and Safe accreditation which was adopted by more than 21,000 organisations and saw more than 22,000 staff receive training.

He said: “All the feedback I have seen has been pretty glowing and it does seem to be a good answer to how you make tourists and visitors feel comfortable in a Covid-19 world.

“In June, Portugal was the first country to receive the Safe Travels stamp from the WTTC and I think that supports my non-expert view that this was a world-leading response.”

He added: “I think they were extremely unlucky, they did so much right in the early stages of the pandemic. None of [the subsequent rise in cases] should detract from the response here and in particular the very creative and very joined-up way in which they basically reorganised their whole tourism sector which is really a very positive and powerful example.”

Speaking during the same session, Maria Elena Rossi, marketing director of the Italian National Tourist Board, said the industry’s response to rebuilding during the pandemic in Italy had also been “very strict and very responsible”, and she insisted that travellers must also play their part to ensure travel could resume safely.

Rossi said the hiatus had allowed public and private sectors to assess how they approached the country’s tourism offering, including the crucial subject of overtourism in Italy’s major arts cities.

She said: The public and private sectors are working together to define good balance between environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. It’s a question of finding a balance between volume and value…but we are confident that the new normal will be a better one.”