Portuguese authorities remain bewildered by the UK government’s decision to exclude the country from a ‘Covid safe travel’ list of destinations.
Lewis Araujo, president of Turismo de Portugal, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “We didn’t expect it. Portugal has done well in terms of controlling Covid.
“The government issued very clear rules. Everyone was complying. We opened all the restaurants and hotels. Everything was going smoothly. So it was a surprise.
“We are trying to understand why because we couldn’t understand what data was used to take this decision.”
Speaking on a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery webcast, Araujo said: “This kind of decision creates a lack of trust and confusion in tourists. It’s not just the UK – other governments in Europe are taking similar decisions.
“We don’t know if the data the decision was based on were clear. We say daily how many cases we have, how many deaths.
“You have to see the overall picture in a country. Portugal was one of the EU countries testing more and tracing positive cases and all the people in contact with those cases. More than 10% of the population has been tested.”
The UK government is due to review the quarantine-free list of countries on Monday July 27 when it’s hoped restrictions on travel to Portugal will be lifted.
Half the international visitors to Portugal last year were from the UK.
Araujo said: “Hopefully, the decision will be revisited because it’s very bad not just for Portugal’s economy, but for British tour operators, travel agents, airlines. It damages everything.”
Asked about the Covid outbreak around Lisbon in the days leading up to the UK’s initial decision, he said: “We’re talking about 18 neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Lisbon, an industrialised area, home to many people who work in construction. It had nothing to do with downtown Lisbon or the tourist area, nothing to do with the rest of the country.
“The government put specific limitations on people in those areas, but just those neighbourhoods. It had nothing to do with the rest of the country. It’s being controlled.”
He insisted: “You can come to Portugal. We have more than 4,000 flights from the UK to Portugal until October. It’s just a matter of the quarantine.
“We’re open to every country. We’re getting a lot of tourists from Germany and from Spain – the borders have been open since July 1 – also a lot of internal tourism.
“In July, we have 30% of the capacity we had in July 2019. In August, we are at 50%-55% of what we had in 2019. Of course, we need the flights to be full and this kind of misunderstanding is not helping.”
Araujo said: “We’re ready to welcome everyone. The virus doesn’t choose by nationality and the economy needs tourists. We’re hopeful the UK government will see the overall picture.
“The British will always be welcome, and Portugal is ready to take care of you as we take care of ourselves.”
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