Portugal needs British tourists soon to accelerate economic recovery
Portugal is planning to offer an ‘air bridge’ for British tourists to bypass quarantine rules. This concept will be positively received by destinations in Portugal that are highly reliant on UK tourism such as the Algarve. In 2019, the UK was Portugal’s second largest source market after Spain, with 2.9 million UK visits.
According to travel experts’ pre-COVID-19 forecast, UK arrivals to Portugal were expected to grow at a year-on-year (YOY) increase of 3.1% in 2020. The COVID-19 forecast now expects a YOY decrease of -34% in 2020. In 2018, the contribution of travel and tourism to Portugal’s GDP was approximately 19%. The flow of UK visitors to Portugal is a significant reason as to why travel and tourism now acts as a key economic contributor for the country.
What is currently confusing for UK travelers that already have or want to book holidays to Portugal in the coming months is that the UK Government is yet to reveal specific details on when its quarantine policy might be introduced, how it would work and how long it will last. The introduction of quarantine measures would have a sizeable impact on both inbound and outbound tourism flows in the UK.
Air bridges hold the potential to limit some of the damage that COVID-19 has created across the European tourism sector. However, national governments such as Portugal’s need to carefully assess whether this is safe to do. The economic benefit of an air bridge between the UK and Portugal would be huge, but international travel does increase the risk of a second wave in infections.
Ultimately, the UK Government should confirm its plans for international travel in a timely fashion. The quicker this is done, the sooner it will provide clarity for all tourism stakeholders involved in the supply of UK tourism. Until then, tourism sectors such as Portugal’s will continue to suffer from uncertainty.