TPN: How do you feel about the green light given by the UK?
JF: It is almost like the turn of a page. The UK is our main market and the fact that we can really have this “positive discrimination” is very important as we are almost the only country available with these characteristics for travel. It is even more important, because it happens at a time when Brits have a mid- term, a period of holidays between the 25 May and the 6 June. However, we already have 17 flights, about 5,500 seats available, from the UK and we have eight more flights from other destinations.
The feeling is that activity is returning. We have also had the opening of borders with Spain and this has also been felt in trade and restaurants with Spanish tourists.
We have good levels of bookings for June, July and August and we also have for the last four months, (September, October, November and December), which makes us believe that we are able to breathe again.
TPN: Are you expecting a great recovery this summer?
JF: If nothing bad happens, we hope so, because we are having good rates of demand from the point of view of the national market and we are finally having the opportunity to have foreign markets return. We expect a better year than the previous one, especially in this mid-term period, and to end the year with a situation already close to normal. Hopefully, it will finally be the restart of our main activity (tourism).
We are offering a kit that has masks and alcohol gel made in Portugal and a tourist guide with ideas of what to do in the region for those who arrive. There are two main messages in these kits: welcome, enjoy what the region has to offer and do it safely.
TPN: What about Covid-19 tests?
JF: British tourists need to do a rapid test or a PCR in the region before going back to UK, we have more than 126 points in the region where it is possible to do the test, we encourage every hotel to make agreements with the labs to be able to do tests in the comfort of the hotel, and many are doing this. Also, for people who arrive at the airport and then remember, (that they need to do a test) we also have a drive-thru to do the test here at the airport.
TPN: How can those who aren’t aware of all the pandemic rules in force at the moment, find this information?
We have everything available on the websites visitPortugal.com and visitalgarve.com, we make communications to the various tourism agents, such as hotels, so that they are aware of the rules, because they are the ones who often have direct contact with the tourists. We now have more similar rules in the European space than we had. Therefore, today it is much more natural to see a tourist trying to learn about the rules in place.
In fact, it is very important to remember that last year, we had a significant presence of tourists in the region in the summer and did not have a pandemic wave due to that presence. Why? Because all companies have applied health protocols. We were the first region in the world, as far as I know, that published health protocols for golf, restaurants, hotels, rent a cars, among many others in the sector. We were the first country to have a so-called “clean and safe” certification system for services that are not just for tourism, but also for cultural and transport areas.