However, according to TeleTrade analyst José Maria Castro Monteiro (https://www.teletrade.eu/pt), the reality of a Covid-penetrated world remains brutal. Last Thursday, the U.K. authorities put Portugal in the so-called amber list of countries whose destinations require a quarantine when Britons come back home. Of course, no one wants to go through a ten-days quarantine after spending just one weekend or even a two-week vacation on the seaside, and such a decision will probably mean an actual sharp drop in the tourist flow of Britons to Portugal. Moreover, a real bedlam has begun for thousands of British tourists who were already in Portugal at the time of the new restraints. British families had to scramble back to their native country to be there in time before the deadline as soon as their own government excluded Portugal from the number of comfortably visited countries. From 04:00 British Summer Time (BST) on Tuesday, June 15, Portugal is dropped from the green list, and returnees are made to self-isolate for ten days and take two PCR tests, the BBC announced.
Tourists were faced with panic as most flights were already sold out, while a few of available seats were offered at much higher prices. Thirty-nine flights left Faro Airport in the Algarve for the UK on Monday, nearly twice the usual total, but ticket prices are significantly higher than they were a week before. British Airways and EasyJet have added extra capacity, but passengers are reporting difficulties in getting pre-departure tests. It was not at all surprising that crowds of holidaymakers literally besieged the Portuguese airports. People, as well as travel firms, expressed their anger when the announcement on "amber" Portugal was made by the U.K. And their feelings are natural as it came just 17 days after the general ban on international leisure travel was lifted for most inhabitants of the British Isles. International travel just has been renewed for residents of England, Scotland and Wales since 17 May, with Northern Ireland following suit from Monday 24 May, using a new traffic light system consisting of a green list, an amber list and a red list of countries. Bookings to Portugal soared last month after it was placed on the green list, meaning UK residents could travel there without having to quarantine on their return.
TeleTrade analyst considers that people were trapped as Portugal initially was in the green list but the whole situation has changed as the number of active COVID cases almost doubled from May 1 to June 10. It has now decreased from 910 cases at the last week's daily peak to 625 by June 14, while the number of confirmed deaths from COVID since the beginning of June does not exceed a dozen throughout all the country of Portugal. It is unlikely that British doctors are ready to quickly change their own recent decision, even though it may break the plans of a large number of their compatriots. Alas, it is remarkable to quote just one excerpt from the words of the U.K. ambassador: "The Portuguese government is very keen for the British to come back this summer and lots of shops and businesses in the Algarve depend on it. At this moment, I do not know if this can be achieved on the scale and ambition that Portugal would like. The UK, acting on the best scientific advice that it has, taking into account the progress of the pandemic in the UK, recently introduced a quarantine restriction and, if maintained through the summer, that will depress the number of British tourists willing to travel abroad for their holidays”.
There is a lot of pressure from the airlines and tourism sector, but "the honest answer is that we simply don’t know yet if it is possible because of the inherent unpredictability of the virus", Mr Sainty said, while mentioning the theoretical possibility of travel corridors between countries without the quarantine restrictions. From the Portuguese side, valid from June 14, Britons who do travel to Portugal despite the country being placed on the amber list will still need only to provide a negative test to enter the country, it can be either a PCR test or the cheaper lateral flow, antigen test. The Foreign Office has confirmed it, following a change in guidelines in Portugal. PCR tests need to have been taken 72 hours before arrival, while lateral flow tests can be taken 24 hours beforehand.
These may be considered to be fairly reasonable and affordable conditions for tourists to enter the country, without requiring them to spend a lot of time or money just in vain, but given the post-return quarantine imposed by the British side, it is unlikely that the flow of Britons wishing to visit Portugal could now be significant this summer. This means that for many representatives of the tourism industry who were strongly financially affected last year, as well as ordinary employees of shops or seaside cafes, owners of private apartments, the tourist season may be much poorer than they hoped. As tourism accounts for nearly 15% of all Portugal’s gross domestic product, it was a major driver behind the country's economic recovery from the previous 2011-2014 financial crisis. Now the recovery may be delayed here compared to more well-to-do and economically stable European countries.
José Maria Castro Monteiro
Market Analyst & Business Developer