“It is a decision that the British Government took as a matter of internal policy and not as a matter of risk”, said the president of the Algarve Tourism Region (RTA), stressing that the justification given by the UK authorities “does not use Portugal as a reference” for Covid-19 infections and even Malta, “which has an incidence of nine cases per 100,000 inhabitants, was left out” of the green list.
João Fernandes acknowledged that the British decision “has a clear impact on the region”, as the United Kingdom is the “main source market” of tourists to the Algarve, and regretted the “embarrassment” that the measure causes, “from the outset for those who are already here and are scheduled to return after Tuesday, which is the day from which this measure takes effect”.
“We are already witnessing a concentration of repatriation flights and a cancellation of flights for the subsequent period and of hotel reservations as well. We hope that this measure is reviewed as soon as possible, because it is completely unfair”, he said.
Fernandes added that the Algarve had “100,000 movements of passengers of British origin during the last two weeks” and that, according to data provided by the Regional Health Administration among British passengers, “there was only a record – and all of them were tested – of six cases”.
“Six cases per 100,000 inhabitants is a much lower number than that registered in the United Kingdom itself, not least because the British, before travelling to Portugal, have to take a PCR [test]”, he added.
Now, he said, the region must “look forward and continue to bet on other markets that are in high demand in the Algarve, such as the German, French, Irish Spanish, Dutch markets”, which are all “recognising Portugal as a safe destination and the best beach destination in the world, according to the latest recognition from the World Travel Awards”.
He added that Portugal can possibly return to the green list in the next re-evaluation of the British Government, within about three weeks.
João Fernandes also left a warning to British tourists who "are now returning in a hurry", noting that they can use the approximately 130 covid-19 testing sites identified on the website www.visitalgarve.pt, before traveling to the airport, to facilitate their departure from the country.
The decision to withdraw Portugal from the green list comes just three weeks after the British Government took a decision in the opposite direction, creating positive expectations in the Algarve and for national tourism, which have now been blighted.