“Surprise and shock”

Tourist chief expresses disappointment at government decision

Luís Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal who expressed "surprise and shock"

Luís Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal, pictured, was interviewed on BBC Breakfast News this morning and asked about his reaction when it was announced that Portugal had been omitted from the list of countries where UK travellers would not have to quarantine upon return from holiday.

He described his first reaction as “surprise and shock”, followed by disappointment, explaining that Portugal was being penalised for its “massive testing” and that no country had been more transparent with its data. Apparently 1.2 million tests have been conducted in total, representing more than 10% of the population, making it the 6th biggest testing country in Europe.

He was surprised that over the weekend the UK Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, had justified that Portugal’s omission was based on “scientific assessment”, pointing out that Portugal’s hospitals were at just 60% capacity. He also pointed out the very high number of common citizens residing in both countries, and that working with airlines more than 2000 flights were now scheduled from the UK in the next four months, and 20,000 establishments now carried the “Clean and Safe” accreditation

Over the weekend the Turismo President had issued a statement with more details of the Portuguese case for inclusion:

“We are extremely disappointed to hear that the UK government has made the decision to omit Portugal from the air bridge agreement. The reality in Portugal is totally different from the one portrayed by this decision. We fully maintain and stress unwavering confidence in the safety of the nation to welcome back international visitors. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Portuguese government and tourism industry has worked tirelessly to implement a carefully strategised and thoroughly actioned protocol for the tourism industry and wider society. From our viewpoint, the entire national territory should have been appropriately included in the UK travel corridor owing to the successful containment of the outbreak.

We recall widespread praise from across Europe as recently as May for the handling of the pandemic in Portugal, in which time the situation has only improved. As of 1st July, the majority of the country took a positive step reducing to the minimum level of public restrictions, thus mirroring the improved situation. Since the beginning of May, the number of hospitalisations in Intensive Care Units has halved, overall hospitalisation is down 60%, deaths down 70%, and active cases at just 13,060 for the entire nation.

Safety measures and adequate control saw Portugal become the first European destination to receive the ‘Travel Safe’ stamp by the World Travel & Tourism Council. Our Clean & Safe hygiene protocol has been decisive in accounting for more than 18,000 voluntary memberships from various establishments in the sector and more than 20,000 staff across the hospitality sector trained to meet professional devised practices. We wish to place on record that Portugal is the 6th highest country in Europe for the number of people tested and traced for COVID-19. Having already completed more than 1.1 million tests, which account for more than 10% of the population, the virus has been controlled in a safe manner. Naturally, logic would suggest that if other nations followed such a measure, statistics may have been reflected differently.

In addition to the ‘Best Destination in the World’ accolade for three consecutive years (World Travel Awards 2017, 2018 and 2019), Portugal is also the 3rd safest country in the world (Global Peace Index 2020). It has even recently been chosen to host the final phase of the Champions League, which denotes international confidence in the country. All of these arguments justify the frustration with which we received the decision from the UK because we believe that the decision could and should have been different, especially given the improvement in the pandemic control indicators that Portugal is experiencing.

It’s important to understand that the Portuguese tourism industry has been in operation for several weeks now, welcoming guests from around the world – entirely safely. British citizens are still able to visit Portugal. Madeira hasn’t recorded a single death since the beginning of the pandemic and has not seen an active case reported since 21st June. The Azores Islands represents just 0.4% of Portuguese cases since the beginning of the pandemic and has only three cases in total. Both the Madeira and Azores Islands are 100% ready to welcome British guests and have almost no risk of infection – yet remain on the list of destinations requiring quarantine upon return, when destinations proven to have higher infection rates are included.

Despite this, the FCO have today removed Madeira and the Azores Islands from a list of countries and territories for which advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel is issued. We have to remain completely honest when voicing our bewilderment at such a decision and confusing message.

The minimal impact can also be referred to when discussing the Algarve (1.5% of Portuguese cases since the beginning of the pandemic) and Alentejo (1.1% of Portuguese cases since beginning of the pandemic). Lisbon was the European city with the most flight bookings during the first half of June, according to a study released on 29th June by Forward Keys.

The British public, who have been our primary source of inbound visitors for many regions in Portugal, have celebrated our culture, traditions, landmarks, and history for decades, by our side.

We will continue to implement strict safety protocol with the cross-sector cooperation of multiple establishments. We can only reiterate our full commitment to welcome all British tourists who choose to have their vacations in our country by providing them with safety, warmth, and the kindness of the people of Portugal.”

6 thoughts on ““Surprise and shock””

  1. I don’t understand this quarantine upon arrival rules – are the countries set by the FO for all the UK, or is their a situation where Scotland could decide differently from England?

    Reply
    • Viola, I understand that health measures like quarantine are set by each UK nation separately. Northern Ireland will still quarantine travellers arriving from outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland, while Wales and Scotland haven’t decided whether to ease quarantine restrictions

      Reply
  2. “Despite this, the FCO have today removed Madeira and the Azores Islands from a list of countries and territories for which advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel is issued. We have to remain completely honest when voicing our bewilderment at such a decision and confusing message.”

    I think Luís Araújo may have added to the confusion and bewilderment with the above statement, which I read online yesterday – as far as I can see Madeira and the Azores have not been removed from the FCO list and still appear as :- Portugal ( only the Azores and Madeira )

    Reply
  3. While we are not due to go to our Timeshare in Madeira until November by which time the “ rules “will no doubt have changed several times I do not understand our Governments decision to exclude Madeira et al from the green list. I can only hope that sense will prevail soon so that we can join our oldest ally and support the Madeira people.

    Reply
  4. The wording still is:-

    “From 4 July, Madeira and the Azores are exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

    However, the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK from Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, remains in place. “

    Reply

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