New Delhi: The beautiful European country, Portugal, which is all set to welcome more international visitors, says it hopes to see tourists from India as well.
Claudia Matias, Director, Turismo de Portugal, India in an in-depth chat talks about the travel status in Portugal.
What's the status of the travel - both domestic and international in Portugal like?
The Portuguese government has been taking all necessary public health measures to protect the entire population. The analysis of the evolution of the outbreak is constant and the implementation of new measures will be carried out whenever necessary. We believe, we have managed this situation with good results. Our main concern is always the criteria and responsibility for public and health assurance. We are seen as an example of how well we managed the pandemic situation, and because of Turismo de Portugal initiatives, we were the first European Country awarded with 'Safe Travels' stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Safety measures undertaken:
Clean & Safe stamp which certifies tourism activities or equipment (from rent a car to hotels, museums to event venues, etc) that comply with clean and health protocols. Turismo de Portugal gave more than 22,300 stamps and trained more than 22,000 staff. Tourists can track all the establishments and tourist services with a Clean&Safe stamp, in a specific website
Evaluating the compliance with a traffic light system; Portugal Health Passport, granting access to previously fixed costs to health care providers at private hospitals in Portugal and tourists can have Portugal Health Passport by registering on the platform; Portugal Travel Insurance, covering health expenses, repatriation, cancellation travel issues originated by COVID-19; StayAway COVID, Portuguese voluntary and free App, indicating if you have been exposed to the disease and we had already 1,29 million downloads.
There are rules regarding social distancing and the use of beach facilities and equipment. The level of occupancy will be shown using coloured flags at the beach, and travellers should download the Info Praia app, which will show real-time information on water quality and occupancy levels.
As far as domestic tourism is concerned Turismo de Portugal launched a campaign #TuPodes, visita Portugal, being an invitation to all the Portuguese to discover the reasons which made our country World's Leading Destination.
We have been having tourists and they are enjoying themselves and we are obliviously very grateful to those because all partners in the tourism sector in Portugal, either private or public have worked together and very hard to set Portugal as a safe destination and this is already an achievement! In September we had a 45 per cent air connectivity capacity, 35 international airlines, 100 cities.
Comparison of tourist figures from pre-COVID and during-COVID?
Portugal went up 2 positions in the World Tourism Barometer and is in the 15th position in terms of tourism arrivals. This is showing our competitiveness, we are diversifying our international markets, and we hope to see more tourists coming from India.
We recently opened an office here in India covering the entire market. So, this is a very strong commitment with two major objectives, first to increase awareness about Portugal as a tourist destination and the second one, of course, is to increase partnerships with different tour operators and travel agencies to increase their knowledge and expertise on Portugal and to create the best conditions for these potential partners to bring more business here from India. So our main objectives are still the same, but with an add on, that Portugal is indeed a safe and prepared and inspiration destination for Indian visitors.
Indian tourists are always welcome in Portugal, as soon as travelling to Portugal is allowed. Everyone is welcome to visit the country, but this is a matter still being considered according to the pandemic evolution, not only in Portugal, but also worldwide.
How is the Portugal Tourist Board scaling up operations to attract more tourists?
Apart from our mentioned and very well succeed viral campaigns like #CanSkipHope, #OnlyYou, we plan to work closely with our potential partners such as tour operators and airlines to increase their business knowledge and expertise on Portugal and to create the best conditions for these potential partners to promote a new destination with so much product offering all year round. The World's Best Destination continues to be authentic, diverse, attractive, inclusive and safe.
We maintain our purpose and our undertaking, namely, to welcome all our visitors and ensure that they can travel around our country safely and confidently. Another measure was a very clear message towards the consumer, "Don't cancel, postpone". Travellers forced to cancel their trips due to the pandemic can reschedule their trips until the end of this year.
The scheme also states those unable to complete their trip will be eligible for a full refund in 2022. Therefore, it's important to readjust strategy to keep talking to our stakeholders, so that we adopt measures that are necessary to boost confidence. On a brief note, that according to OECD Portugal is the Country with more innovative solutions (37) against COVID in the World (432).
What are the specific guidelines one should keep in mind to visit Portugal - specifically Indian tourists?
Once tourism is allowed and we do hope that happens very soon to welcome our Indian visitors, there are no restrictions on mobility within mainland Portugal or at its border crossings, although travellers should observe rules on social distancing and wearing face masks in all enclosed public spaces.
In Madeira, the use of a mask is mandatory in all public places, closed or open. More information is available and updated at our website visitportugal.com/en. Like previously mentioned, the analysis of the evolution of the outbreak is constant and the implementation of new measures will be carried out whenever necessary. So we have clear guidelines and I can state a few:
People must not socialise in groups larger than five. Although not mandatory, wearing a mask in outdoor public spaces is recommended.
Everyone must stay two metres apart and wear a face mask on public transport and in any enclosed space such as shops, public services or supermarkets. Public transport is limited to two-thirds capacity, as is car rental unless the driver and passengers are from the same household.
Restaurants are open with a minimum of 1.5 metres between tables, and face masks must be worn while moving around in the restaurant.
Museums, monuments and cultural spaces have reopened with specific circulation measures and social distancing. Cinemas, theatres, auditoriums and showrooms must have marked seats, reduced capacity and face masks are mandatory.
There are no limits on occupancy, but each hotel or accommodation provider must follow rules on circulation, hygiene and cleaning procedures. Any property with a swimming pool must implement procedures for the prevention and control of infection, ensuring physical distance between users.
Outdoor shows can take place in a delimited venue to allow access control, even if free. They must follow rules of social distance and circulation, to minimize physical contact. We will monitor the evolution of all these measures and we will soon be able to discuss in more detail what will be the impact on travelling to Portugal.
What are the new trends or new normal when it comes to travel?
No doubt that spending time with family and friends is a key element for holiday and travellers. It's not just an escape from everyday life, it's a chance to connect and celebrate with loved ones.
We saw a huge increase in booking larger houses to accommodate extended family groups, often with three generations catching up and staying in one home. Hence we saw a very positive increase in regional spread across Portugal towards other regions like the Centre of Portugal, Alentejo, the North region.
As group travel is trending, it's no surprise that holiday homes and private accommodation are a hugely popular option for post-COVID travellers as well, choosing to minimise contact with crowds and other travellers. Private Properties have seen an increase in the number of guests interested in private dining experiences and other local experiences, like hiking, trekking, canoeing, nature-related activities, guided tours are also continuing to grow in popularity.
But I must say that I have been away on business around Portugal staying at hotels, and couldn't felt safer. Safety and Health protocols and taken very seriously and the overall experience is still there!
Another growing trend of longer stays, since people are working from home, or home away from home, allowing them to enjoy a break from the city without taking annual leave. We're seeing those road trip destinations not too far from the capital cities are trending. Portugal is one of the world's most wonderful destinations and, fortunately, distances can be covered by a car. We have amazing iconic routes like N118 and others crossing UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Not to forget, good food, good wine at a regional destination a few hours from home.
Portugal is already one of the most approached destinations by international travellers, with 4 of the 21 safest destinations: Madeira, Azores, Alentejo and Algarve being selected by the European Best Destinations for 2020 summer inside Europe. Three Portuguese beaches are among the 10 safest in Europe.
We are a country of contrasts with such heritage, diversity and inclusiveness, warm hospitality and mild weather. We invite Indian travellers to visit Portugal once we can all be reunited!