LISBON, April 14 (Reuters) - Portugal will do its best to avoid visitors having to quarantine on arrival this summer, its secretary of state for tourism said on Wednesday, as Europe moves towards adopting a COVID-19 passport to try to kick-start the travel industry.
Rita Marques told an online conference the country would try “at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional COVID-19 tests” if the travel pass plan goes ahead.
Tourism-dependent Portugal holds the rotating EU presidency and is responsible for negotiating the new pass with member states.
It would allow a freeing up of international travel, despite the bloc’s sluggish vaccination campaign and the risks posed by new coronavirus variants.
Marques said that, while this summer would not be “completely normal”, Portugal would “certainly bet on maintaining the basic principles of free movement of people and goods”.
Portugal’s once-booming tourism sector suffered its worst year since the mid-1980s in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns worldwide grounded flights and kept visitors away.
Brexit earlier this year is seen by Portuguese hotels as another tough obstacle as Britain is one of the country’s main markets. Direct flights to and from countries outside the EU, including Britain, are suspended until May 17.
“Portugal is still identifying many issues that need special care due to Brexit but the Portugal brand is strong, particularly among the British,” Marques said. “The UK will remain...the leading outbound country”.
Between the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and February this year, Portuguese hotel revenues fell 74% to 1.1 billion euros as numbers of domestic and foreign tourists slumped 71%, according to official data.
Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by John Stonestreet
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