Portugal seeks to avoid summer visitor quarantines 'at all costs'

Country's once-booming tourism sector suffered its worst year since the mid-1980s in 2020

epa06924048 People rest on the Nazare beach, in Nazare, center of Portugal, center of Portugal, 02 August 2018. The Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), warns that the maximum temperatures will be 'well above the normal values for the time, close to 40 degrees Celsius as a spell of heat weather is going through Europe.  EPA/PAULO CUNHA

Portugal will do its best to avoid visitors having to enter quarantine on arrival this summer, its tourism Minister said on Wednesday, as Europe moves towards a Covid-19 passport to restart the travel industry.

Rita Marques told an online conference that the country would try "at all costs to avoid quarantines and additional Covid-19 tests" if the travel pass plan went ahead.

Tourism-dependent Portugal holds the rotating EU presidency and is responsible for negotiating the new pass with member states.

It would allow international travel to be freed up, despite the bloc's sluggish vaccination campaign and the risks posed by new coronavirus variants.

Ms 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 pandemic and lockdowns worldwide grounded flights and kept visitors away.

Portuguese hotels consider Brexit to be another tough obstacle because Britain is one of its 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," Ms Marques said.

"The UK will remain the leading outbound country."

Between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and February this year, Portuguese hotel revenues fell 74 per cent to €1.1 billion ($1.32bn) as tourist numbers slumped 71 per cent, official data shows.

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