“Don’t cancel, push back”, urges Portugal to benefit from voucher system
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal will give vouchers to tourists forced to cancel holiday plans in Portugal due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing them to postpone their trips until the end of 2021, the secretary of State to Tourism.
The new program goes into effect on Friday and applies to bookings through travel agencies or at approved vacation accommodations, such as hotels or Airbnb properties, initially scheduled between March 13 and September 30 of this year.
Vouchers are valid until December 31, 2021 and eligible for a refund in 2022 if the traveler is unable to make the trip during that time. Those who lose their jobs by September 30 can claim a full refund.
“We are absolute pioneers in the European context. Our priority is to protect the rights of consumers and the interests of economic operators, according to the “do not cancel, postpone” principle, ”Secretary of State Rita Marques said at an online conference.
It is hoped the program will help reduce damage from a crisis that could cut international travel by 39% this year, which equates to 577 million fewer trips – catastrophic for an industry that accounts for more than 10% of domestic product. gross world (GDP) and employs 320 million people.
A total of 16.3 million foreign tourists visited Portugal last year, of which around half came from Britain, France, Germany and Spain.
However, global lockdowns and border closures have plunged the tourism industry into turmoil, threatening nine years of record earnings in a sector seen as one of the main drivers of the country’s recovery from the financial crisis.
The government launched a 1.7 billion euros ($ 1.8 billion) line of credit in March to support the sector, which, according to the hotel association AHP, will lose from 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion. billion euros in revenue between March and June.
According to AHP survey data, 94% of hotels are closed and 85% of their employees are made redundant because almost all potential customers have canceled their plans.
The country, which has so far reported 22,353 coronavirus cases and 820 deaths, hopes to be seen as a relatively safe vacation spot when borders reopen, preparing policies that include health security certifications for hotels and resorts. protective gear and coronavirus testing for employees and customers.
Report by Sergio Gonçalves; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and David Goodman