Disaster for hotels looms as UK removes Portugal from green list
Just when it looked like Portugal’s hotels in the Algarve region might have a half decent summer season, hoteliers’ hopes have been dashed again as the UK will strip the country of its green status from 8 June.
This means not only will there be a scramble to get back to Blighty even if that means cutting short holidays to avoid quarantine on return; worse, it spells postponed and cancelled bookings with scores of hotel chains and bed and breakfast accommodation outlets, not just throughout the Algarve, but also popular city break destinations like Lisbon and Porto, as well as the islands of Madeira and the Azores.
Mainland Portugal and the islands have now been placed on the amber list while Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Trindade and Tobago are now on the red list.
The UK decided to remove Portugal from the green list on Wednesday which had meant that British tourists did not have to go into mandatory quarantine for 10 days on arrival back in the UK.
The Government’s excuse, no doubt informed by medical advisors, is that the threat of new Covid-19 variants means that less restricted travel could jeopardise unlocking.
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said it had been a “difficult decision” changing Portugal’s status but one based on Portugal’s test positivity rate having nearly doubled since the previous review of the lists, as well as concerns about a possible mutation of the Delta variant, first seen in Nepal.
The Portuguese government described the UK’s decision to remove the country from its green list of approved destinations as “unfathomable” while key leaders in the tourism industry said it would likely affect the summer season.
The Portuguese ministry of foreign affairs stated, “We take note of the British decision to remove Portugal from the travel ‘green list,’ a decision whose logic is unfathomable,” it said in an unusually strongly worded statement. “Portugal continues to carry out its prudent and gradual deconfinement plan, with clear rules for the safety of those who live here or visit us.”
Elidérico Viegas, the president of the Algarve Hotel and Tourism Business Association, said the Algarve was paying the price for a rise in cases in Lisbon.
He told the Guardian, “It’s not good news. It’s unfair because the Algarve is being caught in the middle of all this because case numbers in the region are lower than the minimum considered safe.”
Viegas said the amber rating and its attendant quarantine would put people off, but said he hoped the UK government would put Portugal back in the green category in three weeks’ time.
The decision caused the stock market value of tour operator Tui to fall 3%, while easyJet and the British Airways owner IAG both lost 5% with the loss of a major revenue stream.
According to The Telegraph, the new list will come into force from 4am on Tuesday 8 June. It means that there are only two places where the British can holiday now – Island and Gibraltar.
Portugal was the only country in the EU to be included on the UK’s green list which gave it a competitive advantage, albeit now a temporary one, over rival tourism destinations such as Spain and Greece.
The Guardian reported that the Portuguese government reopened the country to British visitors with negative PCR test results on 17 May. Residents in the city of Porto expressed concerns about a potential increase in cases last weekend after thousands of British fans arrived in Porto to attend the Champions League final and were seen drinking in crowds and ignoring the rules on wearing masks.