Madeira broadened its tourist arrival policy on February 19th: those tourists who present proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 within the last 90 days will be allowed to arrive on the island. A major shift that will allow the Portuguese island to restart tourism. We sat down with Nuno Vale, director of the Madeira Promotion Bureau.
1. Portugal went through a tough period in January with severe consequences: the number of deaths and infections skyrocketed, and a new lockdown was imposed by the Government. How was the situation in Madeira?
In practice, we only faced the first Covid-19 wave in January. Until then, we had very few cases and most of them were imported. Our government had such a quick reaction regarding the situation and imposed a partial lockdown in order to prevent gatherings but keep the economy open. So, it has been a softer lockdown than in the rest of our country. In terms of health care, Madeira only faced the first death in December 2020 and the hospital infrastructure was able to provide a full response to the number of hospitalisations, without any signs of collapse. As hospitals in the Mainland registered a high influx of patients and a lack of resources, our local hospital even took in and treated Covid-19 patients, who travelled to Madeira under a very complex operation.
2. How is the vaccination rollout coming along? Any rough estimates regarding timelines? What are the main challenges ahead?
The vaccination is aligned with the country’s average and by the end of February over 6% of the population had been vaccinated. But the immunisation process will fully depend on how many vaccines are available. The expectation is to have 10% of the population vaccinated by the end of March. The plan contains 3 different stages, starting with the priority groups, followed by individuals over 80 years of age (or older than 50 with accountable diseases) and finally the roll out to the rest of the population. We want to reach 60% to 70% of the population vaccinated this year.
The main challenge for Madeira’s promotion in the near future will be the same we have been facing over the last 12 months. That is, facing the unknown and being able to adapt the strategy every week, overcoming any obstacle. We strongly believe Madeira will be very successful when international tourism opens its doors. The data already shows that bookings for summer and autumn are positive, showing an increase over the last weeks. Everybody is eager to travel, and we were able to position Madeira as a safe destination and have never stopped communicating in our main markets. But we also have to bear in mind that there will be a fierce competition from other destinations.
3. Tourists who present proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 within 90 days, will be allowed to arrive on the island. In practical terms, how will these green corridors be implemented? What challenges and risks could be foreseen?
The green corridor already existed at Madeira airport for those who arrive with a negative PCR test done within 72 hours. Now Madeira is also receiving tourists vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19 (with proof up to 90 days of validity) who want to enjoy the region, with testing for these cohorts no longer required. To be eligible, tourists who fall under these new conditions must prove their status through one of two documents. Proof of Covid-19 recovery in the last 90 days, validated by the respective country of origin, stating the name, date of birth, health number, type and date of the test and explicit mention of ‘recovered’. The official vaccination certificate for each country is accepted which includes the date of the two doses taken and respect for the immunisation period according to instructions for each vaccine.
Documentation in English must be submitted to the app Madeira Safe before the trip is taken. This decision represents a vote of confidence in this new phase the world is going through, in addition to encouraging visits to the destination to stimulate economic activity, while maintaining Madeira as a safe destination.
4. In these times of restricted mobility, some countries have reshaped their strategy to include “remote workers” packages in their tourism offer. Visitors can continue to work remotely while experiencing a different setting and culture. Madeira is not an exception and has recently created a “digital nomads” village. How does this project work? What have been the first conclusions?
The project has been a huge success. As a year round destination, with good climate throughout the year, Madeira has been a destination for long stays and for repeated visits during the year. With the pandemic and the increase of workation activities the destination was naturally and organically chosen by digital nomads. Government and private initiatives further developed the offer, where the digital nomads village in Ponta do Sol is a great example. The first phase of the project is running until June and not only provides free working spaces as well as access to a Slack community. This target fits in our overall niche targets selected by interests and further contributes to decreasing tourism seasonality in the region.
5. How will Madeira’s tourism offer redefine itself to remain as attractive as always to visitors in the “new normal”?
As Madeira has never been known for mass tourism, there is not much change to be done in terms of redefining it’s image. Two thirds of Madeira is a natural protected area and still offers a wide range of outdoor activities. These are great actives for tourists to adapt to the “new normal” and this will keep Madeira & Porto Santo as an attractive destination for those who seek to experience anything they desire. There is space for plenty of different needs and profiles, we believe people will always find a sense of belonging, and that in itself is what people will look for in the “new normal”. The search for the authentic, nature, sustainability, open air activities and breath-taking views, complemented by high quality service standards and a welcoming community, that’s all that the “new normal” requires and we are ready to offer.
6. Many local and national European tourism authorities stopped investing in the US or Asian markets and fully concentrated their budget in the EU-27 arguing that travellers of tomorrow will tend to travel within the continent. Do you agree with this strategy?
We agreed to this strategy in the short term and have adapted our activity in 2020 accordingly. But from 2021 we are looking to broaden our strategy into a wider range and will be increasing some investments in countries such as USA, Canada and Brazil. We believe that global travelling will take longer to recover but there’s a lot of potential in the mid-future for Madeira, specially from the above mentioned markets.
7. In 2020 the president of Visit Portugal, Luís Aráujo, was elected president of the European Travel Commission. Since January 1st, we are under the Portuguese presidency of the European Council. How can Madeira benefit from Portugal playing an important role in today’s European politics?
On one hand it gives visibility to Portugal and its regions. On the other, Luis Araújo being from Madeira, understands well the challenges that peripheral destinations face and will be able to bring these issues into the political agenda.
8. The football player Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Funchal, Madeira. He has often promoted the island through its social media channels. The government of Madeira even named its airport after him. Are there any plans to launch an official campaign with CR7?
Cristiano Ronaldo has been a natural ambassador of Madeira. He has strong bonds with the destination and he genuinely cares about his homeland.