Covid-19 had the greatest impact that the tourism sector has ever encountered. The inhibition to travel by air, road, rail, and sea, due to confinements and restrictions on international circulation, determined by the closure of borders, destroyed markets and families and eclipsed an entire sector. The measures taken by the governments had repercussions on the world economy, and the main objective is currently the defense of population life and public health. To exemplify the sector’s devastating scenario, 54% of the accommodation and catering companies closed temporarily, and 6% definitively.
To show this reality, Travel Tomorrow interviewed Francisco Calheiros, President of the Portuguese Confederation of Tourism (CTP), who says that in the current scenario: “the subsidies allocated to the sector are currently insufficient.” And he goes on by saying that “we need new measures, adjusted to this second wave, to ensure sustainability and, in many cases, the very survival of companies.
The period we are going through is an exception and so do the measures that need to be taken, because what is at stake is the national economy and the maintenance of many thousands of jobs.” And he underlines: “We cannot wait for additional European funds, which will only arrive in 2021.” Therefore, it is now expected that the legislative implementation will be as soon as possible.
1. The Eclipse of World Tourism
We are witnessing the collapse of tourism worldwide, resulting in an impact that was never imagined. Thus, the CTP took a position, which President Francisco Calheiros clarifies: “CTP presented the Portuguese Tourism Recovery Plan in May, and, since then until now, it has already given several opinions to the Government, to contribute to finding solutions that aim to support companies in the sector, guarantee their survival and maintain jobs.”
In the Plan for Recovery, a “total eclipse of tourism” is mentioned, given the restrictions on spaces and internal circulation in most countries. President reiterates that “tourism lives on the movement of people and, as such, has been one of the activities that had the greatest impact in this health and economic crisis.” Also, according to the Recovery Plan, hotel units had 92.1% of their reservations canceled, and only 7.9% managed to maintain them.
In the local accommodation, there were cancellations in the order of 75.2% and 68.8% in rural and housing tourism. In total, almost 80% suffered cancellations, against 21.1% who were able to maintain their reserves. This is devastating for tourism, which fights for the maintenance of jobs and the survival of the sector.
2. Tourism: Reinventing to Survive
Francisco Calheiros says that “there are no exceptions, all tourism companies are being affected by the pandemic and are struggling to survive, some are reinventing their businesses, but the difficulties are enormous.”
For this reason, the Recovery Plan aimed to present a set of global and specific measures for the various branches of tourism and thematic activity. The President of CTP talks about what was done: “In total, we presented 99 measures, 24 of which were transversal to all tourist activity and 75 divided by the different branches of activity, from the accommodation, real estate, tourism, golf, restaurants, aviation, rent-a-car, distribution, tourist entertainment, events and congresses, shows, games, and promotion, which aim to contribute with solutions to resume the activity. All measures are urgent to face this pandemic.”
The plan presented in May, aims to mitigate the negative consequences of the pandemic that remains. Francisco Calheiros states that they would like that “the Government to adopt measures that ensure the continuity of companies and the maintenance of jobs. The recovery will be slow, but we need to ensure that the tourism offer will remain.”
3. 99 Measures
Among the transversal measures presented for the resumption, in a health context, of mobility, accessibility, and tourism promotion, there is the concern of being produced “guidelines” of health security for Tourism, by the General Directorate of Health (DGS).
Disseminating and densifying the “Clean & Safe” seal to the entire tourism value chain is another objective. This seal had the support of CTP, being a very important tool. Francisco Calheiros states that “it aims, on one hand, to inform all involved in the tourism chain about the rules to be adopted, and, on the other hand, to create confidence and security for tourists. Anyone looking for establishments, with the Clean & Safe seal, has the guarantee that they comply with the sanitary safety procedures imposed by the General Directorate of Health, from the minimum necessary measures of social distance, hygiene, and cleaning.”
On the other hand, among the mobility measures, is the proposal to launch the incentive program for commercial aerial operation, as well as the definition of a governance model, which ensures the financial and operational viability of TAP. Humberto Delgado Airport was also proposed as an international hub and the construction of Montijo Airport.
There is also a set of measures that aim to minimize the impact of some fees, namely: Exemption from the tourist tax and payment of the Civil Protection, Sanitation, and Waste Management fee, as well as full exemption from the payment of rent for tourist and accommodation developments collective place, closed and leased in municipal spaces. It was also proposed to revise the tax benefits and accommodation expenses regime, for a period of 2 years.
4. “We want Tourism in Portugal and in the World to recover its Strength”
The President of CTP, says that “the recovery will be gradual and that we will all work so that the resumption happens as soon as possible”, adding that “the intention is to avoid the closure of companies, maintain jobs and the installed offer. We are all working in this direction, and business closures and unemployment, will only be avoided with assertive and concrete measures.” As for the future, the president reinforces that the priority is “to ensure that companies are able to survive.” And he concludes: “We want tourism in Portugal and in the world to regain its strength.”