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Portugal's tourism sector slumps back to 1980s levels

TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LR
TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LR, © TAP

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LISBON - Portugal's once-booming tourism sector suffered its worst results since the mid-1980s last year as the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns worldwide grounded flights and kept visitors away.

The National Statistics Institute (INE) said just under 4 million foreign tourists stayed in Portuguese hotels in 2020, a near 76% slump from a record 16.4 million in 2019, while the number of overnight stays by non-residents dropped 75% to 12.3 million, its lowest level since 1984.

Tourism played a crucial role in Portugal's recovery from the 2010 economic and debt crisis.

Overnight stays by Britons, one of the country's biggest foreign markets, fell by over 78% from a year ago. There was also a massive drop in the Chinese and American markets, decreasing 82% and 87% respectively. Total hotel revenues dropped 66% last year, INE said, partly cushioned by local tourism.

The government has said it is preparing a support package for the sector, including delayed loan-repayment schedules, debt-to-equity instruments and grants after Portugal's hotel association warned a further 100,000 jobs could be lost in 2021 if it did not receive targeted support..

A country of just over 10 million people, Portugal fared better than other nations in Europe in the first wave of the pandemic, but 2021 brought a devastating surge in infections and deaths, forcing the imposition of a strict lockdown last month.

Nearly 15,321 people have died of COVID-19 in Portugal, with cumulative infections at 785,756. Portugal on Saturday extended a suspension of flights to and from Brazil and Britain to March 1, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed.
© Reuters, aero.uk | 15/02/2021 13:45


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