***Update: 05/14/2021 @ 12:00 – Visit Portugal indicates travelers will be allowed ***
Following the publication of this story, Portugal’s tourism authority, Visit Portugal, has issued a statement indicating that travelers will be allowed to enter the country from the UK. We will cover this news in a separate story.
When the UK announced its list of ‘green’ travel destinations last week, bookings for Portugal skyrocketed. However, with the Portuguese government having extended its ban on tourists for another two weeks and sensitive EU diplomacy to take into account, it is still uncertain when Britons will actually be able to travel to the country.
Another two weeks of ‘public calamity’
When Portugal was added to the UK’s ‘Green List‘ as one of the few accessible destinations, things were looking up for the country’s ailing tourism industry. It seemed as if it would profit from a headstart over its sun destination competitors for the summer 2021 season. Ryanair boldly announced a capacity increase for Portugal flights of over 175,000 seats over the summer.
However, as much as Britons would love to travel to a more southern part of the Atlantic Coast and not be subjected to quarantine measures upon return, it is not yet clear when Portugal will lift restrictions currently barring them from entering the country.
Yesterday, the Portuguese authorities extended their ‘state of public calamity’, the second-highest level of alert, on the mainland for an additional 15 days. This means that tourists will not be allowed in until at least May 30th.
Potentially turned away at the airport
However, to say that letting Britons enter or not is entirely up to Portugal would be misguiding. The European Union is still advising its member states to bar non-essential travel from outside of the bloc. As Brexit took place on January 31st, 2020, that includes the UK.
Portugal is currently holding the rotating Presidency of the European Union, and as such, it would be highly diplomatically inconvenient to go against the Commission’s recommendations. A senior Portuguese official told The Times that,
“If they don’t resolve it the alternative will be thousands of British visitors being turned away at the airport, which is not a good scenario.”
An emergency meeting was convened by the Portuguese cabinet Thursday, but talks on whether or not to let holidaymakers in reportedly stalled. The European Commission is not scheduled to discuss its third-country entry ban until next week, just after the UK’s ban on international leisure travel is lifted.
Full 787s turning around?
Portugal is one of only 12 countries on the UK’s ‘Green List’. This means travelers will not need to quarantine upon arrival when returning. However, they will still need to provide a negative test certificate before boarding and take another test when landing back home.
When the list was announced last week, Google searches in the UK for Portugal skyrocketed by 3,000%. In one hour, TUI saw more bookings for Portugal than it had in one month. The leisure specialist has said will operate widebody jets between the UK and Portugal in order to accommodate all the travelers.
Have you planned a holiday to Portugal? Leave a comment below and tell us about how you are experiencing the uncertainty.