What did the COVID-19 did to tourism in 2020 – Portugal Edition

From crowded streets and cities full of life to empty corners and deafening silence, Portugal has suffered enough with the crisis in Tourism caused by the “new normal” lifestyle imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the second wave of cases coming out like a tsunami, it is hard to predict the post-pandemic tourism effects.

For those who might not know, Portugal has gone through a very hard crisis around 2008, which has caused major problems for its population and economics. However, tourism has shown the country a lead to shine bright again among other superpopular European destinations. Actually, and to be even more specific, Portugal has stood out in some of the World Travel Awards categories. If you have never heard of this awards before, I will give you a brief introduction: established in 1993, this reward celebrates excellence across the world in the traveling, tourism, and hospitality industries; so, to be short and assertive, they are just like the Oscars of the industry, globally recognized as the ultimate hallmark.

For four years in a roll, Portugal has won the Best European Destination Award, due to its wonders and welcoming environment. Located in the south, the Algarve has a very impressive list of nominations. It has been nominated to World’s Leading Beach Destination for several years ( from 2012 to 2019 – WOW!), and in 2020 it has won the World’s Leading Beach Destination Award . Quite competitive, right? You can check the awards list for Europe and other destinations here 🙂

…And the award goes to…

Lisbon, where I have been calling home for the past three years and writing this article at this very moment, has won as the World’s Leading City Break Destination 2020, what is also very impressive considering the competition: Athens (Greece), Cape Town (South Africa), Dubai (UAE), and even New York (USA). I feel like proudly walking around the city this weekend! And I have tons of very good reasons to do so.

The low ranges of tourism during the pandemic have also hit Portugal hard: between January and September of 2020, there were 10 million fewer tourists and foreigners enjoying their time on Portugal’s hills and trams. In numbers, this represents a low of 73% in one of the major economic pillars of this country. This situation has brought the attention of Portuguese people, who were just about to get over the last and overwhelming crisis, but are now afraid to face it all again. In the hospitality sector, the outcome of the pandemic affected 64,5% of the profits, with 59,3% lack of expected tourists and guests. I, personally, have seen countless businesses close down because of this struggle.

Albufeira, in Algarve, in 2018.

Tourism during the pandemic in the summer was still at a short level, but somehow a relief that allowed Portugal to take a breath before the off-season of the winter. With low temperatures and rainy days, not only the tourism face a breakdown, but our immunity systems get more fragile – and you know what that means: time to raise up our health care habits! Especially with the holiday season coming close. This is also another concern for the Portuguese hospitality sector, once the Government has forbidden people from crossing over cities to keep the pandemic outbreak under control. Will it work? I don’t know, but what I do know is that “canceling Christmas” has made a lot of people mad. Lucky Grinch.

Not only strict tourism sectors are struggling with all of this, but it is possible to see several small business and niche businesses closing down. Even Art Galleries are facing a hard time right now. What scares the most is not seeing stories like these on the news every day, or hearing about it from friends and neighbours. What is really scary is to be able to see the economy falling down, in front of your eyes. When it gets as noticeable as it is right now, then you start to see how bad the situation really is. Of course, Portugal is not alone in this: there are many countries in very bad situations, even worst than this one, and for each and every one of those I send my love and hope.

We still don’t know how is the post-pandemic tourism is going to be like. Until we find a treatment and a working vaccine, we are in the dark. Pandemic tourism and global change are closely bounded to make humankind see things from a different perspective, taking care of people and places around us. While the Portuguese Government has already started to seek strategies to diminish the losses over the pandemic, we are preparing ourselves for a massive traveling once this is all over. This will warm up businesses, but let’s not forget to be respectful to our environment and respect nature around our destinations, after all, we all want to enjoy it as long as possible.

Mass tourism does not suit us anymore. We have to be better than that. While we were stuck at home and biting on our fingernails due to the anxiety, we heard how much our nature had recovered from years and years of abuse due to – not only – mass tourism. In the Tagus River, it was possible to see dolphins playing around. This is huge!

With this scenario in mind, the time has come for us to be a part of a challenge. Not only supporting but demanding a change in how we live out there is, indeed, our problem. The Portuguese Government is studying post-pandemic measures to maintain the environment safe and recover from the damages from the economic crisis, but it is also necessary to provide changes in the way we treat our home.

Having tourists over again will be amazing. Being able to be tourists ourselves again, that would be even greater! I fail to see any bright side in this whole pandemic situation. I have lost loved people and I have seen many bad things happen because of this, but there is a particular side effect that we must consider, in order to keep ourselves from going insane: learn how to love, learn how to treat and how to take care of everything and everyone that surround us. Spread the love around. But wait until it’s safe to express all your love physically, okay?

Published by flaviastamato

Publicist and writer, a citizen of the world trying to free herself from writing cliches (but it's so tempting....)

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