Portugal delays holiday refunds until 2022 with British tourists offered vouchers instead due to pandemic – The Sun
PORTUGAL will give tourists vouchers instead of refunds if their holidays have been cancelled, according to the secretary of state for tourism.
The new scheme will allow holidaymakers to reschedule until the end of next year – and will issue refunds in 2022 instead.
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Coming into place from today, it applies to bookings through travel agencies or at accredited holiday accommodation, such as hotels or Airbnb properties, initially scheduled to take place between March 13 and September 30 this year.
The vouchers are valid until December 31, 2021, and eligible for refund in 2022 if the traveller is unable to make the trip during this time.
Those who become unemployed between now and September 30 can request a full refund.
Secretary of State Rita Marques said in an online conference: "We are being absolute pioneers in the European context. Our priority is to safeguard consumer rights and the interests of economic operators, according to the principle of ‘don’t cancel, postpone'."
It is hoped the scheme will help to reduce the damage from a crisis that could reduce international travel by 39 per cent this year, equivalent to 577 million fewer journeys – catastrophic for an industry that accounts for more than 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 320 million people.
A total of 16.3 million foreign tourists visited Portugal last year, about half of which were from Britain, France, Germany and Spain.
However, global lockdowns and closed borders have thrown the tourism industry into turmoil, threatening nine years of record revenue in a sector credited as one of the main drivers of the country’s recovery from the financial crisis.
The government launched a €1.7 billion (£1.4 billion) credit line in March to support the sector, which hotel association AHP estimates will lose up to €1.4 billion (£1.2 billion) of revenue between March and June.
A full 94 per cent of hotels are closed and 85 per cent of their workers laid off as nearly all prospective customers cancelled their plans, AHP’s survey data showed.
The country, which has so far reported 22,353 coronavirus cases and 820 deaths, is pinning its hopes on being viewed as a comparatively safe holiday spot when borders reopen, preparing policies including health safety certifications for hotels and protective equipment and coronavirus tests for employees and customers.
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The Algarve, a popular holiday destination with Brits, isn't expecting international visitors to come back to the country until next April.
Eliderico Viegas, head of the Association of Algarve Hotels and Tourism Enterprises, warned that "many hotels wont open this year".
He explained to Bloomberg that even if the country handles the pandemic well, he doesn't expect tourists to return to the region until April next year.
Until then, the industry will have to rely on domestic holidays with local bookings – although fears this is "insufficient" in keeping them open.
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