This Monday, whilst launching a Portugal Tourism campaign asking the Portuguese to choose to have their holidays within the country, prime-minister António Costa spoke of his own experience with visiting the Algarve this weekend for a short break: “I saw the Algarve as I didn’t see it since the 1960s. It’s a rare opportunity. As prime minister I do not wish to, but let me for a moment be selfish: it was wonderful to see the Algarve without the usual floods of tourists and queues! Even when I got a traffic jam on the way back … until that moment I was satisfied, there as prime minister. It really is an opportunity”.
“It is not full of people. This will not last long”. This is Costa’s conviction. But even if some borders are being reopened this week within the European space, and even if Portugal is a country “with open arms” for tourists who come from abroad, this will still likely be the year in which tourism will mostly live off of the Portuguese themselves.
Throughout the world “we are all going to have to have more holidays in our own country than abroad.” Hence the challenge to the Portuguese people: “We are privileged to live in the best destination in the world, and we will not have a year as good as this to enjoy it again”.
For the Prime Minister, it is not just a matter of leisure. It is also matter of survival for many. Thus his message was also one of solidarity with workers in the sector, of motivation for entrepreneurs. “We only had two options: either standing around waiting for it to pass, or making a difference. And we are not to stand still.”
The Minister of State and Economy, Siza Vieira, was also present, and made his own speech defending that the Portuguese should feel secure in booking holidays at home: “We acted early. And we shut ourselves up inside our houses, like many other countries did. They were moments that revealed the best of Portugal: the Portuguese and the sense of community that led us to take care of ourselves”.
Now, said Vieira, “we can face our public health with a confidence that the numbers reveal”. But just hours before, the Minister of Health had shown a little more scepticism, saying at a daily press conference with the director-general of health that the numbers of coronavirus infections in the Lisbon and Tejo Valley Region may lead to a setback in the lifting of lockdown measures we’ve witnessed.
However, despite their contrasting opinions on what the numbers are revealing, the two ministers both individually called for the return to vacation to be done with care: “It is time to regain public space, but with caution, with masks, hygiene standards ”, said Vieira.