The boom in tourism in several cities worldwide, notably in Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, generated controversy in pre-pandemic times, due to excessive numbers of tourists and the anticipated effects of this trend on inhabitants. This is a situation that COVID-19 has, of course, dramatically changed, and in 2021 getting tourists back is the priority for cities across the world. Some signs of change are anticipated when the recovery comes, but what is the future of tourism in Portugal after COVID-19?
"The cities that used to live from tourism were the first to suffer an unparalleled crisis, while the streets became deserted and the economy was paralysed due to a lack of visitors", writes the Portuguese newspaper Expresso. The article quotes experts who state that at this stage, cities that have previously relied on tourism, such as many Portuguese cities, should not lose sight of sustainability goals and begin to plan more adjusted strategies for the moment of recovery, correcting excesses committed in the past.
According to Eduardo Abreu, partner of Neoturis, a national consultancy firm which focuses on tourism, "the issue of excessive crowding in some tourist destinations in Portugal was already on the agenda before the pandemic, which may have accelerated reflection on the subject". He also stated that "disruptive moments" such as those that Portugal and many countries are currently going through "lead to reflection on future development strategies, particularly those that meet the needs of more sustainable tourism in the long term". Things have well and truly been reversed, and many cities throughout the world that were being overwhelmed by tourism one year ago now want tourism back, and this isn't only the case in Portugal.
What are cities thinking of changing in the future in a post-COVID-19 world when it comes to tourism? And what is the future of tourism in Portugal? Recovery in cities after the coronavirus pandemic is expected to be slower than in other destinations, even with the arrival of a vaccine, but some signs are being given to indicate change. These are some of the steps that European cities plan to take in the near future, according to the Expresso publication:
- The Italian city of Venice will have entrance fees for daily visitors who do not stay in hotels from 2022 onwards;
- Lisbon will only receive cruises (tourist ships) mooring with electricity from the end of 2021, following a protocol signed this summer between the city council and the port of Lisbon;
- Porto will reinforce cycle lanes in the city to disperse traffic and is preparing the measures for next year - these should be presented in January or February 2021. According to Expresso, improving mobility and encouraging the use of public transport instead of own cars is one of the goals of the municipality;
- The Spanish city of Barcelona is maintaining its regulation stating that no new hotels can be opened, and the concern in a post-pandemic scenario is to not have empty hotels in the city.
What will it be like when the pandemic ends in Portugal?
Hard times are expected until at least the spring of 2021, when some recovery in tourism is expected in Portugal. According to Eduardo Abreu, "no one is speeding up the COVID-19 restrictions. Everything is very focused on reaching March and April and getting tourists, with the vaccine reaching the market and gaining some normality," he says.
In the cases of Lisbon and Porto, "cities where the issue of 'excessive' numbers of tourists has been evident," the main priority on the agenda of public decision-makers and entrepreneurs is to "recover the flow of lost tourists".
These are, according to Neoturis, some trends which are being accelerated by the pandemic in Portugal, and which could improve situations of overcrowding of tourists concentrated in specific points of the cities. Measures include the deconcentration of housing supply from historic centres to outlying areas, increased investment in public space and outdoor areas, better management of visitor numbers at tourist attractions and greater focus on attracting national tourists in Portuguese cities to promote tourism within Portugal.