Portugal’s tourist arrivals dip after record run

FILE PHOTO: Tourists visit the "Cais das Colunas" (or the Columns Pier) in front of the Tagus River in Lisbon September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal edged lower in the first 10 months of this year, the first cumulative decline after years of record figures, data showed on Friday, with Britons accounting for a large part of the drop.

The National Statistics Institute, which monitors hotel stays, said total arrivals were 0.1 percent lower than a year earlier at just below 11.4 million. In the same period of 2017, arrivals were up by almost 12 percent to exceed 11.4 million.

Seven years of booming tourism have hugely benefited Portugal’s economy as it recovered from a debt crisis and economic recession of 2011-14, but its hopes for another record year after 2017’s 12.7 million tourists look set to fall flat.

Hotel revenues were still 6 percent higher in the period, helped by growing domestic travel and higher room rates, but the growth is about a third what it was a year ago, since when dozens of new hotels have opened.

Arrivals started to decline at the height of the summer season in July, but it was not until October’s 2 percent drop that the cumulative number for the year became smaller than at the same point of 2017.

Even with more Portuguese travellers staying in hotels, boosting the total number of guests by 1.3 percent to 18.5 million in the January to October period, the number of nights visitors overall spent in hotels slipped by 0.5 percent.

Travellers from all main European markets except Spain stayed fewer nights in Portuguese hotels, with Britain, by far the largest source of tourists, leading the declining trend with a near 9 percent drop, followed by Germany, the data showed.

On a positive note, a higher number of tourists from North America and Brazil spent more time in Portugal.

Tourism and all travel-related revenues account for over 10 percent of Portugal’s gross domestic product, which is expected to grow 2.3 percent in 2018.

That would mark a slowdown from last year’s 2.7 percent rise, Portugal’s strongest growth since 2000.