Government advice remains to avoid non essential travel, but with quarantine expected to be off the table, people are beginning to book flights. So what happens when you land?
Martinhal in Portugal has a strong relationship with the Irish market. Owner Chitra Stern outlined what Irish tourists can expect if they visit one of the four resorts across the country (a fifth is under construction).
Like Ireland, Portugal went into early lockdown, as a result managing the outbreak similar to our own government strategy.
People call it ‘the Portuguese miracle’ says Stern, CEO and founder of the group. “Our government is to be applauded, they showed leadership and the people acted with social responsibility,” she says.
Now, the country is opening up again, with the resorts unlocking their doors in early June, ahead of the Portuguese bank holiday.
In business 19 years, Martinhal is a self made family operation - with four children herself (aged from 17 to 9) she knows what parents need from a holiday. They’ve been there, they get it.
In her words, her children are the “inspiration for the brand”. This is a luxury family destination.
At Sagres, the hotel is designed to give parents a break, all the restaurants have designated play areas for children with minders and entertainment on hand so that meals can be enjoyed at leisure.
The hotel has five swimming pools. There are kids clubs, a creche, indoor activities, tennis courts, surf lessons and a gym. Want to venture out of the resort? You’re right next to Europe’s most south-westerly point, Cape St Vincent or most famously known as ‘the end of the world”.
With over 900km of coastline, Portugal is, says Chrita ‘the California of Europe’.
The hotel has everything, for everyone in the family.
Just as their resorts are created with kids in mind, equally they understand parents’ safety concerns.
They know guest confidence is crucial. So what about checking in post-Covid?
The Portuguese government has introduced a Clean and Safe stamp, one of the first tourism boards internationally to introduce such a measure.
Though Martinhal adds it is extra safe with most of the rooms actually individual houses, all spaced out over large resorts. Martinhal Sagres has houses, facilities and green areas spread out over 220,000 square metres with its own access to a 700m beach - several houses have their own private gardens and private heated pools. Martinhal Quinta has individual houses, each with its own garden and pool.
In the Algarve, at both resorts in Sagres and Quinta, every entrance to every resort room is in the open air, decreasing contact with other people.
Hotel rooms are spaced out too, in separate cubes in Sagres and in Cascais.
As well as Clean and Safe the housekeeping team follows new strict hygiene and disinfection procedures with videos the public can watch for reassurance.
Cleaning and disinfection takes place in two steps by two separated teams.
First, removal of used laundry and ventilation for at least two hours; second, cleaning and disinfection of the accommodation with a steam jet at 170°C of all interior and exterior furniture, mattresses, sofas and fabrics to kill any viruses and bacteria.
All housekeeping staff wear uniforms with long sleeves, disinfect their hands before putting on disposable gloves and only enter the guest house with shoe protectors.
Cleaning is only done when guests are not in the room. Magazines are temporarily removed.
After the room has been thoroughly cleaned, the final inspection is carried out by the housekeeping manager and the Clean & Safe seal is placed at the door confirming that the accommodation has been fully disinfected.
Communication with the concierge is through a WhatsApp channel 24/7. In person there’s perspex at reception desks. A 'Caring pack' on arrival includes safety masks and sanitizers. There’s contactless check-in and check-out. You are shown around your room via video.
Scans/photos of guest passports will be sent online prior to arrival. Even room keys will be deeply disinfected.
Airport transfers will see drivers wear masks and gloves, with cars and car seats disinfected for each guest.
In restaurants numbers will be limited and digital menus will be standard.
At the pool sun loungers will be apart to ensure social distancing. The focus will be on outdoor rather than indoor activities.
The domestic market will be strong at Martinhal this summer.
But already interest from Ireland is beginning to build, says Stern. The Portuguese miracle continues.