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Portugal Sees Flow of U.K. Visitors Staying Strong After Brexit

  • British nationals were the top visitors to Portugal in July
  • Tourism represents a tenth of Portugal’s GDP, 8.2% of jobs

British tourists have been undeterred by a weaker pound and should remain the top foreign visitors to Portugal even after the U.K. formally decides to leave the European Union, said Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism.

“The impact of Brexit has been zero,” Mendes Godinho said in an interview in Lisbon on Thursday. “The British market is increasing. Portugal and Britain have had a very strong alliance for many years and Brexit will not change our relationship.”

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Portugal, whose alliance with Britain dates back to the 14th century, is attracting more foreign tourists than ever before following multiple terrorist attacks in France and a failed coup in Turkey. The southern European country received 4.6 million overnight foreign guests in July, a 9 percent increase from the same month last year, according to Portugal’s national statistics institute. The British accounted for the biggest number of visitors, with a fourth of all overnight stays by foreigners.

Tourism is big business for Portugal, generating about 10 percent of gross domestic product and 8.2 percent of all jobs, Mendes Godinho said. She wants to continue to increase the number of tourists from Britain and elsewhere. To do so, her Socialist government is providing credit lines for hotel projects, building a free Wi-Fi network in historic town centers and promoting the country as a year-round destination.

“The tourism sector is one of the main drivers of our economy,” said Mendes Godinho. Asked if she feared that some Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Oporto may be overrun by tourists, Mendes Godinho replied: “I like to remind people that Lisbon and Oporto had neighborhoods that were completely empty ten years ago and now we have vibrant cities.”

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