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NEWPORT, Wales – A proactive approach to managing the Covid-19 crisis has helped Portugal’s Madeira Islands gain tourist share over the pandemic.
Now, Madeira is also preparing for its first non-stop flights from the United States.
“We had a strategy at the beginning, and we had that strategy until the end,” explains Nuno Vale, executive director of the Madeira Promotion Authority.
He promoted the Covid de Madeira safe tourism initiative, which the Portuguese autonomous region started in the summer of 2020, as a pioneer. And he attributes the initiative to Madeira’s especially rapid recovery from the pandemic in terms of tourism. It should be noted that in August Madeira attracted 1.7% more visitors than in August 2019, according to data from Visit Madeira. This was the best August in the archipelago in terms of tourism.
Azores Airlines will fly weekly this winter between New York JFK and Madeira’s capital, Funchal, starting November 29th. Photo credit: Visit Madeira
The autonomous region of Madeira is located in southwestern Portugal and northwestern Africa. Its main destinations, which are the island of Madeira itself and nearby Porto Santo, are approximately 250 miles north of the Canary Islands in Spain. While Porto Santo attracts tourists to its beaches, visitors hike to Madeira to enjoy its tropical mountainous landscape, which rises to more than 6,100 feet above sea level, and the cultural attractions of Funchal.
Departure time to Madeira
Hoping to expand its base in late October, Vale and a team from Visit Madeira were in Wales at the International Golf Travel Market as part of the archipelago’s growing effort to position itself as an emerging golf destination.
Although Madeira enjoys many air services from Europe, only this month will it receive its first non-stop flight from the US Azores Airlines’ JFK-Funchal service will increase the company’s existing service between Boston and the capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgado.
The success of the Madeira pandemic as a tourist destination probably played a role in the carrier’s decision to risk U.S. service.
Strong tourist figures
In August, which is the most recent month for which Visit Madeira has published statistics, the autonomous community attracted about 171,000 visitors. Although the outlook for international travel was still turbulent during the summer, visits from outside Portugal were 85% of the level of August 2019. Meanwhile, Madeira attracted 49% more domestic visitors than the rest. August 2019.
Currently, tourists can enter Madeira with a vaccination test, a recent Covid-19 recovery test or a test result of a negative Covid-19 antigen test within 48 hours of boarding their flight.
But after a blockade at the start of the pandemic, Madeira reopened its doors in July 2020 with an innovative program that involved free trials and forty government-funded hotels when needed.
Innovative approach to Covid-era travel
Under the Covid Safe initiative, visitors were offered a free trial of Covid-19. The test could be done on arrival for flyers who had not done a test at home or on departure if the traveler’s destination required it.
Flyers who did not pass a Covid test received accommodation, meals and free medical care during the mandatory quarantine period.
In addition, Vale said, Madeira was the first destination in Portugal to implement a health certification program for accommodation establishments and other tourist facilities.
The program was crucial because the European Best Destinations organization ranked Madeira and Porto Santo as the two safest islands in Europe earlier this year.
“The measures we took on the islands put us in a very good position,” Vale said.
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