The traders from Vila Real de Santo António, on the Portuguese-Spanish border between the Algarve and Andalusia, are experiencing the worst year of the last 35 years and give Christmas as “lost” due to the absence of tourists from Spain.
The Lusa agency visited the border town of the district of Faro, which is usually very popular at this time by Spaniards for its cloth products and handicrafts, but which is now experiencing a sharp drop in the movement of tourists due to the restrictions imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.
"In 35 years as a businessman, the most difficult situation is logically this, because no one was ever expecting us to be in a situation like this," said Luís Camarada, a businessman at a group of catering and hospitality establishments, who admitted he was thinking about “closing at Christmas” due to the absence of tourists and visitors from Spain.
Although the summer was a period with “some recovery” in the business, after a beginning of the year when the establishments were “long closed”, the situation worsened again with the restrictions imposed in the second wave of infections by coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) and will lead many businesses to close.
"Now, for two months now, the situation has been extremely serious, we don't know how we will survive, and probably many of us will close, because there are no alternatives, the support that exists is very small and the situation is extremely serious" , he warned.
Luís Camarada stated that, therefore, during Christmas, his group “will not work”, since the Spaniards will not be able to go to Vila Real de Santo António and are a market that “represented 75% of the activity” before the pandemic, quantified.
Maria Adelaide, who runs a towel shop in the central square of the city, acknowledged that "it has been very complicated and difficult to have the establishments open, both due to the lack of Spanish and Portuguese", but also "other foreign visitors, such as English" , whose absence is causing stores to “not make money”.
"Christmas is going to be very complicated and no one is going to save it, because we have closed borders, but also the municipalities, and our customers from Tavira, Faro, Olhão and Portimão will not be able to come," he lamented, ensuring that this will be the case. “Very difficult indeed” to keep the doors open, although it is “making your heart gut to be able to hold on and ensure that trade continues”.
Armindo Veia also has a handicraft kiosk in Praça Marquês de Pombal and, if in a normal situation, the “summer business works reasonably”, although in winter sales went down a lot, now with “confinement” and “the absence of Spaniards ”“ Sales fell 90% ”.
“There are days when I open and it doesn't work, I can't sell even one euro, until I reach the point of having to close and open it when the weather is good. But I don't see many prospects for this to work, ”he said, showing himself convinced that Christmas will not even work as usual.
Measures to combat covid-19 have paralyzed entire sectors of the world economy and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the pandemic will reverse the progress made since the 1990s in terms of poverty and increase inequality.
For Portugal, the IMF predicts a 10% drop in 2020, and a 6.5% recovery for 2021.
These forecasts differ from those of the Portuguese Government, which anticipates a fall of the economy of 8.5% this year, and a recovery of 5.4% in 2021.