Business Planet heads to Portugal to find out how the new European Tourism COVID-19 Safety Seal aims to save both the holiday sector and keep tourists safe on their travels.
Vila Galé is one of Portugal’s biggest hotel groups. The company has nearly 40 hotels and resorts dotted across the country.
After months of lockdown, the company is banking on summer. It's one of the reasons why it was quick to adopt a new badge of excellence called the European Tourism COVID-19 Safety Seal.
This badge aims to harmonise health and safety measures in the hospitality sector across the EU.
Gonçalo Rebelo Almeida is a member of the administrative board at Vila Galé. He tells us that their motivation to adopt the COVID-19 safety seal was to regain the confidence of their customers and to put in place additional procedures, so people can travel again and feel safe when they stay abroad in their properties.
He explains that implementing the safety seal was initially a little "difficult to understand", but "because the hotel industry has a lot of procedures already implemented, in terms of cleaning and safety, it was not so hard".
The most difficult part for the group was the social distancing aspects because, as Rebelo Almeida says, "we need to keep the distance at the restaurants, at the bars, at the pools and that was more challenging to implement".
The new seal has been designed to reassure travellers that businesses have put in place certain health and safety measures and are following best practice.
Despite mounting concern over the spread of the Delta variant, it’s hoped the seal, together with the EU’s new vaccine passport, the Digital COVID Certificate, will facilitate travel and restore confidence.
How to get the seal of approval
The safety seal’s architect, Natalia Ortiz de Zárate, from the Spanish Association for Standardization, told Business Planet what businesses need to do to get the badge.
She explains that "the seal establishes health and safety measures addressed to the whole tourism value chain. Businesses need to implement the specific requirements applicable to them, related to staff, cleaning, ventilation, information and others, according to their own COVID-19 risk assessment".
According to her, it should not be difficult for them to meet the requirements as "most businesses have already adapted their operations to face the pandemic, so aligning their measures with the requirements set in the seal should be an easy task".
Harmonising COVID-19 travel rules
Travel restrictions and protocols across the EU still differ from country to country. It's something that Gonçalo Rebelo Almeida would like to see changed so that "the rules are the same for all the countries". He feels such a step would restore confidence and get European tourism back on its feet.
The voluntary European Tourism COVID-19 Safety Seal seeks to go some way to achieving that by bringing uniformity to the bloc's pandemic-related health and safety measures.