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Britons return as Portugal's booming tourism sector shakes off slowdown fears

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Britons return as Portugal's booming tourism sector shakes off slowdown fears
FILE PHOTO: Tour guides wait for tourists at Comercio square in downtown Lisbon, Portugal April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante - RC14C93B6810/File Photo   -   Copyright  Rafael Marchante(Reuters)
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By Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s booming tourism sector shook off fears of a slowdown this year, data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) showed on Monday, with the number of British visitors on the rise after a slight drop in 2018.

The number of non-resident guests staying in tourist accommodation in Portugal between January and August, the country’s busiest month, increased 6.5% to 11 million, compared to 10.3 million in the same period last year, according to INE.

Visits from British tourists were back up, the data showed, with 6.5 million overnight stays in the first nine months of 2019, compared to 6.4 million in January to August 2018.

Portugal’s tourism agency has shown concern that Brexit could hurt arrivals, especially as a weaker pound makes destinations outside the euro zone more attractive.

Earlier this year, Portugal’s tourism authority launched a campaign to reassure British visitors that they remain welcome.

INE data also found that more and more tourists decided to visit Portuguese regions beyond Lisbon and tourist-packed Algarve. Portugal’s north saw a 10.1% rise and the mostly rural Alentejo region experienced a 8.7% increase.

Tourism’s contribution to Portugal’s gross domestic product totalled 13.7 billion euros ($41.1 billion) in 2017, according to INE. Data for 2018 is not yet available.

But research by the World Travel and Tourism Council released on Oct. 4 showed that the sector contributed to one in five of all jobs in Portugal, with one in every five euros coming from tourism.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Catarina Demony and Nick Macfie)

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