Portugal has confirmed it will reopen its borders to tourists from the UK with negative PCR tests next week.
The country has ignored EU directives to ban tourists from non-bloc countries from visiting until at least next month.
And UK holiday companies have seen huge demand.
Paul Charles, Managing Director of The PC Agency, said: “Well done to Portugal for doing it. We need to see a larger green list from June. “
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The news was greeted with pleasure in the Algarve, where more than 20 UK flights are expected to land on Monday, with local temperatures expected to reach 26 ° C.
Saturday, the day of the FA Cup final, is usually frantic at O’Daly’s pub in Albufeira, but only a handful of expats will be sipping pints.
Not that it bothers owner Ricardo Pimpao, 33, who knows tourists are on their way.
“We call it Manic Monday,” he said.
“We have waited a long time for this. It would have been nice to have them for football, but we can wait a few more days.
“We open at 9 am and want people to come straight from the airport for a pint.”
Ricardo and his co-owner Miguel Oliviera took over the Irish pub last October, but they are barely open. “It was very difficult,” said Ricardo.
“We are now waiting, fingers crossed, for the British to arrive next week. We heard it for the first time on the news and we applauded.
Albufeira is the party capital of the Algarve, but it has been a ghost town for many months.
Now Joao Fernandes, president of tourism for the region, said: “We are ready and waiting.”
He told British holidaymakers: “The sun is shining, the beaches are beautiful and the golf courses are well maintained.
“Our bars and restaurants are ready to serve you the freshest seafood and excellent Portuguese wine.
“We missed our British friends. They represent about 44% of our visitors, so we missed them very much.
“We have all the necessary health and safety measures in place so that visitors do not have to worry.”
Beach assistants will help keep people two meters away from each other and there is no lack of signage.
Mr Fernandes said: “The bottom line is for people to enjoy the sun, good food and family time after a long winter of restrictions. “
Everywhere you look in Albufeira, business owners spruce up their rooms.
Beer delivery trucks weave their way through the streets of the Old Town and interrupt traffic on the famous Festive Street.
Carlos and Eduarda Fernandes run the Sol de Barro souvenir shop near the sandy beach but almost went bankrupt during the lockdown.
“There’s no one here to buy anything,” said Carlos, 63. “Yesterday we didn’t sell anything all day. “
He is also enthusiastic about the British. “We have waited a long time. These are the families we want to see the most.
“It was sad to see Albufeira closed but I smile because I feel like Covid is ending. “
Cathy Jump, owner of Charlies Bar, said the past few months have been “brutal”.
She prays that British tourists will arrive in time for the peak holiday season.
“Monday will be emotional when I see these first Brits walk through the doors,” she said. “It was horrible. We had a few tourists last summer but none.
“We have only been allowed to open for the last two weeks between 10am and 10pm.
There is apparently a meeting going on this weekend to decide if those hours can be extended.
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“But I’m just happy to be able to open at all. I’m full of alcohol and ready to see my old regulars.
“A few have already said they fly over as fast as possible. “
On the coast, business owners in Praia da Luz are also preparing.
Hans Neauwburg, owner of ZaZu and Boaty restaurants, said: “We have reservations for next week and look forward to seeing all of our British friends.”
Katy Bauval, of the Vila Vita Parc hotel in Porches, said it was “absolute madness” in terms of bookings from the UK.
Pestana, Portugal’s largest hotel chain, also confirmed a “very substantial increase” in bookings.
Another big draw in the area is golf and the Dom Pedro Pinhal golf course in Vilamoura opens on Monday, with greens-keepers including Jose Borges working around the clock.
Tourism chiefs expect a ‘trickle’ of visitors in the first week, but for Algarve businesses it’s the start of what they hope will be a long-awaited return to normalcy.