- Portuguese charter operators have expressed great optimism on the possibilities to boost tourism to idyllic São Tomé and Príncipe, as the archipelago's government this month decided to abolish the obligatory yellow fewer vaccine for European tourists.
The São Tomé government on 7 April announced that it would ease travel conditions for overseas tourist to the tropical archipelago, which often has been predicted a brilliant tourism future but has seen only a slow development.
São Toméan Health Minister Arlindo de Carvalho told the Portuguese agency 'Lusa' that cabinet had decided "that tourists wanting to enter São Tomé, if coming from Europe, not necessarily have to submit to the vaccine. They can come without being asked for a vaccine certificate neither at the airport not at the embassies."
Yellow fewer does not exist on São Tomé and Príncipe, and authorities have demanded a vaccine certificate from all visitors to avoid the tropical disease from spreading to the archipelago. Mr de Carvalho thus pointed out that travellers entering the islands from other destinations than Europe still would need to get a yellow fewer vaccine.
The Minister clearly stated that the measure had the intention of easing tourist access to the country. São Toméan embassies had noted that some potential visitors had been unmotivated by the vaccine demand, while others simply would not have enough time to get both a visa and a vaccine when planning for an impulse trip to the country.
The measure was this week welcomed by one of the leading charter companies shipping European tourists to São Tomé, Portugal's Grupo Pestana. Pestana, which owns several hotels on the archipelago, expected the vaccine elimination would produce immediate effects for the stream of travellers to the islands.
"We can only welcome this wise decision," commented Florentino Rodrigues, chief executive of Grupo Pestana. Mr Rodrigues adds that this signal by São Tomé authorities would inspire both the tourism industry and potential visitors, aiding the nation to reach is ambitious tourism growth ten-year plan. Already next season, Mr Rodrigues predicts, considerable growth in numbers of arrivals would be noted.
Earlier, São Toméan authorities have fought an intensive battle to eliminate malaria from the archipelago. The battle against the mosquito-borne parasite is almost won and the risk of containing malaria on São Tomé is now minimal. This makes the archipelago the safest holiday destination in tropical Central Africa, regarding health risks.
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