I DOUBT there can be a more exhilarating way to legally cross a border than the Spanish Limitezero Zipline. The only cross-border zipline of its kind in the world, and one which has you hurtling down 720 metres at cheek-clenching speeds of nearly 80km/h from the rocky hilltop of Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain, over the Guadiana River into Alcoutim, Portugal.

A highlight of this year’s annual family holiday to Portugal, make no mistake, and it was a more exciting way to cross the border than our marathon drive from the storm-lashed Spanish ferry port of Santander to the historic Portuguese city of Viseu.

In the 20 years of coming to Portugal, it’s an enjoyable road trip we have undertaken a few times. A decision, though, given the current flight and travel chaos in the UK we haven’t regretted making in the slightest.

Our fears that the implementation of Brexit would have us queuing for hours at Spanish customs proved to be totally groundless. Within an hour of disembarking, we were soon on our way to the nearest garage to fill up.

I was surprised to see that the price of diesel was roughly the same as it was in the UK. €2.15 /£1.85 per litre. Which despite the Spanish government’s introduction of a 20 per cent reduction per litre to appease the enraged haulage industry, is still the highest in Spain’s history.

Portugal’s fuel pricing was marginally better, averaging at €2.10 /£1.82 a litre of diesel, As it is in the UK, it was some of the motorway filling stations that proved to be the highway robbers, charging in some cases nearly £2.00 a litre. Being caught short of fuel as we wove our way over the jaw-dropping mountainous range of Serra da Estrella or through the vast wine growing regions of Centro and Alentejo was not an appealing prospect.

I should also point out that the UK is not alone or immune when it comes to rising food and energy costs, staff shortages and soaring inflation. Portugal’s economy also sits on a cliff edge.

Its inflation rate has hit a 29-year high, up from 5.3% to 7.2%, and rising fast. Along with the rest of the EU, due in part to the war in Ukraine, the Portuguese are now facing bruising hikes to their cost of living. With the most notable price rises being centred on housing, water, electricity, gas and food.

With no Brexit to blame I was surprised to hear that staff shortages, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sectors, responsible for 8.2% of Portugal’s GDP, are hampering its post-Covid recovery. The problem isn’t as acute as it is in Scotland but as the renowned Michelin starred chef Willie, of the Willies Restaurant in Vilamoura told me, getting qualified staff or finding those who are interested in a catering career is proving to be very problematic, not just in Portugal but also in his homeland of Germany. It seems that post Covid, many people are just not interested in returning to the workplace, particularly in hospitality.

The hugely successful Pestana Hotel Group, valued at $ 1.5 billion and considered the guardians of Portuguese culture who, in 2003, were granted the concession of the majestic chain of Pousadas de Portugal, including the magnificent Lisboa Palace Hotel and the historic Convento de Evora by the Portuguese government, doubling their hotel portfolio in the process, continues to impress and thrive.

With over 100 hotels, including Cristiano Ronaldo’s CR7 boutique hotel brand, and 7,700 employees, spread across 3 continents and fully supported by the government, they are now, according to area operations manager Nuno Pina, back to 2019 pre-pandemic levels of trade. All things considered, given the collapse of global tourism during the pandemic, this is a remarkable achievement and certainly gives Portugal’s hospitality and tourism sector hope for the future.

I only wish the same could be said for Scotland’s ailing sectors. Unless there is some immediate meaningful government financial support and interventions, it is perched dangerously close to edge of the precipice and could be about to zip slide into the abyss.

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