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Lisbon to get second airport, as tourism soars

[LISBON] Portugal unveiled plans on Wednesday for a second international airport for Lisbon to cope with record numbers of visitors, some driven away from other Mediterranean sun spots by security fears.

Infrastructure minister Pedro Marques said the little-used Montijo military air base would be modified for commercial traffic because the capital's sole international airport was nearing capacity.

The new airport should be operational by 2021, easing pressure on Humberto Delgado airport, Portugal's main gateway which welcomed a record 22.4 million passengers last year, 11.7 per cent up on 2015.

"The year 2016 was the best year ever for tourism in Portugal and 2017 will be even better," Mr Marques told a news conference at Lisbon airport.

Portugal welcomed 11.4 million foreign tourists last year, a sixth straight record year as security fears lure visitors away from rival sunshine destinations in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

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Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt have notably been hit by attacks in recent years which have rattled tourists.

Work on the new Lisbon airport, which will focus on low-cost and medium-haul flights, is expected to begin in 2019.

Passengers arriving at the airport in Montijo will have to travel 13km by ferry or 30km by road into Lisbon.

Portugal, a nation of 10.4 million people, depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for around 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

In 2010 the then Socialist government suspended several major public works projects, including a new Lisbon airport as the country grappled with a debt crisis.

The Portuguese economy has posted modest growth since the country emerged from a punishing three-year 78-billion-euro (S$117.3 billion) EU/IMF bailout in 2014.


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