Portugal has put on hold plans to promote the Algarve in the UK market following the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann.

Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly at the World Travel and Tourism Council summit in Lisbon today the country’s Secretary of State for Tourism Bernardo Trindade said the decision was “as a mark of respect” to Maddy’s family.

“We have plans to rebrand the whole of Portugal, and we intended to launch that next week with a focus on the Algarve. But it can wait,” he said.

Trindade stressed tourism bosses has no evidence that UK holidaymakers are changing their summer holiday plans in response to the abduction.

But he admitted the country may be forced to promote itself heavily in the market next year if British visitor numbers decline this year.

“The British press have focused on what they say is the failings of the police response. But Portugal, and the Algarve in particular, are seen as very safe by visitors. Abductions happen everywhere in the world and people recognise that fact,” he added.

The planned Algarve promotional campaign will highlight the region’s culture, music and sport options beyond its traditional golfing and beach attractions.

Portugal  prime minister Jose Socrates did not mention the abduction of Maddy in his opening WTTC address, but told Travel Weekly British press criticism of Portugal was “very unfair”.