updated 4/13/2010 1:54:50 PM ET 2010-04-13T17:54:50

Portugal's economy minister warned Tuesday that a planned strike by TAP Air Portugal pilots will hurt the tourist industry as it tries to recover from a drop in arrivals last year.

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The flag carrier's pilots have announced a strike between March 26-31 to press their claim for higher pay.

The state-owned airline says it has some 1,500 flights scheduled for those six days and around 150,000 passengers may be affected.

"Our tourist sector is coming out of a very deep crisis. (This strike) is not good for it," Economy Minister Jose Vieira da Silva said.

Tourism accounts for about 8 percent of Portugal's gross domestic product, and some 12 million tourists visit the country each year.

Hotels on the southern Algarve coast, the country's main tourist destination, reported hotel bookings were down up to 12 percent last year amid the global economic downturn.

TAP Air Portugal has offered its about 800 pilots a 1.8 percent pay increase this year but their trade union wants at least 5.6 percent. The airline said the strike could cost it euro30 million ($40.5 million).

The carrier, which is part of the Star Alliance, posted a loss of euro285 million euros ($385 million) in 2008, largely due to higher fuel prices, after announcing a record profit of euro32.8 million ($44.3 million) the previous year. Figures for 2009 are not yet available.

TAP Air Portugal has a fleet of 51 Airbus planes and flies to 58 destinations in 27 countries in Europe, Africa and North and South America.

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