22 APR 2013: If the king of “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch” Emeril Lagasse, the celebrity chef whose Mom is Portuguese, is any indication of the firecracker nature of the Portuguese, well I figured that’s as good an intro to Portugal as I needed.


The other was checking out the Portugal Experience workshop last week.

VoX International, the national marketing rep for Visit Portugal, packed One King West’s grand Manager’s Boardroom with reps from 27 tourism companies who had one-on-one chats with local trade followed by a sumptuous lunch – Portuguese style in the Grand Banking Hall.

As we heard the latest and munched on a three-course meal (think creamy polenta topped by spicy chourišo sausage and shrimp), travel professionals were also introduced to a group of Portuguese tourism officials including the Portuguese Consul General Julio Vilela.

Here’s why you should take a closer look at this European destination.

Popular among Canadians

The Algarve has long been a favourite sun destination. For average hotel room rates, Julio says pricing is still more affordable than Spain, Greece, Italy and France. Portugal offers everything: golf, gastronomy, wines, sun, beach, heritage sites, culture and outdoor adventure.

One-of-a-kind

Eco-conscious clients will smile on the latest incarnation situated in historic Evora. Manuel Policarpo, a former travel agent who owned a Portuguese travel agency for years, discovered a chunk of land in his hometown he felt would be ideal for his dream hotel. The general manager of Ecork Hotel Evora Suites & Spas says it’s the world’s first boutique property designed in cork. Perfect material I’d say for this cork-laden region.

The plug: there’s a huge rooftop pool and the hotel is big on eco-excursions like cycling to the many wineries.

For this soft launch (the hotel officially opens on Friday) there’s a 25 percent discount. Commissions are available to agents (10%) and tour operators (20%). For bookings and more hotel info contact Manuel: manuel.policarpo@ecorkhotel.com

The Pousadas of Portugal

Overnight in Old World properties some in enchanting castles, monasteries, and fortresses the next time in Portugal. With leading hotels across Portugal located in heritage sites, chances are pretty good the location and the product will not disappoint. Paula Torres from Grupo Pestana representing 80 properties flew in from Lisbon to regale on the hotel company’s latest.

In Cascais (about 30 km outside Lisbon) the Pousadas de Cascais opened last March. Built inside a 16th century citadel once used to protect Lisbon, the renovated heritage building now boasts a 126-room property packed with amenities that would undoubtedly have made even explorer Vasco Da Gama smile. The setting is a private village with modern furnishings and is ranked as a Leading Hotels of the World.

Plug: historic building in centre of the village. Paula says aside from Sintra, Cascais is the most important area outside Lisbon where you can taste the real Portugal.
www.pestana.com

Family-Friendly
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well when owners of Europe’s leading family resort used to travel finding family-friendly properties became a challenge. Cue to the five-star 37-room Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel they opened a few years ago. Located in the Algarve in a protected national park, it doesn’t get any nicer than this.

The plug: close to 26 golf courses, and 22 beaches within a 30 minute drive.
www.martinhal.com

The Green of the Azores

There’s huge outdoor stuff. People go to the Azores for the unspoiled nature. Redbull Cliff Diving is in June and surf competitions are in September.

The plug: the opening of the first five-star hotel in the entire archipelago, the Hotel Angara Marina in Terceira.

How to get there: Flights from Toronto (YYZ) to Ponta Delgada (PDL).
www.visitazores.com

Culture notes
Fado says Julio Vilela, the Consul General of Portugal in Canada, is part of the soul of Portugal. Another big phenomenon is visiting the renowned pilgrimage town of Fatima where in 2011 the faithful witnessed a strange solar phenomena many call “The Miracle of the Sun.”

Biggest Asset
Besides the lovely weather, “The most important thing in Portugal is the Portuguese people,” says Ana Ochoa, chief representative officer for Caixa Geral de Depositos, one of the event’s main sponsors which recently opened a branch in Toronto.

For more travel info see www.visitportugal.com


Top Banner Image:
Left to right: Vijay Bathija, vice-president commercial Air Canada Rouge; Gavin Eccles from Turismo de Portugal; Julio Vilela, Consul General of Portugal in Toronto; Miguel Moraes, Turismo de Portugal; Raul Travado, director of AICEP Portugal Global; Nuno Miguel Alves, tourism director of Turismo de Portugal
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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