07 APR 2015: Portugal it seems has big tourism perks for a compact country the size of Indiana. As William Delgado, country manager of the Portuguese National Tourism Office, Turismo de Portugal, explained at a trade event which included travel agents, media and tourism partners, big things come in small packages.

Guests at a luncheon held at the University Club of Toronto heard that Portugal has concentrated diversity. “The notion of Portugal is as a compact country,” he observed and explained within a two and a half to three hour, drive clients can hit a number of different products, different terrain, with different micro climates and experience an array of architectural diversity.

Diverse products

“Go from beach and surfing and then travel 2.5 hours into the interior it looks like you are in the Swiss Alps. You see green and mountains and rivers,” and he added, it’s a country where you can have quite a diverse and interesting vacation without much travel internally.

“We can be more than one thing in a seven day period,” he said.

Luis Barros, consul general of Portugal in Toronto, shared some tourism superlatives and little known gems you can only experience in Portugal.

“If you like surfing we have the biggest wave ever surfed on earth thanks to an ecological formation off Nazaré,” he said and asked, “Have you ever tried to cook a meal cooked with the fire of a volcano? You go to the Azores for this.”

Even Europe’s earliest tourists, he noted, enjoyed the beauty of Madeira sometimes known as “the Pearl of the Atlantic” which presented one of the first travel experiences in the world in the 19th century.

“It was a chosen destination for British gentry and passengers of cruise liners. On the other hand, due to its mild climate, it was searched out for the treatment of tuberculosis by people such as Empress Sissy, of Austria,” he told Travel Industry Today.

From the capital of Lisbon it is an easy 10-15 minutes’ drive to fabulous wineries and world-class beaches. You could even play hooky or escape for a golf weekend in the beautiful Azores. It’s usually under a five hour flight from Toronto. Why not leave on a Thursday afternoon, return on Sunday and miss just a day and a half of work?

The lift + long stays

Delgado pointed out the three air carriers with service to Portugal include SATA International, Air Transat and the newest airline - Air Canada rouge which started service last year.

Both Air Transat and Air Canada rouge will offer expanded service this summer. Watch for an upgraded Airbus 330 from Air Transat which Delgado noted has a 14 percent increased capacity compared to last year. Air Canada rouge has expanded its service with five weeks more and expect more capacity with four flights per week instead of three.

The country manager also relayed how Turismo de Portugal would like to see longer stays develop. “At one point Canada had really robust long stay programmes with Portugal and we’re trying to reactivate that,” he said explaining how the tourism office is working closely with its airline partners to develop lift capacity with possible hybrid programmes working with local DMCs to get clients to other hubs departing from Lisbon.

Visitor arrival numbers

Turismo de Portugal reports last year 14 million visitors arrived. “It’s a tremendous number that’s been rising steadily over the last couple of years,” said Delgado and added 140,000 Canadian arrivals in 2014 booked a minimum one night stay.

Culinary products

The gastronomy scene is hot. Culinary clients will enjoy the vast selection and those discerning foodie fans will definitely like to suss out the 11 Michelin star-rated restaurants (Two of them boast 3-Michelin stars).

Easy drive

There is an excellent dense road network. “Our highways are world class.”

Affordable

Being top value for money doesn’t mean low end anymore. “You can be top value at the high end and find this in Portugal,” said Delgado and noted with the array of five star locations in the Algarve compared to other markets, “It’s still a deal.”

Deep traditions, history

Whether it’s listening to the emotional ballads of a Fado song in a dimly lit tavern or traipsing through UNESCO World Heritage Sites, traditions are deep and make for memorable cultural experiences.

 

 

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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