Portugal is a strong player in the global MICE industry, with great air linkages from the UK, Europe's major cities, and South and North America, as well as some of the top tourism DMCs and event experts. Excerpts from the interview:
Considering the current circumstances, how do you see the overall tourism scenario unfolding for tourism in Portugal in 2022? How was the year 2021 for Portugal?
Portugal, with one of the highest immunization rates, is opening up taking into consideration all the necessary measures to keep population and visitors safe. The "Clean & Safe" seal was created for hotels, restaurants, and tourism-related businesses to take extra safety and hygienic precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and "other ailments." There is no requirement of isolation for international travellers visiting Portugal. For the Indian market, as of now only essential travel is allowed which also includes Business travel. We are eagerly waiting for travel to open for the Indian market
2021 started well for Visit Portugal. Preliminary results for 2021: overnight stays grew by 45.2% vis-à-vis 2020 but decreased by 46.6% compared to 2019 (December 2021 source, INE). We are taking solid steps towards recovery.
How did you use the pandemic period to create awareness about Portugal tourism in India?
We were and continue to be present in our efforts to promote Portugal tourism in India. Despite the epidemic and constraints, we were able to raise awareness of the country among most of our trade partners by having constant conversations, building up closer relationships. We conducted online destination presentations, online meetings, broadcasted newsletter to trade and spread awareness on Portugal through social media platforms. We are taking all necessary steps and will continue to do so.
Despite the travel restrictions, we were also able to commit to our goal to start showcasing Portugal as a great destination for Indian weddings. We completed a successful India wedding planner inspection visit from India to Portugal. More than 50 hotels and venues inspected across mainland Portugal, and we are already seeing positive results.
Do you still foresee demand from India market? Any new trend in terms of international travel due to the pandemic?
2022 will be a more exploratory year, travel will become an essential part of self-care. Undiscovered territory, health tourism and sustainable tourism will become increasingly significant. Portugal has a clear strategy in place towards become the most sustainable destination by 2027 and signed the “Glasgow Declaration On Climate Action In Tourism”.
I foresee a great demand from Indian market because we have been engaging with Indian the travel trade, showing the potential of our destination to Indian visitors from beaches, nature, golf, a diverse range of contrasting landscapes, as well as the country's history and culture, food and wines, cycling and hiking certified trails, all activities that we believe are very appealing considered the Indian visitor that will definitely be looking for more immersive and genuine experiences, engaging with local communities.
What is your marketing and promotional strategy for India this year? What new digital promotional strategy you adopted to minimize the absence of physical activities?
Even in the face of adversity, we maintained contact with trade partners to raise knowledge and expertise about the country. Even though India is still closed in relation to Portugal, we gave knowledge of the country to roughly 3300 travel agents in 2020-2021. Providing the trade experts with tools and expertise about Portugal continuous to be part of our strategy. Our primary purpose is to disseminate knowledge about the country to our partners and stakeholders. We will be attending an ITB India online event and would appreciate the opportunity to speak with India's major trade partners and media. We're also working on an online eLearning curriculum to educate and certify our trade partners about the destination. We anticipate a very successful year ahead of us. India is a very important market for Portugal, and we wish to develop our tourism links with the country.
You also launched some digital campaign like ‘Can’t Skip’ series, ‘Time to Be’ etc. globally. How was the response from India market?
The film “Can’t skip us, Can’t skip Portugal” is an integral part of the Portuguese tourist promotional campaign. We did see a great response through it. Over 1.8 million people in over 90 countries have joined the #CantSkipHope initiative. It's also been translated into +12 languages, with the majority of the translations being done by people who wished to spread the word about this uplifting message.
Which segments of tourism will be your focus once tourism restarts?
Portugal is a destination that may be visited all year. Every age group will find something to enjoy in the country. The country's history and culture, as well as its gastronomy and wines, are all major draws, as are the beaches, nature, golf, diverse landscapes and above all, the Portuguese people.We are seeing an increase in solo traveler segment and solo female potential tourists enquiries regarding the destination from India. We are a land of romance, hence looking at wedding & MICE tourism along with the leisure.
Are you planning any trade engagement activities in India market?
Yes, we are highly enthusiastic and eager to engage in trade-related activities in India. India is a very important market to us, with enormous potential. To begin, we will be certifying travel agents’ experts on Portugal via our elearning course, we will also be attending the ITB India and looking forward to engaging with the Indian travel trade sector. In addition, trade partners will be made aware of the destination through online destination presentations, I will be travelling across India for travel trade networking events. Until then, planning exciting webinars series. There are a lot of activities in the pipeline, and we are looking forward to continuing working on the same.