“It’s a dream come true,” says local mayor Isilda Gomes
Several political bigwigs were in town on Monday for the official opening of Portimão’s new Hotel and Tourism School, which is now located at the town’s old prison near the municipal football stadium.
The building has been completely renovated and expanded as part of a €2.3 million project to provide students seeking a career in the tourism industry with a state-of-the-art school.
“The most important investment we can make is in education,” said Minister of Economy, António Costa e Silva, during the inauguration ceremony.
“Education changes people and it is people who transform the world. We want to be the most sustainable destination in the world and that cannot be done without quality schools,” the minister said.
In his speech, Costa e Silva, however, made no mention of the ongoing teachers’ strike, which, since December last year, has been affecting classes and closing schools across the country, bringing total chaos to the state-run education system.
Meanwhile, Portimão Mayor Isilda Gomes described the occasion as a dream that started in 2016 and has “finally come true”. The local mayor also highlighted that there is still much room to develop tourism in Portimão.
“We have some of the best gastronomy in the world. Portimão is the Portuguese capital of the sardine, and we host a big festival every summer to celebrate it. We have to maintain and preserve these traditions,” said the mayor.
Gomes also addressed the president of the regional tourism board (RTA), João Fernandes, who was in attendance, stating that he is certainly “very happy” about the opening of the new school and the contributions that it can make to the region’s tourism sector.
Speeches were also made by the other high-profile guests who attended the inauguration, such as Luís Araújo, the president of national tourism authority, Turismo de Portugal.
“Portugal has among the best selection of tourism schools in the world,” said Luís Araújo, alluding to the 12 existing schools in Portugal: Lisbon, Portalegre, Oeste, Portimão, Setúbal, Vila Real de Santo António, Coimbra, Porto, Faro, Lamego, Estoril and Viana do Castelo.
The success rate of the schools was also highlighted, with Araújo pointing out that 90% of students find a job immediately after finishing their training. Furthermore, around 20% of students continue working at the location where they completed their internship, he added.
Nuno Fazenda, Secretary of State for Tourism, also celebrated the opening of the new school, praising it for three key aspects: the school is located in a building that was renovated instead of built from scratch, with “sustainability in mind”; it aims to increase the number of youngsters and adults being trained, both in person and online; and its link to promoting entrepreneurship.
The new facilities were inaugurated in a building which was once used as the town’s prison and had been completely abandoned for over a decade.
The Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Portimão (EHTP) has eight classrooms “equipped with the latest technology”, two kitchens, an auditorium with a seating capacity of 140, a bar and a restaurant, which will be open to the public.
The school’s new digital technologies will facilitate “hybrid teaching combining in-person and distance learning”, according to Turismo de Portugal.
The Portimão Hotel and Tourism School is the third training establishment in the Algarve. The other two can be found in Faro and Vila Real de Santo António.
Best tourism revenue ever in 2022
Tourism revenue reached €22 billion in 2022, surpassing by 20% the figure recorded in 2019, the “best year ever for tourism” in Portugal.
The announcement from the Minister of Economy during his speech at the inauguration of Portimão’s new Tourism and Hotel School on Monday.
“Portugal ended 2022 with €22 billion, which is absolutely extraordinary because, in one year, we not only recovered what we did in 2019, but we exceeded the results by another 20%,” said António Costa e Silva.
As the minister pointed out, “one of the engines of the country’s economic development was highly plagued by the pandemic and almost paralysed for two years, leading to a great demotivation of economic stakeholders.
“There were many people who said that to recover the numbers of 2019 we would take three, four or five years, but we managed to recover during the last year,” he said.
The minister added that for Portugal “to achieve one of the objectives of being the most sustainable destination in the world, it is necessary to work together, developing collaborative networks.
“If we build these platforms, if we have clear strategies, we can transform the lives of our communities,” he said.
According to Costa e Silva, there is “still prejudice against tourism” in Portugal, despite it being “one of the fundamental pillars of our economic development.
“We, at the ministry of the economy, have a very clear vision about tourism: tourism is a tool to develop the country from north to south, including the autonomous regions (of Madeira and the Azores),” he said.
Tourism is a sector that spans the entire national territory and all sectors of the economy, the minister added, saying that it “mobilises multiple sectors of the economy, from construction to transport.”
“If we use this tool properly, it is absolutely transformative,” he said.
Photos: BRUNO FILIPE PIRES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP