There are no direct flights between the two countries, they are thousands of kilometers apart, but still the number of Chinese tourists on holiday in Portugal is growing “astronomically”.
In the first four months of 2016, over 37,000 Chinese holidaymakers visited Portugal – a 44% increase compared to the same period last year.
The numbers have been growing considerably since 2009.
“It’s off the charts,” Portugal’s tourism boss Luís Araújo told Expresso newspaper.
“Every year, 120 million Chinese travel abroad for holidays. China has great potential for any country, especially Portugal,” the president of Turismo de Portugal (TP) said.
Plus, Chinese tourists are “among the biggest spenders” who visit Portugal. According to China’s Tourism Academy, each Chinese tourist spent an average of €935 in Portugal in 2014.
And if the numbers are already looking good, Araújo believes they’ll “multiply” if TAP is able to set up direct routes between Portugal and China, as planned.
But the interest of Chinese tourists in Portugal did not come out of the blue.
In 2014, the government used Cristiano Ronaldo’s image rights to promote the country in China (click here), while a year before a prestigious Chinese newspaper ran a six-page article about Portugal describing it as a “tourist destination that should be savoured slowly” (click here).
Now that their interest in Portugal is at an all-time high, one of the main goals is to keep Chinese tourists here for longer. On average, they spend just two days in Portugal.
According to Araújo, Chinese tourists may spend more time here if they feel a bit more ‘at home’.
Thus a certificate known as ‘Welcome Chinese’ attributed by the Chinese government to hotels, restaurants, stores and museums abroad is already available in Portugal.
To obtain this certificate, establishments must offer certain amenities – (at hotels, they must offer a Chinese breakfast, as well as Chinese TV channels and newspaper, and even their own kettles).
The Freeport shopping outlet in Alcochete, for example, is one of the locations that already boasts the certificate.
Turismo de Portugal also plans to bring Chinese journalists to Portugal, so they can “write articles about the country in Mandarin and strengthen the country’s presence on Chinese social networks”.
Another idea is to welcome Chinese students interested in studying tourism in Portugal, as well as “attract second-generation Chinese who live in Portugal to study tourism”.
“It would be an excellent asset for businesses to have people who speak Chinese (fluently) working here,” the tourism chief said.
Meantime, TP’s delegation in Shanghai has revealed it is willing to provide support to “any national company that wants to expand to China”.
Just last month, a series of roadshows were held in five Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hong Kong). A total of 13 Portuguese companies took part, and interacted with 250 Chinese companies, Araújo pointed out.