Tourism boost for Alentejo

The number of applications for EU tourism development grants for projects in the Alentejo has hit a record.

Of the 171 grant applications for projects nationwide received by the Portuguese tourist board, Turismo de Portugal, 33 were from companies based in the Alentejo.

The record number of applications for EU funding aimed mainly at innovative and entrepreneurial hotel and tourism projects was the result of two competitions, Structural Funds for Tourism and the Incentives for Innovation in Tourism, launched as part of Portugal’s National Strategic Development Plan (QREN).

The total investment involved in these projects exceeded €555 million, with the record number of applications from presented projects revealing that despite the recession, many tourism entities are prepared to launch tourism projects in sustainable and rural tourism.

The lion’s share of the applications was concentrated on hotels and guest house developments (83%) while the others were from companies involved in tourism entertainment and other leisure activities.

In the vast majority of cases (72%), applications met the strict strategic development criteria for EU funding with 69 applications from the north of Portugal and 44 from the central regions.

Companies based in the Alentejo presented 33 projects while the Algarve presented 14 and Lisbon 11.

When it came to specific regions, the Douro region put in 16 applications worth €86.4 million, followed by the West ‘Silver’ Coast (seven), Leiria-Fátima (six), Serra da Estrela (five), Alentejo (four) and Alqueva (three).

“The award of these funds is strictly in line with the objectives set out by the National Tourism Strategic Plan (PENT), which aims to increase the importance of tourism for the national economy both in terms of tourist numbers and receipts as well as broadening the types of tourism available,” states Turismo de Portugal.

This month, Turismo de Alentejo launched its Know to Act initiative in Évora which aims to deepen knowledge about the region and its attractions for potential investors.

“Évora is one of the main areas in the Alentejo with the most to offer in terms of history and tourism and has already attracted a number of innovative projects,” said Ceia da Silva, president of Turismo do Alentejo, who added that the project was a “strategic one in terms of planning, promotion, repackaging the region as a tourism product and assisting companies wanting to invest in the area”.

The number of international tour operators offering trips or stays in the Alentejo is on the increase, according to Turismo do Alentejo, with increased interest from markets such as Switzerland, Austria and China.

Between January and May, the Alentejo External Promotion Agency has booked visits from 130 representatives from tour operators and travel agencies from other European markets such as Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and the United Kingdom.  C.G.