Upgrading tourism to compete

“Our focus must be on quality. We have to be the best in every category,” says Secretary of State for Tourism, Luís Correia da Silva. Faced with growing competition from cheap resorts in northern Africa and eastern Europe, Portugal is now marketing itself abroad as a destination that can offer much more than just sun and sand.

The new tourism promotion strategy draws attention to the geographical diversity and numerous historical sights that can be found in the country. Using the slogan ‘Go deeper’, the new wave of advertisements feature images of dramatic mountain ranges, dry plains, castles and monasteries, instead of the usual beach scenes. The goal is to entice tourists to travel to areas of Portugal other than the Algarve, which already receives almost half of the 12 million tourists who visit the country each year, mostly in the summer.

Other ads use the slogan ‘Think West’ to draw attention to Portugal’s position on the westernmost edge of Europe. “We cannot be in competition with a certain type of Mediterranean destination that caters to mass tourism. We have to position ourselves differently,” said Correia da Silva. Part of the strategy involves targeting niche markets, such as camping, adventure sports and winery tours.

In a further bid to encourage the tourism industry to develop services and amenities that cater to these target markets, the government has reduced red tape and is offering financial incentives. Particular attention is being paid to the Douro River valley in northern Portugal, a region of port-wine makers that is increasingly being visited by tourists. Last October, the government approved the construction of a 33 million euro five-star resort in the region, which will have an 18-hole golf course, spa and health club. The government has said it hopes two more such resorts will be built in the region.