Opinion

Why is Portugal increasingly sought to host events?

By João Luís Moita, Citur

Portugal, the country with the oldest borders in Europe, never conformed to their boundaries and, having a very inviting coastline, it soon began to explore what was beyond the sea. And thus we can sum up an epic we all should know and that led us to Asia, Africa and the Americas, leaving a little of our culture in the four corners of the world. I believe there is no doubt that Portugal is a universal country, with the largest and most comprehensive international heritage listed by UNESCO. A country with more than nine centuries of existence and history, with a glorious past, which was once a global empire in the world and that today offers and makes available to its visitors an enviable array of sensations and truly unique experiences. From north to south, through the islands, sailing the Douro or Tagus rivers or traversing green Minho, Trás-os-Montes mountain range, the wisdom of Coimbra, the life of Lisbon, Cascais, or the charms of the Serra de Sintra, Alentejo plain and coast or the fantastic beaches of the Algarve, in Portugal it is impossible not to find the ideal place to host an event.

Portugal, as a destination of proven excellence, takes it very seriously and always seeks to attract and develop itself further, capturing new investments in the meetings industry (MI). Our country, which during the last century was considered by many in Europe as a "sleeping beauty" in this business segment, leaves no doubt that it "strongly woke up" after Expo 98, triggering a new reality and optimising the promotion and excellent image that this event had in the world. Since then, we professionalized this market segment, currently making our country one of the most attractive destinations for conducting events, meetings, seminars, incentives, conferences and congresses. Despite the current economic difficulties, many have been the investments both in infrastructure and human capital.

One of our greatest advantages is related to the geographical location. We are the closest European country to the United States and Latin America, especially Brazil (where we are the European country with the highest number of flight connections). We also have a special relationship with Africa, particularly with our former colonies. Our centrality in the world allows us to share the time zone with England and be within one or two and a half flight hours aways from some European capitals such as Madrid, London or Paris.

Portugal has about 300 days of sunshine per year, as well as an enviable average temperature, with reduced thermal amplitudes. Our atmosphere is warm and cool at the same time, allowing visitors here to enjoy trips to the beach from March to October, and to sunbathe in the magnificent terraces or esplanades, also during the winter months.

We are the European country with the lowest crime rate, only with smaller ofenses common to all countries of the globe to report.

The Portuguese, in addition to being a very affable people and a good host, also enjoy a high standard quality of life, uncommon in Europe. Portugal lives in a stable democracy, with freedom of speech and a strong Constitution, where human rights are respected. All this, along with numerous recreational areas, beaches just minutes away from the city centers, green areas diversity, rivers, mountains, countryside and seaside, as well as for example the largest urban forest park in Europe - Monsanto in Lisbon - or Europe's first surfing reserve – Ericeira -, make Portugal one of the countries with a respectful relationship with nature and one of the best places to live in Europe.

Despite the difficulties, Portuguese people have a relaxed lifestyle, with a pace that facilitates socialization, being fans of, whenever possible, long lunches, long dinners, coffee breaks, a glass of wine with some bread and cheese or simply admire the incredible scenery that nature provides our eyes with.

The building rehabilitation of historic interest, as well as of infrastructure that has been converted to receive all kinds of events or other built for this purpose, place us in an enviable position before our competitor destinations. The historic city centers have been rehabilitated in recent years, which has even originated commercial interest of some international personalities in our heritage.

Portugal is also completely open to technological innovations, and it is often used by many multinational companies to launch and market test numerous new products. We have been recognized in the European Union as the country that has reduced the most its bureaucracy in recent years and that has most provided the events industry with its museums, castles, convents, palaces and all its historical and cultural heritage. We are in the top 10 of the countries with the best road network in the world. Portugal is connected from north to south, from east to west with modern freeways, allowing easy access and rapid movement of people and goods. Our international airports have been remodeled and expanded, with all of them, without exception, only a short time away from the cities they serve. In Lisbon, the distance is down to 10 minutes from the centre...

We have one of the most modern and sophisticated hotel parks in Europe, whose growth and modernization is notorious. Recently, modern infrastructure havs also been created, new congress centers for holding events inaugurated, as well as new research centers, such as the Champalimaud Foundation, the world's fourth largest center for research in science and engineering, that also offers its facilities for hosting all kinds of MI events.

Lisbon, the capital, is undoubtedly the region with more qualifications and capabilities to perform major international conferences and events. It is permanently recognized with international awards, being in the Top Ten ranking of the ICCA, having been honoured with dozens of awards, such as Best Tourist Destination, Best City Breaks Destination Europe, Cruises best destination, best music festival, among many others.

Portugal has grown sustainably, with a constant concern of preserving nature and the environment. We are a country with little pollution, having made a strong investment in renewable energy and we are proud to be able to say that 60% of the energy we consume comes from these sources. Portugal is also highly technologically developed. Lisbon was the first European city to provide a supply network for electric cars, it is famous for having one of the world's best fibre?optic networks and has been in the vanguard in some areas, for example in the "ATM" banking system or tolls payment, launching the "Via Verde" system.

It is remarkable the responsiveness and professionalism of our personnel in the MI. In the last decades, several college and technical courses related to this sector were made available, allowing Portugal to take advantage of DMCs ? Destination Management Companies, with human resources, young and highly qualified and prepared to perform at the most demanding events. There are countless companies with internationally awarded events held in Portugal and whose feedback from participants always exceeds expectations. I also emphasize the fact that about 50% of our active population is multilingual, speaking at least two languages, usually English/Portuguese, and 25% speak three.

FOR ALL THIS...

Value for Money
Art and architecture
Hotels, venues, shopping, eating & drinking
Nature
Trendy
Sexy

And as a client once wrote to me... "Everything was great and very Professional... your country is something... The light is perfect, the people are beautiful, the sea is alive and calling”...

And much more, there is no wonder that Portugal is increasingly sought to host events.

Tags: Destination

22-05-2015