When portugal came calling

As part of their mandate to promote Portugal as an up-market leisure destination, a high-ranking delegation is in New Delhi and Mumbai, led by Cecilia Meireles, Secretary of State for Tourism, and comprising Jorge Roza de Oliveira, Ambassador of Portugal to India and Frederico Costa, President of Turismo de Portugal, as well as senior government officials and heads of some of Portugal's finest hotels and local tour operators.

Given the importance and potential of the Indian market, the Secretary of State for Tourism, Cecilia Meireles, said Portugal was focussing on significantly increasing the number of tourists, from the 13,000 Indians who currently visit her country annually.

'We have always felt close to India, especially on account of our connection with Goa. Our maiden marketing initiative will effectively position Portugal as a leisure, historic and cultural destination among Indian travellers.  This particular delegation aims to encourage the Indian travel fraternity to launch more qualitative and diversified packages in time for the wedding season in 2012 and the leisure season for 2013.'

She said around 80,000 Indians already live in Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and on the spectacular Algarve coast, and the government was keen to invite Indians to live in the country and invest there.

She added that the objective of this marketing initiative was aimed at building cordial relationships between the two countries, whilst popularising the destination not only for leisure travellers but also to provide an impetus for MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions), for which she saw huge potential in India’s buzzing economy.

'Our delegation comprises a unique mix of hoteliers, resorts and tour operators that have developed specialised products for the Indian traveller. The workshops provide a platform for the Portuguese delegation to interact and establish commercial relationships with 500 to 600 pre-selected Indian trade professionals, including Indian travel agents, tour operators, wedding planners, golf and cruise promotional organisations, corporate travel agencies and Bollywood, in addition to MICE operators.'

Oliveira said: 'India is a very lucrative market and we are aware of the potential it holds in terms of outbound leisure and corporate travellers.' He said Portugal was being positioned as an authentic resort country, and had won many awards and accolades, namely, Europe's leading destination, Europe's Leading Cruise Destination, Top European City Destinations by the World Travel Awards, as the most romantic honeymoon destination by CNN, and Lonely Planet naming the town of Porto as one of the top 10 best value destinations in the world.

The World Travel Guide has named Portugal as its most preferred destination, with Lisbon, Madeira, the Azores and Porto being named the top destinations. Also, the Praia d'El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort in Obidos was named Europe's Leading Golf and Leisure Resort.

Costa commented: 'Portugal is a vibrant destination, among the top 25 tourism destinations in the world, that brought 14 million tourists to the country in 2011, more than our total population. In spite of the downturn, tourism is growing by around 5 per cent annually and we attract travellers from across the globe on account of our strategic position, with 850 km of coastline, and pleasant climatic conditions that provide the best of Europe with the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Portugal offers and exciting mix of history, ancient and contemporary architecture, great food and wine experiences, and excellent golf, sailing and ultra sports facilities, besides being the home of footballers such as Ronaldo. We have 900 years of history, with many of our castles being converted into heritage hotels, 14 Unesco heritage sites and the magic of Fado as part of our unique culture. Our people are very welcoming and all speak English, and your Euro will stretch much further in Portugal, especially in the low season ofsummer.'

He said Emirates offered flights to Portugal via Dubai and urged people to check out their website, for more information. Tourist visas are provided within 10 days and there are fast-track visas for business travellers.

Accompanying the government officials of Turismo de Portugal is the Portuguese private sector delegation, comprising hoteliers, destination management companies and tour operators.

Participants include Allis Hotels, Dom Pedro Hotels, 4 Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon, Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Hotel Lutecia, Pestana Group, SANA Hotels, Penha Longa Hotel Spa & Golf Resort, Vila Gale Hotels and Thema Hotels & Resorts. Travel companies such as AIM Group, Argon Travel, GeoStar,, Osiris Travel, Quasar, VEGA and destination management companies such as In Tours Portugal — DMC, Limits Incoming & Incentives — DMC, Lusanova DMC, Mr. Travel Portugal — Luxury DIvIC and Vista DMC & Emirates Airlines.

'Portugal Experience Workshop 2012' is also scheduled to be conducted on 21 November in Mumbai. Here, the delegation will also interact with Bollywood producers and invite them to shoot in the variety of scenic locales the country offers, as it seems to be ignored by Indians in favour of its bigger neighbour, Spain.
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