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A BLEND OF CULTURAL SOPHISTICATION AND REGIONAL FLAVORS, PORTUGAL IS CONSOLIDATING AND ENHANCING ITS TRADITIONAL TOURIST OFFERS AND DEVELOPING WHOLE NEW AREAS OF TOURISM, TO CAPITALIZE ON ITS CULTURE AND HISTORY
The new trendy European destination

To fully comprehend Europe’s history and heritage, visiting Portugal is a must. The development of Portugal’s cultural tourism potential forms part of government plans to expand the country’s tourism offer, an initiative that lies at the heart of a new sector strategy designed in 2005. First stop for the Ministry of Culture – Lisbon, where the city’s business tourism is soon to be boosted by an enhanced cultural offer.

“We have to be prepared to offer tourists some added value since more than half who visit Lisbon do not come for a sun and sea holiday,” states Isabel Pires de Lima, Minister of Culture. “A substantial number are people who come for conferences and business meetings, and I believe cultural tourism holds great interest for this type of tourist.” Plans include revitalizing the historic neighborhood of Belem, with a new building to house the Horse Carriage Museum next to an 18th century paddock in Belem Palace. Next door is the Royal Equestrian School, where shows featuring the beautiful Portuguese-bred Lusitanian horses will be held.

Further initiatives include developing a clearer cultural tourism circuit in the city that takes in its numerous monuments. Also, a new Discoveries Interpretation Center will use the latest media techniques to explain the routes taken by Portuguese merchants and explorers throughout the Middle Ages. The minister adds, “We want to transform Lisbon into a city that offers a lot of culture. One of the problems that tourists encounter when they arrive in Lisbon is that they don’t know where to go in order to fully enjoy and capture the Portuguese cultural experience.”

In the age of low-cost flights, Mrs. Pires de Lima believes that Portugal can no longer rely solely on its beaches to attract tourists. “It is absolutely essential to fully understand the tourism sector’s full potential and not only focus on capitalizing on the sun and sea aspect of it. Nowadays, it is much cheaper to fly to the Caribbean or Brazil than before so we need to change our strategies in terms of what we offer,” she explains, adding that cultural tourism also involves rural tourism and the promotion of non-traditional tourism centers – a sector that the government is now working to develop.

Minister of Economy Manuel Pinho elaborates: “We have a very clear policy regarding tourism and our main objective is to develop new areas from scratch. It is an exciting plan since it will be the first time in two decades that new tourism areas are built up and they will be primarily targeting higher-end tourism.” He says that new areas under development include the traditional region of Alentejo, the natural lake area of Alqueva, and the island of Porto Santo near Madeira. International promotional campaigns have been launched to ensure the world knows about Portugal’s new higher-end tourism offer.

Regional development from the Ministry of Culture include a museum in the Douro Valley that will showcase the northern region’s port wine production and another in the Coa Valley, where significant Paleolithic archaeological findings were made at the end of 1990s. Mrs. Pires de Lima comments, “This project will contribute greatly to the region. The Coa Valley can indeed become the archaeological destination on the Iberian Peninsula.”