Tourism boom – what next?

 In Opinion

A boom is marked by higher productivity, growing sales, greater purchasing power, rising demand and, consequently, wage increases. The latter is still to be verified.

After the €78 billion bailout in 2011, some key governmental measures led to the exposure of Portugal internationally. One of them was access to a “golden visa” for those who invested €500 million on a property.

Another great and simple measure from Turismo de Portugal, only possible in a country of excellence and knowing we cannot afford to spend big money on advertising, was to invite key opinion makers to come and experience Portugal. That move has generated spontaneous media content directing the spotlights to Portugal, its people, scenic landscapes, good weather, gastronomy and, above all, its value for money.

Today we have many celebrities living here who have become great ambassadors to Portugal, such as Madonna, Louboutin, Philippe Starck, Eric Cantona, to name a few. They visited the country, they fell in love, they invested, and they moved here.

Tourism contributes 12.5% of GDP in Portugal, 20% of the total exports and 58% of the service exports.

It is, therefore, the sector that has contributed the most to the recovery of our economy and to employment, which today represents around 10%.

We are all happy with the tourism industry’s performance last year; the sector is, after all, responsible for pulling Portugal out of a deep financial crisis. So, what can be expected after this boom?

The New York Times, which has been following Portugal, and Lisbon in particular, for a few years now, once wrote a popular article whose title was something like, “Lisbon doesn’t know how cool it is”.

Last weekend, a new article came out with a title calling attention to the opposite: “Lisbon is thriving. But at what price for those who live there?”

Now they are trying to find out the overall score of the game: “Today the city is booming. But who has gained and who has lost has become a divisive issue for the residents.”

Why this gap? The answer is simple: lack of planning. An equation that should benefit all is, in fact, not.

People and culture

According to the 2018 InterNations report, quoted by Forbes magazine, Portugal is the most hospitable country in the world. Four out of five foreign people living or working here say Portugal is warm, welcoming and great for making friends and socialising. Nearly half (47%) of the 13,000 expats who took part in the survey want to stay in Portugal for the rest of their lives.

Portugal has the right building blocks to sustain this growth: hospitable people, a great culture and rich history. But, just like a company, to fulfil its potential and enjoy continuous good results, the country needs to plan better. It is clear Portugal was not prepared for this boom. People were not ready nor was the infrastructure.

We have a small country which, if compared to a hotel, can be described as a “boutique country” where selection needs to happen.

We need to have a clear vision of where we want to go, bring the players and the local communities together towards a common sense of purpose and, with the right strategy and communication plan, start delivering that vision.

We have great talent in Portugal. During the crisis, we lost quite a lot of this talent, but now it’s time to encourage it back for the sake of a better country. Portugal is a country of discovery, of innovation, a host to creative industries, and a year-round sporting “venue”.

A great example of how all this was used in a well-structured project is the Champalimaud Foundation in front of the River Tagus. With a great scenery and conditions for scientists to develop their cutting-edge researches, it is already considered one of the most advanced institutions in the world in the field of oncology and neuroscience. Another great example of vision and implementation, using the best of Portugal’s natural resources, is the Campus of the School of Business and Economics due to open in September as a Global Hub for Excellence in Knowledge & Learning, boasting amazing conditions to attract talent in a mix of advanced studies including surf and leisure.

At Events by tlc, we have been promoting Portugal for 15 years as the best country to host worldwide events due to its geographical position, between the Americas and Europe.

Today, we see Portugal hosting some of the biggest medical events in the world like the Diabetes World Congress, The Aga Khan Jubilee Arts which will bring more than 40,000 people to Lisbon in July, the biggest digital and startups conference in the world, the Web Summit, worldwide car launches, and some of the best music festivals.

We need to be a country aiming for the best, preparing our infrastructure and services, and implementing an efficient communication plan. Having the government working side-by-side with the private sector, identifying and maximising opportunities, is essential. If we plan it well, we will be able to see a long-term strategy, we will be able to prepare the populations, and we will be able to grow through tourism without putting too much pressure on local communities.