Our Destination Dialogue on Portugal brought agents and suppliers together to debate the destination and brainstorm better ways to sell it. Those attending the event included the president of the Association of Tour Operators to Portugal, Mary-Anne Popoff, and some of her member tour operators; representatives from TAP Air Portugal; the National Tourist Office of Portugal and Jose Preto da Silva who flew in from Portugal to give a special presentation on the rural Portugese region of Alentejo now featured by Sunvil. Here you can read what agents who attended the event discovered and gather some fast facts to help you sell:
PORTUGAL IN CONTEXT
Portugal is a well established and popular destination for the British market with two million visitors travelling from the UK each year. 2010 has been a difficult year due to all the well-known recessionary pressures and issues of the euro. The destination's year-round appeal and diversity of product have helped it maintain its profile.
- Many Brits know Portugal for the Algarve - the challenge is to encourage them to go further and see there is more on offer
- Madeira is thought to be best suited for older clients. It can in fact suit all ages. Its hotels and facilities have been updated and modernised dramatically in recent years so it now has a far more contemporary feel and appeal. It doesn't have much in the way of beaches which puts families off but the hotels are very family-friendly so for those happy to stay poolside it is perfect.
- Pousadas are a great asset to Portugal but not all clients know what they are. There are over 40 of these properties across Portugal - historical buildings, palaces and castles - familiarise yourself with them and spread the word to clients! They really appeal to those looking for something a bit different.
- Remember Lisbon is the capital and busy doing business in the week - accommodation is cheaper for Saturdays and Sundays
- First timers to Portugal may consider combining with neighbouring Spain
- Suggest renting a cruiser and exploring Alguera - a beautiful easily navigated Portugese lake. Maps are provide, no qualifications required.
- Target the luxury market by promoting pousadas - heritage properties often offering five-star accommodation, good food, spa facilities and interesting history. These can be linked together for a really interesting self-drive tour.
- Madeira generates strong repeat bookings - remind clients they don't have to travel six or seven hours to find a tropical island - Madeira will do the job in three and a half.
- Sell short breaks to the Azores - here visitors can swim with dolphins, go whale watching and get back to nature in unspoilt lush landscapes.
- Look beyond the Algarve for summer sales. Villas with pools are now widely available in stunning rural locations as well as by the sea. These rural locations often feel much more authentic and have a stronger Portugese feel.
- Golfers love Portugal - if you are not an expert and your client is contact a specialist Portugal tour operator - many have in depth knowledge of the courses and can put together attractive deals to suit.
TAP Air Portugal is the scheduled carrier of Portugal and offers seven flights a day from Gatwick/Heathrow to Lisbon all year round. It is a full-service airline charging no additional fee for golf clubs. It works with operators to offer open jaw, nett packages. British Airways and a range of low cost carriers also serve Portugal.
Portugal has a good motorway network and driving between key destinations is generally stress free and easier than public transport. Self-drive is popular and to be recommended. The newer motorways have opened up the interior of the country and helped encouraged rural tourism too. Driving from Lisbon to Oporto takes about two and a half hours.
Internal domestic flights, intercity coach services and some longer distant train services may also be worth considering for some independent travellers.
Portugal has a lot more to offer than sun, sea, sand and golf. It is a big country with huge tourism potential. Agents who develop their knowledge of destinations beyond the Algarve have the potential to build strong bookings to the destination from profitable niche markets.
"People are living longer and the majority of clients are now older and have higher expectations. They are looking for experience-based tourism and agents who prepare themselves professional to meet the demands of niche markets are those which will prosper in the future. When it comes to Portugal, the Algarve has had a lot of development and a lot of promotion but it is good to look beyond this now and to realise the diversity of product that will really appeal to a wide range of profitable niche markets." Jose Preto da Silva, Alentejo Tourism.
Atlantic Holidays www.atlanticholidays.net
Destination Portugal www.destination-portugal.co.uk
Keytel - for pousadas www.keytel.co.uk
Pestana Hotels www.Pestana.com
TAP Air Portugal www.FlyTAP.com
PORTUGAL - FAST FACTS
Size: Bigger than you'd think! Portugal has seven regions, a huge coastline plus interesting cultural and rural attractions. Don't forget it also offers offshore islands - Madeira and the Azores, great for wintersun.
Top two destinations: The Algarve is the top seller for sun, sea and sand, and golf; and city breaks to places like Lisbon and Porto also sell consistently well.
When to go: Spring (April to June) is a good time to visit any part of Portugal; Summer (July and August) can be extremely hot and at this time it is best to recommend places by the sea. Lisbon prices are cheaper at this time and the city is quieter but it can be very hot; Autumn is a great time to explore rural areas and is the time with the vineyards are at their best; Autumn and Winter are also good times to recommend the islands for guaranteed wintersun.
Flying times: Two and a half hours to Lisbon from the UK; one hour 50 minutes to Oporto; three and a half to the islands
Average costs: Prices are relatively good and the exchange rate has improved a bit recently which has been helpful. A bottle of wine, for example, costs 12-15 euros. Lisbon was recently rated the best city for value in the Post Office's barometre of prices survey
Nightlife/entertainment: Lisbon and the cities have a thriving nightlight, with plenty for night owls and younger people. Festivals happen throughout the year and add colour and interest to a visit. June is the best month for festivals as there are three saints' days in this month.
Accommodation choices: Are huge. The Algarve alone offers 500,000 beds in all classes. Across the country there is also a wide choice of character accommodation as found in pousadas. There are also boutique hotels, manor houses and luxury, value and budget hotels, as well as plentiful self-catering options.