Portugal: The ultimate travel destination

24 Jul 2019

Portugal was awarded a grand total of 39 awards at this year’s World Travel Awards, recording an increase of three from last year. 

As South EU Summit reports, the World Travel Awards were founded in 1993 and are organised by the World Media and Events Limited. A jury board of international hospitality leaders are the ones to decide on the prestigious awards that are directed towards hotels and hospitality companies across a range of sectors. 

Portugal was ranked as the Best European Tourist Destination for the third consecutive year, while Portuguese airline TAP ranked as Europe’s best airline to South America and Africa and the Algarve beach topped the rankings for five different awards, including Best Europe Beach Destination. 

Meanwhile, Lisbon topped the rankings for Europe’s Best City Break Destination and Best Cruise Port, and Madeira still ranked as Europe’s Leading Island Destination. 

Paula Cabaço, Regional Secretary for Tourism and Culture, Madeira, expressed her satisfaction with the island’s ranking, stating that a lot of work had been put into upholding Madeira’s reputation. 

“We could not be happier with this distinction. Receiving this prize, at home, the first time we host the WTA Europe Gala Ceremony, has an even more special flavour,” she noted. 

The rankings included a range of hotel awards and a Best Tourism Development Project award, which was awarded to the Passadiços do Paiva walkway; a landscape UNESCO named a Geological Heritage of Humanity. 

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa spoke of Portugal’s successful results, saying that he “welcomes the election of Portugal as Best European Tourist Destination” and sees it as “an opportunity to further enhance” additional aspects of national tourism. 

On his official Presidency page, the President stated: “The President of the Republic celebrates the election of Portugal as the best European tourist destination for the third consecutive year and for obtaining 39 awards in the World Travel Awards.

“This good news for Portuguese and for the tourism sector should also be an opportunity to better value the environment and nature conservation, social cohesion and land use, culture and heritage and all values of authenticity of the national identity.”

Portugal’s tourism sector contributes to 20% of the country’s economy and jobs, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC). The country’s popularity among travellers has been on the increase in the last few years, especially thanks to its beaches and historical variety. 

In fact, tourism significantly helped Portugal step out of a financial crisis that lasted from 2011-2014, allowing the country to repay the IMF early for its accumulated debt. This then boosted foreign investment and global business activity, which consequently led to more private consumption, bringing in further investment and helping the economy and employment levels further.
The government has also been well aware of this vast improvement, having cut VAT from 23% to 13% on tourism and hospitality and adjusted tax exemption laws accordingly. 

2018 saw tourism in Portugal expand by over 8% and contribute more than 38 billion euros to the economy, which was the highest level of growth seen in any EU country. In 2019, the country’s tourism sector is forecast to expand by a further 5.3%, which is more than double of what is projected for the rest of Europe. 

“Portugal has the potential to increase the size of its travel economy even further by growing the size of its business tourism sector; at present, business travellers account for only 15 percent of all spending in Portugal against a European average of 21 percent,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO. 

Guevara said that Portugal already ranked among the top five most visited countries in Europe, and should now work towards retaining its successful ranking. She added that if Portugal were to continue on the right track, “another 100,000 jobs will be created”.