HIGH-PROFILE tourism INDUSTRY TARGETS U.S. VISITOR
plays a major role in the Portuguese economy, generating over US$4.2
the 11.5 million visitors each year. Most come from other parts of Europe,
but Portuguese operators are keen to attract more interest from the
U.S. The top tourist destinations for North Americans in terms of holidays
abroad are Paris and London, but once in Europe they travel a great
deal to other countries.
As the most western European continental country, Portugal is the closest to the U.S., but American visitors represent just 4% of foreign overnight stays in Portugal. I was talking with the U.S. Ambassador the other day, recalls Manuel Fernando Espirito Santo Silva, chairman of Espirito Santo Resources. He told me that Americans prefer the Lisbon area and the northern part of the country to the Algarve, since the latters key attractions, golf and beaches, can easily be found in the U.S. What he felt Americans were looking for when they visited Portugal was the cultural and historical aspect, as well as the traditional side of Portugal, the old villages and the local color.
and the valleys of the Douro in the north of Portugal would appear to
fit the bill. The area is full of hilltop villages and terraced vineyards
where the grapes for the famous port wine are grown. But it is Lisbon
that is the entry point for most visitors. Lisbon has a maze of narrow
streets, rustic shops, restaurants, historic monuments, such as the
Belem Tower and St. Jorges Castle, and national heritage hotels,
such as the Lapa Palace hotel and the five-star Carlton Palace hotel.
Mr. Dionisio Pestana believes the Portuguese are ready and willing to
serve the growing tourist market.
Over the last fifteen years, Portugal has become increasingly
aware of the countrys worth. Expo 98 was the icing on the cake
and the moment that we realized that we were a mature EU country, that
we could compete, states Mr. Pestana.
group also has ambitious projects for its real estate arm. As Mr. Gomes
de Oliveira points out, on
the east side of Lisbon, near the Expo 98 zone, we have a project to
build over 45,000m2 of integrated offices equipped with the latest communication