"The Douro is indispensable to the region's tourism strategy because it has a lot to offer," said the president of Turismo do Porto e Norte de Portugal (TPNP) during the Douro & Porto 2021 Congress, organised by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP).

In the session dedicated to "Markets and Futures", Luís Pedro Martins said there are five main challenges facing the northern region in the short term, including, the restoration of air connectivity and the international focus on availability of high speed internet.

"The region's new strategic markets are dependent on air links," he said, giving as an example Brazilian tourists, who represent the region's third most visitors.

Luís Pedro Martins also stressed that it was necessary to "solve" network infrastructure problems, noting that "in a large part of the territory, the so-called white areas, there is no network or fibre optics.

Accelerating the structuring of products for new demand, maximising the promotion and sale of the destination Top 10 markets and stimulating the dynamics of the territory with tourist events are other objectives that the TPNP considers the region has for 2023 to "restore what it had" before the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Tourists have to be customers, we don't want tourists who leave nothing in the Douro or who leave rubbish. We want tourists who leave value," stressed Luís Pedro Martins, adding that the TPNP's commitment to the Demarcated Douro Region (RDD) is to "structure, promote and sell" its products.

Among the region's products to be promoted, Luís Pedro Martins highlighted the "wine tourism route", a project that wants to take tourists to discover the territory's four wine regions and that "received over 100 applications".

"Finally the country has woken up to the Ways of St. James", the TPNP president.

Besides the different routes and the Pilgrims' Roads to Santiago, Luís Pedro Martins also highlighted the spas of the region, which represent "47 percent of the national total".

About the spas, the TPNP president revealed that the application of Termas das Caldas do Moledo (hot springs spa), closed since 2010, was approved on Tuesday, 20 July, and will be reopened.

The project to revitalise the hotsprings location is moving forward under the consortium formed by the TPNP and the Régua City Council, which in January launched the public tender for the reactivation of the thermal springs for a base price of 1.5 million Euros.

The promotion of some roads, such as National Road 2 and EN222, and of some sports, such as cycling, were also some of the "products" that Luís Pedro Martins said were fundamental to boost the North and its sub-regions.

The Douro & Porto Congress 2021 started on Monday and will take place in a hybrid format until 22 July.

Under the motto "Memory and Future", the congress will include a "revisit" to the history, sociology, law, viticulture, oenology and economy of the region, but "with an eye on the future", also addressing issues such as biodiversity, climate change, sustainability, technological challenges and digital transformation.