In statements sent to the Lusa agency, Raul Almeida revealed that in the first nine months of the year, between January and September, the percentage of foreign tourists in the total overnight stays of the 100 municipalities of the Central region rose, reaching 42% of the total, with the Spanish market predominating, followed by the French and with the US market on the rise.

"Although our numbers are a large number of the domestic market, there has already been a large increase in foreign tourism during the night. Spain continues to be our biggest [foreign] market, followed by France. And we have evolved a lot in the market of the United States, which is a good market, because it is a market that seeks quality tourism, and they remain for a large number of days in the territory", observed Raul Almeida.

In relation to the increase in North American tourists, the president of the regional tourism entity highlighted the Portuguese "art of good reception", the "quality of the product" and also the campaigns carried out by official entities and tourist operators, namely the hotels.

"When people are well received, it's normal that they spread the word and this market grows. Many of these tourists are looking for quality and we have that quality to offer", observed the head of the Tourism Center of Portugal.

As for the current prices, Raul Almeida said it was necessary to make "a framework of the current world geopolitics", specifically the ongoing wars and the "inflationary period", which has repercussions in the increase in the costs of the context of tourist operators, from hotels to restaurants , who, even so, made "a great qualification effort".

"This qualification effort and this whole economic situation has repercussions, obviously, on the price. But we still continue to be seen as a cheap destination for foreign tourism, and, perhaps, that's why foreign tourism is also on the rise", observed Raul Almeida.

As for the prospects in the Center region for the Christmas and New Year periods, the president of Turismo Centro de Portugal emphasised that there are no concrete data yet since inquiries to tour operators about reservations and other information will only be launched in the second week of this month

"However, due to the informal contacts we are having, we have the notion that there is a large influx and we are confident that this large influx will materialise", said Raul Almeida.

At this time of the year, he added, tourists, many of whom take the opportunity to go on mini-fairs, look for activities related to the Christmas season - hometown villages or ice rinks, among others - but also the square's animation, especially the commemorations of the end of the year, promoted by hotels and municipalities.

On the other hand, nature tourism is a sector with great demand: "At this time of the year there is a lot of demand for outdoor activities, pedestrian routes, hiking, complemented by religious tourism and gastronomy and wines", he indicated.