Tourism officials are forecasting double-digit growth for the industry in 2016. But growth potential in traditional holiday hot-spots is increasingly limited during the July and August high season and this growth is at risk of having peaked.
But the government is aiming to record continued growth by diversifying tourism.
Economy Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral said on Monday that despite strong growth, that there was still room for further expansion, but with less focus on Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve.
“Portugal still has much room to grow, but should do so with less concentration in certain areas. This is not devaluing the destinations where more tourists currently visit, but rather to compliment these destinations”, the Minister said.
He added that, as tourists are already visiting the more popular destinations, they were never far from less-travelled roads, and that the government would look to encourage visitors to explore new destinations.
Manuel Caldeira Cabral also revealed that the government has already launched programmes and specific funding support campaigns focussed on the idea of decentralisation.
Speaking in the Alentejo this week, Tourism State Secretary Ana Mendes Godinho echoed the Economy Minister’s views.
She said the biggest challenge for the coming decade is “to have tourists visiting the whole year round, and not just during peak season”, adding that the government was actively seeking ways to attract more people to different regions, “namely inland areas.”
The State Secretary added that by ensuring tourism develops into a year-round activity, the number of workers being laid off during the winter months would be reduced. She said this would also allow for more specialised professionals to operate in the industry.
“We are listening to all who work in tourism and from all of the country’s regions to establish what should be done to grow even further and thereby identify problems and challenges within the industry” Ana Mendes Godinha said in Évora.
She added that a number of international industry players have also been heard by the government with over “70 tourist operators, travel agencies and journalists from the four major markets” being asked to provide their input on how to improve what Portugal has to offer.
Latest figures available, explained the Tourism Secretary, meanwhile show that the increase in tourists could be as high as 16 percent in relation to last year, with revenue also rising considerably.
“We are seeing tourists staying for longer, which means the money being spent is rising faster than the number of people visiting” she reasoned, adding that while tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain topped visitor numbers, there has been a substantial increase in tourists from the United States, Poland and Italy.