The Chinese tourist market in Portugal experienced steady growth this year. This growth is one of the reasons behind the importance of this year’s congress of the Portuguese Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (APAVT) at the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center, said the Secretary of State for Tourism of Portugal (Ana Mendes Godinho) at the opening ceremony of the 43rd Congress of APAVT yesterday.
“The Chinese market is having, this year, the biggest ever [revival] in Portugal with a growth of 40 percent,” Godinho said. “The undertaking of this congress here in Macau is particularly symbolic in a year where we achieved an old ambition of having a direct flight linking China and Portugal.”
According to the State Secretary, the creation of such an air-
link brings the two countries together. It also creates conditions for Portugal to become the “entry gate of China in Europe and the bridge that links to both the American and African continents.” She noted that the growth registered by the influx of Chinese tourists to the European country is certainly related to the new flight route.
Godinho also mentioned that the number of Chinese tourists had, until September, surpassed the total number of visitors in 2016, noting nevertheless, “but there is still a lot to growth to be achieved.”
On the role of Macau, the Portuguese government official noted that “the return of the APAVT Congress to Macau is a demonstration of the importance of Macau to Portugal, and the massive and enthusiastic adherence of the participants to this event is proof of the history which also marks the present and the future of our connections to the world.”
According to the figures provided by the organization, around 650 congress participants and speakers have arrived from Portugal and are currently in Macau to take part in the annual congress. The congress will discuss current and future developments and challenges faced by the tourism industry, especially in relation to the Portuguese travel and tourism operators.
In Godinho’s opinion, not only is the historical and geographic significance of Macau important but it is also an opportunity for Macau to “reinforce [its] platform [between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries] and make the Portuguese language an economic asset that connects the world.”
Pleased with the results of tourism in Portugal this year, the Secretary of State noted that if, “500 years ago the Portuguese discovered the world through the oceans, today Portugal is being discovered by the world, not only as a country to visit, but also a country in which to invest, to live and to study.”
Adding to Godinho’s speech was also the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, who expressed his satisfaction with the high number of professionals from the Portuguese tourism sector who decided to take part in this event in Macau. He noted that the number of participants at this year’s congress is a “record of participants in all APAVT events” over the past 43 years, especially indicated by the interest of professionals on “relations with the east.”
As previously highlighted by Godinho, Tam also commented on the recent opening of the “Beijing-Lisbon direct flights, with a link to Macau,” which he claimed to be “a historical step which should be taken advantage of.”
Tam also referred to the national projects of the “Belt and Road Initiative” as well as the city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area that in his opinion “will bring more opportunities and open new horizons to Macau and to our partners.”
To conclude, Tam mentioned the soon to be opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge as a “key element to boost tourism in the region, and more specifically in the context of multi-destination tourism that should also be taken advantage of.”
Opportunities and challenges for travel agencies in discussion
The 43rd Congress of the Portuguese Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (APAVT) began yesterday in Macau and will run until November 27. The annual event, which gathers Portuguese professionals from the travel and tourism sector, has brought approximately 650 professionals to Macau this year, and they will discuss several topics related to the tourism industry under the theme “Tourism: In the East, all new!”
The sessions will focus on the development of the tourism industry in Portugal and its relations with Macau and its neighboring regions, among other topics to which the APAVT has invited several highlighted speakers.
The program also includes several visits around Macau to provide the delegates with first-hand experience of the Macau tourism infrastructure, and the opportunity to visit the UNESCO-listed Historic Centre and other tourist attractions in the peninsula and on the islands.
During the opening speech, the President of APAVT, Pedro Costa Ferreira, noted the importance of holding this event for the fifth time in Macau (and second time since the handover).
Ferreira said that some of the internal challenges that the Portuguese tourism faces currently are the recent tragedies caused by wildfires that destroyed a significant part of the country. The fires affected the central regions of Portugal; regions which the APAVT is calling on its members to contribute resources toward to boost its revitalization.
Other challenges mentioned by Ferreira to be addressed during the event relate to new rules soon to be implemented by the airline industry aiming to assist agencies in performing their duties to find the best solutions and prices for their customers, a rule to be applied in the EU space.