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VIP TALK | Exclusive Interview with Tiago Brito

July 23, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Tourism industry received 1 more good news at the beginning of July: “Portugal has officially announced that it is ready to welcome foreign tourists. With Portugal’s epidemic prevention and control situation continuing to improve, most of the areas will open starting from July 1. It will be open from now on, and only the most necessary safeguards such as traffic restrictions will be retained.” Since the epidemic has swept across the world since beginning of 2020, when can industry expect for recover? Has the destinations been reshaped by the epidemic?

Travel Link Daily invited Mr. Tiago Brito, Tourism Director of Tourism for P.R.China, Turismo de Portugal, to bring us a brief on the post-epidemic recovery and positive outlook of in Portugal.

Q1: What has the Portugal Tourism Board been doing during the COVID-19? What are the things that impressed you? 

Portugal Tourism Board understood at a very early stage the level of impact that the Covid-19 would have in the Economy and notably on the Tourism Industry.

Portugal was pioneer in launching the #CantSkipHope campaign. On the 21st of March, shortly after the massive worldwide flight restrictions were implemented, it went live. It was a very beautiful campaign telling travellers around the world at a particularly hard time that it was time to Stop. Stop travelling but transmitting them hope and wishes to see them soon.

It received huge compliments from across the world especially because it was produced in record timing.

The 2nd most important moment was the launching of the Clean&Safe Seal. This was a strategic and tactical way of gathering all the Portuguese Tourism Stakeholders beyond one single collective message and encourage them to adopt it in their businesses. It acknowledges that the highest health and sanitary standards and protocols are being enforced within the facilities or in the services rendered. This enabled Portugal to create additional consumer confidence in the resumption of the tourism activity.

Besides these two moments, Portugal Tourism Board also cooperated actively and closely with other Government Institutions to assure that foreigners would feel safe wherever they would choose to go in our country.

Q2: What is the current situation of Portugal as a tourist destination? What preparations have been made accordingly?

Initially Portugal defined 4 stages of the opening strategy while discussing the matter at European level as well.

The current stage, in what concerns flight restrictions, with effect on the 15th June, is a progressive opening firstly within the European Union and with some other few exceptions on other countries where there are huge Portuguese communities. China is among the list and the direct flight from Lisbon to Xi´an has resumed from the 20th of June and will occur once a week.

Tiago Brito

Tourism Director for P.R.China

As for the preparations, Portugal has been extremely careful adopting the measures according to the WHO and Portuguese Health Ministry´s guidelines for different types of businesses and locations. In hotels, restaurants, even in beaches. Everything has been thought of to assure smooth resumption of Tourism and to minimize risks over people´s safety.

Right now, nearly every type of business may resume if it complies with the national health protocols. The only exceptions right now are still nightclubs and discos and gatherings of more than 10 people.

Portugal is still the Best destination in the world and is open and welcoming tourists!

Q3: How do Portugal Tourism Board keep in touch with the Chinese market and Chinese tourists during COVID-19?

 We have been keeping very active in our social media accounts, mainly on WeChat and Sina Weibo and we have adjusted the published content to reflect our concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary social distancing recommended.

We have enforced nature, wellness and gastronomy product segments and also focus on experience-like unique possibilities in Portugal in order to keep our followers inspired and dreaming of our destination.

Also very important, we have kept a balance of awareness between our 7 regions which have, all of them, an extraordinary range of diversified products to be chosen.

We have also tried to keep our Chinese trade partners updated on the developments in Portugal whether through meetings, webinars, calls, PRs or via our newsletter.

Maintaining contact with Tour Operators, Online Travel Agencies and local Airline Representatives is also very important to have a better feel of the market.

Together with the precious help of Travellink we have made several different cooperation projects with many Chinese entities such as CCTV, some OTAs and TOs, rendered Wishlists and H5 games, and we also plan to host some online events and e-learning programs and many others in the upcoming months.

Q4: After COVID-19, will there be any changes in the future direction of tourism development in Portugal? What is the overall plan for the recovery of the tourism market? What work will be done? What are the expectations for the prospects of the Chinese market and the world market?

Yes, we feel so, there will be an initial change in terms of demand, naturally. Firstly because of still limited supply of flights from traditionally strong outbound markets for Portugal such as UK, Germany, France and Spain. The overall consumer confidence still needs to improve considerably as well. Another factor that has critical importance are the negotiations of “fast-track” channels between states to make it feasible for nationals to move between countries without having to undergo in quarantine upon arrival or at least that they find common ground of agreement on the procedures to be mutually followed.

Naturally and having all of this in mind, the domestic market will be the first driving force in the demand, as it is the simplest one and most are within self-driving distance. This is not a trend exclusive in Portugal but I would say it is common on most of the countries as it was in China. The initial stage of the recovery will be driven by domestic demand and the Tourism Boards shall emphasize and re-direct their initial strategy and campaigns to invite their own people to rediscover their country. Which makes sense for Portugal as we were the best destination in the world..! Portugal NTO launched the campaign #TuPodes which means #YouCan precisely to appeal Portuguese travellers to explore their own country.

As for the prospects, we trust a lot what we hear from our local Chinese trade partners and we understand that the decision the resumption of tourism outbound business shall have to take into account a lot of factors, most of them, external. There are numerous variables that will influence the timing of resumption and naturally a vaccine may be a game-changer on the overall crisis. We hope to see Chinese travellers back to Portugal as soon as possible. At our side, however we may contribute to anticipate this date, provided that everyone´s safety is assured, you can count on us.

Q5: What type of tourists do you think will be the first to recover among tourists visiting Portugal?  What do you think of the current recovery of Portugal as a tourist destination?

All studies point to FITs and Semi-FITs to be the first in line to lead the demand. Millennials and Generation Z will probably fit the profile of first travellers however these generations also had a higher blow in terms of household income. We are still at an initial stage of the impact of the crisis so let us see how it evolves.

When the Chinese TOs have green light to resume the sales of outbound packages we shall see a boost in terms of demand probably higher than what is expected.

As a tourist destination and not talking specifically about the Chinese outbound tourism to Portugal, the summer months are very critical to the final balance of the yearly Tourism activity so it is extremely important for our economy and recovery curve that we still may be able to receive a consistent number of guests especially during July, August and September.

Portugal is confident in a recovery and absolutely everyone within the Tourism industry is united in achieving this goal.

Q6: What do you think will happen to Portugal and global destination tourism (positive or negative) after the outbreak?

The negative side of this pandemic naturally are the lives lost. We want to express our deepest condolences to the families who have lost relatives during the outbreak. Also, a lot of people were directly and indirectly affected because of this overwhelming and unforeseen crisis and Tourism stakeholders were among the ones that have been hit the hardest. A lot of people lost or had to change jobs within the tourism industry.

There will be several changes in the airline industry as well that it is too early to assess the actual impact and outcome. Long-haul, intercontinental travelling will definitely be more impacted than short haul. Part of the Mice segment travelling may migrate to online solutions.

The recovery process is taking a longer time than any of the other previous recent health or financial crisis.

The positive side is that, after this limitation of mobility for such a long time, it serves as a reminder of how important and rewarding traveling really can be. And that will be on the people´s mind.

It is very early to say what will happen as there are still many variables we cannot control. One thing is certain, Tourism is and will be even a more important industry in the future, that I am sure. The cultural heritage of our country hasn´t changed, the beaches, the landscapes, the wonderful experiences that can be seen or lived are still there.

We are confident Portugal shall recover quickly and that visitors will keep coming in large numbers, staying longer periods, traveling from north to south and also our islands Madeira and the Azores, and recommending to others based on their wonderful experiences. The warmth and hospitality of our people is another thing that stays on people´s minds during and after they leave Portugal. Our welcoming smiles will be there for you, always!

 Q7: What are the inspirations and thoughts brought to you by this epidemic?

I would start precisely by the end of the previous question. The epidemic deprived hundreds of millions of people from having mobility. Whether for work, for leisure or to visit friends and relatives. The pandemic serves as a reminder of how important mobility really is and how travelling brings people from across the globe together. To meet each other, to create new friendships and bonds. To make incredible businesses. To live like a local for some days. To enjoy a completely new experience that it would be impossible where you are. To view and admire a landscape that shall remain in your memory until your last breath.

People have been reminded that this shouldn´t be taken for granted. They will value travelling even more in the future so I am positive this “need” will also drive people to travel massively yet again when they feel safe.

And to finish the interview emphasizing a positive note:

Portugal is ready to receive all Chinese tourists that are dreaming about the best destination in the world.

Source: Travel Link Daily

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