In 2018, the sector contributed 8.0% of GVA, and grew twice as fast as the overall economy (8.0% compared with 3.9%). According to the Tourism Satellite Account, tourism employed 9.0% of the working population in 2017, 413 000 people, growing by 8.7% over the previous year, again much higher than the broader economy (3.4%). Travel exports accounted for 51.1% of total service exports in 2018.

Portugal’s tourism sector has exhibited significant recent growth, mainly led by the increase, in both volume and value, of intercontinental markets in the Americas and Asia. International tourism receipts totalled EUR 16.8 billion in 2018, an increase of 8.3% over 2017. This represents 18.7% of total Portuguese exports.

In 2018, overseas visitors totalled 22.8 million, an increase of 7.5% compared with 2017. The five leading international source markets in order of importance were United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and Brazil: together these top five countries accounted for 58.5% of demand. Growth however was led by intercontinental markets including the United States up 25%, Brazil up 14%, China (14%) and Australia (12%). In 2018, the number of nights in all types of accommodation totalled 76.1 million, an increase of 4.8% compared with 2017. Of these, 32.5% were domestic tourists and 67.5% were from overseas. The number of nights spent by overseas tourists totalled 51.4 million, up 4.1% over 2017, with an average length of stay of 3.1 nights.

At the national level, the Secretary of State for tourism sits within the Ministry of Economy. Turismo de Portugal, the public institution responsible for tourism, reports to the Secretary of State for Tourism. Its role covers quality and development of tourism related infrastructure, education and training, supporting investment, promotion, regulation of gambling, and co-ordination of regional arrangements.

There are five Regional Tourism Bodies (ERTs), fully public corporate bodies established under statute with a specific geography. They are destination management organisations with financial and administrative autonomy, having responsibility for domestic promotion and product development. In addition there are two Regional Directorates for Tourism covering the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores.

International promotion is the responsibility of Turismo de Portugal, who work with seven Regional Agencies for Tourism Promotion (ARPTs), working as public-private partnerships ensuring marketing plans are aligned with the national tourism strategy ensuring marketing plans are aligned with national strategy. Turismo de Portugal engages directly with the private sector, often through private sector associations but also with major private stakeholders (Airports, Ports) and directly with large and small businesses often through funding support.

In 2018, the total budget of Turismo de Portugal was EUR 288 million, of which half came from the gambling tax and the rest from other public funding sources including EU funds, which is allocated to finance innovative projects and SMEs. The marketing budget is EUR 45 million and includes expenditure on promotion at a national level, as well as the co-financing of regional promotion abroad, to which private companies and regional tourism bodies also contribute.

In 2017, the Government launched Tourism Strategy 2027, to drive economic, social and environmental development throughout the country and position Portugal as one of the world’s most competitive and sustainable tourism destinations. It contains five strategic pillars:

  • Value resources: drawing on historical and cultural heritage, preserving its authenticity and improving the product to better match visitors’ needs.

  • Boost the economy: increasing the competitiveness of the tourism sector, promoting innovation and attracting foreign investment.

  • Promote knowledge: putting an emphasis on skills, quality jobs and the dissemination of insight throughout the tourism sector.

  • Generate connectivity: improving air access and promoting networks between stakeholders.

  • Promote Portugal: improving Portugal’s positioning as an attractive destination to visit, invest, live and study.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals can be considered as the DNA of Tourism Strategy 2027. Economic goals are measured by overnight stays and tourism receipts; social goals are measured by seasonality, skills and qualifications, and residents’ satisfaction; while environmental goals are reflected in measures relating to energy, water and waste.

Current major programmes concern investment, innovation, developing high value heritage, measuring sustainable tourism, and education and training:

  • The EUR 90 million Valorizar programme is designed to spread demand both geographically and seasonally. Initially it has focused on projects in five areas: to improve Wi-Fi in historic centres, make tourism more accessible, improve the quality of inland destinations, encourage sustainable tourism, and contribute to the recovery of municipalities affected by wildfires. To date, more than 650 projects have been supported financially.

  • The Strategy places great importance on innovation as a way to improve the overall experience for tourists, increase efficiency of businesses and optimise the impact of the sector. Tourism 4.0 is the programme to promote the transition of the tourism sector to the digital economy and to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. A network of 41 incubators across the country supports new ideas and business models. In 2018, 15 acceleration programmes were developed with more than 300 start-ups supported with investment of more than EUR 1 million.

  • Also noteworthy is the creation of NEST-Tourism Innovation Centre. NEST was set up as a private association in early 2019 (see box below).

  • The Revive programme is a whole-of-government approach aimed at attracting private investment to revitalise high-value heritage for tourism use (Box 1.12).

    There has been additional investment in new data sources to address knowledge challenges, in particular sustainable tourism implementation. This requires the development of rigorous monitoring frameworks at destination level currently being informed by pilot projects that are assessing the relevance of indicators, monitoring systems and other methodologies. This has been assisted by the development of a specific platform Travel BI (travelbi.turismodeportugal.pt) which provides information on all available tourism data in Portugal, relevant trends, leading markets, including a specific area on tourism sustainability.

    Turismo de Portugal has a network of 12 hotel and tourism schools with more than 8 000 students participating in both academic and vocational training courses. The Tourism Training Talent (TTT) project builds an entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of innovation amongst students that draws on and reflects the importance of Portugal’s rich tradition of hospitality. The TTT project is aligned with Tourism Strategy 2027 and aims to transform tourism into one of Portugal’s main contributors for economic, social and environmental advancement. Turismo de Portugal adapted the Tourism Schools Strategy developing a Premium Hospitality Service that supports the development of a winning travel Destination but keeps faithful to its authenticity and main values. Most tourism trainings are exhaustive and comprehensive. However, Portuguese tourism schools try to go further by providing a full 360º approach to training – from the first days of academia to a talented tourism professional, allowing students to connect to both the tourism industry but also other related sectors, and enterprises.

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