“2023 could be a historic year” for the tourist region of Porto and northern Portugal. This is the conviction of Luís Pedro Martins, who has just started a new mandate at the head of the tourism promotion office in Porto and North, based on the recruitment of six new airlines that will fly to Francisco Sá Carneiro airport this summer. Israeli Sun D’Or, Austrian Airlines, Air Baltic, Norwegian, Scandinavian Airlines and Icelandic Play have already scheduled their debuts in the coming months. Air connectivity – a factor he says is critical to the area’s success – will also be bolstered in the summer with new routes from carriers with deep knowledge of the market, such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Eurowings.
However, it is not enough to meet the growth ambitions in the region. As the also president of the Entidade Regional Turismo do Porto e Norte de Portugal points out: “We are not interested in the European market, because we are well served and we have found that the companies that flew to the airport in 2019 not only restored the routes but in many cases the supply strengthened”. The same cannot be said of long distances. “Markets like the US, Brazil, Canada, Asia and the Pacific are very important, with greater value. They visit us against the cycle of what is summer, which contributes strongly to combat seasonality and increase of the average stay. but links are missing in these cases”.
TAP has already announced that it will strengthen its intercontinental flights from Porto Airport this summer, with daily connections to New York, three weekly connections to São Paulo (Brazil) and a route to Luanda (Angola), in addition to increasing frequencies for some European cities. However, Luís Pedro Martins underlines: “These announcements, with the exception of the flight to Luanda, are not new, but merely a replacement of what existed in 2019. The connections to Zurich and Geneva are far from the frequencies that existed in 2019. “. The president of the two regional tourism promotion organizations recalls that in 2019 we “were no longer very satisfied” with the operation of TAP and “this is a slow replacement of what we had in 2019, which contrasts with the very accelerated replacement by other companies, which in 2022 in most cases exceeded the 2019 operation”.
In this matter, Luís Pedro Martins now hopes that the new Minister of Infrastructure, João Galamba, will continue the work of his predecessor. About three months ago, the working group led by the Commission for the Coordination of Regional Development of the North (CCDR-N) and in which several organizations in the region were present, produced a study that identified the airlines that could solve the connectivity problem. resolve with the large potential markets for the region, reinforcing the need to create a fund within the scope of the state budget to support communication and marketing campaigns to promote new intercontinental routes. With the resignation of Pedro Nuno Santos, it is expected that files that were on the table “will survive outside the ministers”, he says.
Word to the region
For Luís Pedro Martins, it is essential for the region to decide which long-haul connections are most interesting for tourism growth and to direct resources from the Air Connectivity Fund to the routes it deems most relevant. “It is an ambition of the region and it is fair for Porto and the north of Portugal, but also for the Algarve or islands,” he insists. The official points to the example of Barcelona and the Canary Islands, which have money to promote flights. And in the case of Porto e Norte, it is necessary to attract carriers to increase the flow of tourists from strategic markets such as the US, Canada and Brazil. According to him, there are airlines, such as Brazil’s Azul or Latam, that could fly to Porto from cities in the south of Brazil, which today have no answer. Routes from Boston and San Francisco should also be promoted in the case of the US. “Demand is greater than supply,” he justifies.
With the range of companies operating in the city, this year Luís Pedro Martins wants to maintain and invest heavily in his commitment to Spain, France, the US, Germany, the UK and Brazil, markets considered strategic for the region in Canada and Israel. From the latter country, the city will have two weekly flights from Tel Aviv starting in March. This without losing sight of the growth in origins such as Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Poland. There are countries like Germany and Poland where the war in Ukraine could have a receding effect on consumption and inherent leisure spending, but Portugal’s geographical distance from the conflict could translate into an advantage. It is certain that the region managed to surpass all indicators of 2019 last year: six million guests and 11 million overnight stays.
And is now preparing for new growth. As Luís Pedro Martins points out, who has been the face and unique voice of tourism promotion in the region since 2020, “we look to 2023 with great expectations to match and even exceed the values of 2022, which were already historic” . After all, he justifies, “the markets have regained confidence, the destination maintains its very high safety standards and international reputation, there is a very strong reinforcement of companies flying to the region for the first time, there is also a significant increase in hotel capacity”. Of course, “the conflict in Ukraine, inflation, rising interest rates and commodity prices may have an impact on the nearest markets, but we have the competitive advantage of being far from the conflict.”
In this context, the business fabric of the sector should also be considered, the official recalls. “It is necessary to support companies that have been undercapitalized by the pandemic, because although 2022 has been a good year, it has not yet come to compensate.” On the work table there is also concern for the retention of talent, the improvement of tourism products, the development of new commercialization models, the creation of a tourism cluster of the Euregio Northern Portugal/Galicia and the expectation that the railway connection to Spain via the Douro line is implemented.