A diverse landscape, nature activities, cultural attractions and distinctive Mediterranean cuisine combine to make Portugal a great option for the wellness-minded traveler.
With 528 miles of Atlantic coast, Portugal, the most western and one of the oldest countries in Europe, also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. Under the direction of Visit Portugal, the national tourism authority, the country’s tourism sector is promoting the destination not only as a place to visit but also to invest and live in. Celina Tavares, director USA, Visit Portugal, says, “Portugal is an inclusive, open and creative country that stands out as a reference in the production of distinctive, differentiating and, above all, sustainable tourism services.”
What are the Destination’s Main Points of Distinction?
There are several factors that make Portugal a very attractive and competitive tourism destination.
Its mild climate, the diversity of landscapes, the growth of air accessibility, the ease of traveling within the country (Portugal is a small country with what is said to be the second-best road system in Europe), the local history and culture, gastronomy and wines, along with the beaches are among the main attractions.
“Air connection between U.S. and Portugal is already reinstated to pre-pandemic levels, and in November 2021 SATA Azores Airlines started a new service from NY (JFK) to Funchal, Madeira. This month United Airlines is also launching a new service from Newark to Ponta Delgada, Azores,” says Tavares.
Additionally, Portugal has 17 properties inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including historic centers, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes and natural parks. The country was also recognized by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the inclusion of seven properties on the list including fado (a combo of music and poetry) and the Carnival of Podence (a social practice associated with the end of winter and the arrival of spring). The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category is defined as “A practice, representation, expression, knowledge or skill considered by UNESCO to be part of the place’s cultural heritage.”
What Does the Destination Offer for the Wellness-Minded Traveler?
Portugal is well-positioned to capitalize on the growing demand for wellness travel. Its diverse landscape, nature activities, cultural attractions and distinctive Mediterranean cuisine provide a platform to offer travelers vacations and retreats that can lead to fulfilling their wellness goals and objectives. Furthermore, the Portuguese hotel sector is well developed and able to offer top of the range facilities, along with spas and health-focused treatments. In properties with thermal spas, it is very common to find thalassotherapy treatments that use traditional techniques and take advantage of the mineral richness of the Atlantic waters.
The country also offers a wide range of adventure and outdoor activities, a segment that has been strategic to the destination. “In the last couple of years, Portugal’s tourism sector has been progressively investing and developing our active tourism offer, by investing in new infrastructure and diversifying our offer,” says Tavares. Examples include Azores and Madeira, both ideal for those who love walking, hiking, or trekking. Other popular walking and cycling trails include Via Algarviana, in the southern part of the country, known as Algarve, and the Vicentina Route in Alentejo.
To take a break from the more intense land activities, the islands also offer water activities, such as surfing, scuba diving and dolphin and whale watching (mainly during springtime migration). It is also very common to find Portuguese people enjoying the waves of the Atlantic coast, including surfing, which has become the biggest water sport in Portugal.
Overall, How Has the Destination Successfully Managed the Spread, and What New Policies and Procedures Have Been Implemented Since COVID-19?
Visit Portugal has implemented the health and safety protocols—such as the Clean & Safe seal (portugalcleanandsafe.com)—recommended by the Portuguese health authorities to ensure the safety of both visitors and residents. Plus, says Tavares, “We have offered training for thousands of professionals to add another layer of trust and transparency. Our country is open and prepared to welcome visitors. We have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of both tourists and residents.”
Has the Destination Adopted New Tourism Philosophies or Developed a New Strategy for a Post-Pandemic World?
To encourage the recovery of the national tourism sector, in 2021, Visit Portugal launched the Reactivate Tourism | Building the Future action plan, designed to be a guide for the tourism sector.
This program is based on four pillars—Building the Future, Supporting Business, Generating Business and Fostering Safety—and aims to have Portuguese tourism companies as the base for the sector’s sustainable transformation process. Through the program’s financial support program, Visit Portugal hopes to challenge and empower the country’s tourism companies and industry leaders to rethink their environmental, social and governance practices.
What is the Destination’s Position on Responsible, Sustainable and Regenerative Tourism?
As part of their Tourism Strategy 2027, Visit Portugal is working to affirm tourism as a pillar for economic, social and environmental development throughout the county, and to position Portugal as one of the most competitive and sustainable tourist destinations in the world. The strategy covers over 70 initiatives and projects that have been and are being developed.
What Type of Visitors Does the Destination Attract? And why Recommend this Destination to Your Clients?
Situated in the extreme southwest of Europe, just a few hours from many European capitals, Portugal attracts visitors from all over the world. “Portugal is a unique gem of Europe with nearly nine centuries of history and architecture, and it is also the closest European nation to the U.S., so it’s very easy to get to,” says Tavares. “Portugal welcomes everybody who wishes to visit, invest, live or study in the country.”
What is the Best Time to Travel?
Tavares points out that “Portugal has a mild climate, 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and 528 miles of golden beaches, making it a year-round destination.”
For more information on the destination visit visitportugal.com.
Check out another Wellness Tourism Association recommendation: Maldives’ New Wellness-Embraced Nature Retreat.
Recommend magazine has partnered with the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) to bring you monthly columns to help travel advisors sell wellness travel. For more information on the WTA, visit wellnesstourismassociation.org.