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· Economy & Business · · T. Filomena Abreu · P. Álvaro Isidoro

Luís Araújo

«Ongoing training remains one of the pillars of how the Portuguese Tourist Board operates »

Villas&Golfe Adv. PUB HOMES IN HEAVEN Adv.
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PMmedia Adv Adv.
Sustainability is one of the main ideals of Portuguese tourism. But there are more measures underway to improve services throughout the country. Such as investment in training, the key word for the coming years is confidence. The national and international recovery of the sector is going at a fine pace, but there are still challenges to be tackled. In an interview with V&G, Luís Araújo, chairman of the Portuguese Tourist Board [Turismo de Portugal], talks about the programmes underway and his vision for the times ahead.
Could the reduction of water consumption in the hotel sector force profound changes in the immediate future? How can the sector adapt to this problem?
The tourism sector has been adapting and accepting the responsibility of complying with sustainability criteria, namely the reduction of water consumption, and there are already several tourist resorts that are excellent examples of good water efficiency practices. In situations such as those that recently occurred, where the meteorological drought is aggravating water shortages, the Portuguese Environmental Agency met with associations of the tourism sector with the aim of promoting, in a collaborative way and despite the existence of very interesting initiatives in this area, an even greater reduction in water consumption.
In this regard it should be noted that about 70% of hotel units (TravelBI by Turismo de Portugal - Accommodation Establishments that Optimize Water Consumption) have already taken measures to optimise water use, in order to promote demand for sustainable tourism. These measures seek to achieve a more scrupulous management of water availability and range from monitoring consumption using sophisticated software specifically developed for this purpose, to pool treatment systems, changes to how often towels and sheets are changed, to the reuse of waste water in non-potable urban uses, in order to reduce the catchment of natural water.
In turn, Turismo de Portugal has encouraged and supported the sector's efforts in this mitigation, particularly within the scope of the measures provided for in the ‘+Sustainable Tourism 20-23’ plan, and in particular: carrying out, with the support of the Environmental Fund, in partnership with the Portuguese Golf Federation and the National Council of the Golf Industry, a technical study on Water efficiency in golf courses in Portugal, containing diagnostics and improvement proposals for this activity; in the implementation and adherence to the national water efficiency benchmark AQUA+ Hotels, in all tourist regions; in the development, still in the production phase, of the For a Sustainable Tourism platform, aimed at monitoring hotel consumption, sharing information and good practices leading to more efficient consumption; in the training of agents about sustainability, providing new training contents on water sustainability in the courses given by the Turismo de Portugal Schools and in the dissemination of best practices on sustainability among companies; in the promotion of having a sustainable attitude among anyone who visits us, through the campaign Tomorrow is Today: for a better planet, a better tourism.
These are measures that, together with the financial support provided by the Recovery and Resilience Plan, aim to develop a joint work with the tourism sector, contributing to making it better able to improve equipment, technology, data and information on better water management, in an integrated approach to climate.

To what extent could the Transform Tourism programme bring benefits to the sector in the short and medium term?
Transform Tourism is a Turismo de Portugal investment support programme aimed at public and private agents operating in the area of tourism, with the aim of fostering the enhancement and qualification of the territory, as well as the development of innovative products, services and businesses. This programme, as provided for in the Reactivate Tourism. Build the Future plan, is intended to support public and private investment in the enhancement of Portugal as a tourist destination.
It has two specific support lines – Intelligent Territories and Regenerating Territories – and is aimed at public and private bodies in the sector, preferably grouped into joint or networked projects, or Collective Efficiency Strategies, which have as their backdrop the enhancement and tourism innovation of the territories through projects that stimulate activities or services with higher added value linked to major tourism products, such as cultural and heritage tourism, nature tourism, industrial tourism, literary tourism, wine tourism and food tourism.
In this context, the benefits that this programme brings are evident, since in its genesis it intends to contribute to an increasingly sustainable, responsible and intelligent tourism, fostering the enhancement and improvement of the territory, territorial and social cohesion, as well as the development of innovative products, services and businesses that value authenticity and respond to the needs and interests of anyone who visits us and that include, besides competitive advantages for the organisations, tangible social benefits and less impact on the environment.

Is there still not enough training in this sector? Why has it become necessary to hire foreigners, particularly for the Algarve, during the months of greatest tourist pressure?
Investment in people and talent is one of the priorities of the Tourism Strategy 2027 (ET2027), which lays out a series of actions aimed at increasing qualification levels in tourism, doubling the level of secondary and post-secondary education to 60% by 2027. Ongoing training remains one of the pillars of how Turismo de Portugal operates, which, with its network of 12 schools that trains, on average, more than 3,000 students per year (2,900 in the 2021/2022 school year), thus aiming to contribute to the competitiveness and quality of service provided by companies and agents in the sector. It should be noted that, according to data from the Employability Study 2020, 96.7% of students trained in the Turismo de Portugal schools stayed working in Portugal, of which 84% were in the subsectors of Restaurant and Hotel Industry.In parallel, the Turismo de Portugal schools have an exclusive special regime for international students who want to attend their training courses. This regime is exclusively for international applicants who do not hold Portuguese nationality; are not nationals of European Union member states or have not resided in Portugal for more than two years uninterruptedly.
We are focused on the talent of people, on the development of soft skills, on innovation, on the application of training to other segments and activities and on the globalisation of tourism professionals, as the basis for the success of tourism in Portugal. In this sense, since the beginning of 2021, a total of 1,530 training activities have been organised for more than 123,750 thousand participants. Among others, there were 509 Certified Executive Online Training activities with 31,910 participants; 104 Clean & Safe training activities involving 17,271 people; 446 Upgrade Programme activities and a total of 26,915 participants, held 31 Webinars and MasterClasses with 1,352 participants.
Tourism is a professional area with a future, with career prospects, with unique personal and professional development potential. In this sense, and fulfilling one of our most relevant missions – to create collaborative synergies between all tourism training operators – we are developing a series of collaborative projects with other public bodies that work in tourism training so that, in a more interactive way, we can all provide more courses and more specialised training, significantly increasing the number of people studying and training in tourism.
In this sense, it is important to highlight the Formação +Próxima [Closer Training] programme, as an iconic project in the areas of training and territorial cohesion. Launched in January this year, it aims to train 75,000 professionals in the sector, in three years, free of charge and adapted to the local needs of each municipality throughout the territory. So far, 112 training/capacity building activities have been carried out in 84 municipalities, with a total of 2,100 participants. Preferably aimed at entrepreneurs, managers, middle management and operational staff, it aims to contribute to a greater knowledge of municipalities and their agents, through upskilling and reskilling processes that contribute to adding value to the local business fabric and the respective territories.
It is also an instrument to attract talent, qualifying people from other sectors and/or unemployed people who want to join the tourism sector and aims to decentralise training in tourism and adapt it to local needs, throughout the national territory. It also takes into account the diversity of the sector’s companies and can be extended to the whole tourism value chain, in a training programme that is intended to be close to the people and the needs of the territories, so that the training programmes (which vary between 50 and 200 hours) are defined/customised to fit each territory.
«Throughout the entire pandemic crisis, a great effort was made to boost the confidence of those who visit us»

How important is wine tourism in the Portuguese economic sector? Why has this segment raised so many controversies?
More than knowing how much it is worth, it is important to understand the potential of this popular segment. In this respect, some indicators show an increase in the interest of tourists, whether through online research on gastronomy and wine, or through the growing demand on the part of tour operators.
It is true that data are important and are needed to gauge the true importance of a segment or economic area. But Portugal isn’t the only place in which this data is not available. In fact, it was precisely with this in mind that the World Tourism Organisation set up a working team with various countries and entities, including Turismo de Portugal, to develop solutions for this global need.
In this context and within the scope of several incentive programmes set up by Turismo de Portugal, Wine Tourism has benefited from multiple supports. The Action Plan for Wine Tourism has approved more than 60 projects, which represent an investment of over €90 million and include different types of wine tourism products distributed throughout the country. The ‘Transform Tourism Programme’ also pays special attention to wine tourism, since it considers this segment to be eligible to receive incentives and support. Aimed at public and private agents working in the area of tourism, it aims to foster the enhancement and qualification of the territory, as well as the development of innovative products, services and businesses.
In other aspects, it should be noted that specific training in Wine Tourism has grown in the Turismo de Portugal schools.  In 2021 alone, they certified more than 4,000 trainees. Wine tourism has also been the object of promotion campaigns abroad, aimed at the consumer, the trade and the international press, with huge impact and reach in international markets. 
As far as promotion abroad is concerned, wine tourism is part of the plan of actions carried out by Turismo de Portugal aimed at international markets. From the launch of the digital platform Portuguese Wine Tourism, which will be the hub for information and international promotion of Portugal as a wine tourism destination, to the attraction of international events, such as the World Wine Tourism Conference held by the WTO in 2021 in Portugal, or television programmes of international renown, such as The Wine Show, among others, there are many significant initiatives already carried out or planned to be implemented. The ‘Tourism Teams’ in the markets have also developed a wide range of activities with the international trade in order to increase operators’ knowledge of wine tourism in Portugal and to strengthen the presence of our products in distribution channels. Communication with international tourists has been carried out through the Wine Pairs with Portugal campaign, also at events in the markets, some of them in close collaboration with ViniPortugal.

Portugal is already on the international sustainable tourism map. What investment has been made in this area and what still needs to be done?
Turismo de Portugal sees sustainability as a higher purpose and the only possible way to build the tourism of the future. All the projects and initiatives we carry out ultimately seek to promote the principles of sustainability throughout the entire value chain of national tourism, making it even more responsible. This implies, on the one hand, understanding the true environmental, social and economic impacts of the tourism industry and, on the other hand, boosting its full potential within the global framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In fact, ET2027, the strategic guideline for the development of the sector for the coming years, has very clearly defined goals of economic, social and environmental sustainability and strategic areas of intervention, without losing sight of the specific goals of increasing demand and tourism revenue, improving qualifications, reducing the amount of seasonality, ensuring a positive integration of tourism in resident populations, increasing levels of energy and water efficiency in businesses and promoting efficient waste management in tourism.It was with this framework in mind that, in June 2021, Turismo de Portugal launched the 20-23 More SustainableTourism Plan (Plano Turismo + Sustentável 2020-2023 (turismodeportugal.pt)) - after the public consultation to which it was submitted, which allowed more than a hundred contributions to be included - which seeks to accelerate the achievement of these goals and also to strengthen the contribution of tourism to Sustainable Development Goals. This plan provides for more than 100 activities (more precisely 119), to be implemented by 2023, aimed at structuring an increasingly sustainable offer, qualifying the sector’s agents, promoting Portugal as a sustainable destination and monitoring the sector’s sustainability performance. There are currently 80 of these activities underway and 19 have already been completed.
For tourism to be a leading sector in meeting the challenges of sustainability, we must include its principles and guidelines in the governance models of organisations, seeking continuous improvement in services and products in order to ensure structural adaptation to the realities and challenges that arise at any given time. This is where the importance of objective performance measurement comes in, because the path towards a more competitive, fairer and more responsible tourism and more efficient in the use of resources cannot exist without indicators, which,keeping up with the market demands and society’s expectations, allow inefficiencies and vulnerabilities to be analysed and growth mechanisms to be developed. It was for this reason that the Reactivate Tourism. Build the Future plan, approved in May 2021, included the 360° Tourism Companies programme in the series of actions aimed at casting the sector into the future - an ambitious initiative that seeks to harness all the transformative power of the sector by encouraging companies to report their sustainability performance through the integration ofEnvironmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in organisational culture and business strategy, guiding them in the reporting process of a system of indicators created with the purpose of reflecting their environmental, social and governance practices.
This comes about as a mechanism that, as a result of strategic reflection aimed at making economic development compatible with environmental protection and social equity, makes it possible to address vulnerabilities, anticipate and circumvent disruptions, and maximise opportunities and benefits for destinations, companies, communities, workers and visitors. Many companies are unaware of the positive impact of sustainability on the creation of value and competitiveness, and still see sustainability as an added cost rather than an opportunity. Changing attitudes, values and behavioural patterns is always a complex process – and this is the work that Turismo de Portugal is developing in the context of the training activities it started in February this year under the Tourism Companies 360° Programme, which aim to highlight the advantages of adopting a sustainable development model, reinforcing the perception that sustainability is a strategic investment and that the costs of implementing a sustainability strategy will always be lower than the costs of not implementing it. On the other hand, most companies do not know the best way to integrate social and environmental objectives into their strategy, their management tools and their operations. So how do you go about measuring their sustainability performance. The Tourism Companies 360° Programme responds directly to this need through a portfolio that helps tourism companies to publicly report their sustainability performance regarding the new international framework for sustainable development, supporting them in their journey to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance  (ESG) factors in organisational culture and business strategy through a series of tools that covers the whole process of collection, measurement, monitoring and reporting of environmental, social and governance practices. These tools include ESG management training, access to sectoral ESG performance indicators, the use of an innovative technological platform for data collection, management and reporting, and obtaining an ESG reporting model adapted to the tourism sector and prepared in accordance with global sustainability standards, which are then complemented with initiatives towards the public recognition of good practices, privileged access to diversified funding sources and obtaining an ESG rating.
Additional information on the Tourism Companies 360° Programme: Programa Empresas Turismo 360º (turismodeportugal.pt)

With its comprehensiveness and its great economic weight, do you think the tourism sector needs an in-depth reform?
Tourism continues to be a fundamental sector in generating value and competitiveness for the Portugal brand. Despite the challenges of the most recent times, we maintain our pursuit of affirming tourism as a development hub for the entire territory, in order to position Portugal as one of the most competitive and sustainable tourist destinations in the world. The world has changed a lot in the last two years, however not everything is different, such as, for example, what sets our destination apart – good hospitality, safety, inclusion. 
The new times have brought new realities and these have brought new challenges. The tourists themselves have changed and have come to value a more familiar, predictable and reliable tourism, in which cost, comfort and safety have become paramount when taking the decision to travel. The key word is trust – not only to travel without restrictions, but to find security in the destination. In this aspect, Portugal can present its  distinguishing nature. We are the 4th safest country in the world (Global Peace Index 2021).
On the other hand, the results of the Brand Asset Valuator (BAV), collected in 2019 about the Portugal brand, show a very positive evolution in recent years in the external markets that were analysed, but also domestically. Portugal is a leading brand today, capable of attracting attention and converting it into experimentation and recognition, with the capacity to generate a higher level of consideration and value. In the group of external markets, Portugal is a strongly relational brand, associated with soft skills, in a process of affirmation and enhancement, a direct consequence of our work as the tourism sector.
Throughout the pandemic crisis, a great effort has been made to strengthen the trust of those who visit us. It was in this context that Turismo de Portugal created the Clean & Safe seal, an initiative that promotes Portugal as a safe destination, through concerted action and the involvement of all companies in the sector, appealing to the responsibility of each one. We were even designated as an example to follow by the World Tourism Organisation.
The sector has shown itself to be up to the task, demonstrating unparalleled adaptability and resilience. We want to continue to be internationally recognised for the excellence of what we offer, but above all else for the sustained growth in value; for excellent training; for the investment in innovation and technology; committed to sustainability. In this way, we are leading the tourism of the future. 
Even with the lack of professionals in the sector, which since 2019 has lost 50,000 workers, will tourism achieve the goals set for this year?
The latest figures for the tourism sector released by the National Statistics Institute (INE), prove the trend of recovery in tourism industry across the country.
In May 2022, the indicators of guests recorded a growth in the order of 162.1% and overnight stays (+221.8%), compared to the same month of 2021, presenting values very close to the values recorded in 2019. This growth is, as in previous months, largely due to the performance of residents with 1.8 million overnight stays (+11,6% vs May/19). Also of interest is the good recovery of external markets, some of which, are also recording higher values than 2019.
The trend towards the recovery of the sector is more evident in revenue, which is already approximately 12% above the amounts recorded in the pre-pandemic period. In May 2022, total revenues reached 456.1 million Euros (+264.3%) and room revenues corresponded to 338.4 million Euros (+275.1%) compared to the same period in 2021.
In May, there were increases in overnight stays in all regions, when compared with the same period of the previous year. This growth was felt more in Madeira (+340.5%), in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (+330.4%) and the Algarve (+271.1%).
In May 2022, all international markets showed signs of recovery, highlighted by the USA, the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium revealing values in overnight stays higher than those recorded in 2019. The UK recorded an absolute increase of 819,400 overnight stays, compared to the same period of the previous year, which places the main issuing market to Portugal close to full recovery compared to 2019.
In June, the Bank of Portugal, in its Economic Bulletin, updated its forecasts for export growth until 2024. Thus, exports are growing 13.4% in 2022, gradually decelerating to a pace close to pre-pandemic by 2024. This profile is determined by the recovery of services exports, with tourism projected to return to its pre-pandemic level by mid-2022.  In the specific case of this sector, Banco de Portugal forecasts that tourism revenues will surpass 2019 revenues as early as 2022 (84.8% in the Dec 2021 Bulletin). This represents a significant acceleration in tourism revenue, which in 2022 should reach a value close to that forecast for 2024 in the last forecast.
T. Filomena Abreu
P. Álvaro Isidoro
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