Porto has seen a lot of development as a tourist and corporate event location over the last 20 years, but fortunately the city planners have learnt from the mistakes of other cities which have seen a rapid growth in their popularity as Porto has managed to hang on to the identity and character that made it so attractive in the first place. Porto still feels like a charming traditional city, with its higgledy-piggledy maze of cobbled streets, traditional brightly coloured buildings and plentiful heritage sites, but alongside all this character has been built up a tourist ecosystem of the highest class to cater for demanding guests.
The very best thing that Porto has done is to encourage the development of four and five star hotels that have either repurposed historic buildings in and around the city centre or been built in such a way to complement the architecture of this fabulous city. As a result tourism has not been allowed to devour the city it seeks to serve and the authenticity has been preserved.
This does mean that there are very few very large hotels or events spaces in central areas as this would not have been in keeping with a generally low-rise city centre made up of a maze of small streets. So new hotels have had to be squeezed in as unobtrusively as possible (with the possible exception of the Yeatman hotel which does somewhat dominate the southern size of the river). This means that large scale events in Porto are difficult to manage in central Porto, but makes it the perfect location for small and medium sized events. Some in the events industry are demanding larger venues to cater for the increasing demand in Porto, but here at PortoEvents we continue to think that small is beautiful and that we have to fight to preserve the original character of the city.
Furthermore Porto has developed a tourism infrastructure that has a nice balance between premium and budget travellers – at the premium end are a number of truly fabulous four and five star hotels, many of which have small or medium sized event facilities incorporated; at the budget end the city has focused on encouraging hostels rather than low budget hotels with a view to attracting a vibrant youth sector rather than attracting bus loads of sub-premium visitors. This means that there is a great blend of tourists to be found in the city centre which has served to some extent to exclude the mass-market tourism that has cast a blight on so many cities around Europe.
The final thing to mention is the growing importance of the Douro valley as a tourism and events destination, with a number of new high-end hotels being developed among the vineyards that cling to the valley side as well as a well-planned venues for Port wine based enotourism that are a great day trip option for those staying in Porto. This development along the valley has made Douro wedding venues particularly sought after in recent years but is also serving a wider range of events.