These days it seems that hardly a year goes by without Porto winning one award or another as a travel destination – for 2022 it has one the “Best City Destination” in the World Travel Awards, pipping Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Geneva, Lisbon, London, Lyon, Rome, Venice and Vienna to the prize. That is quite a list to come up against and no doubt there will be some quiet satisfaction at the Porto tourist board that Lisbon in particular got beaten as Porto never really likes to think of itself as the second city of Portugal! For a company like ours that organises events in Porto, these kinds of awards are really a confirmation of what we are constantly banging on about, that Porto now has so much to offer for tourists and corporate events alike.
Your writer arrived in Porto in 1998 (from the UK’s second city, Birmingham in fact!) and in those days it would have been laughable for Porto to even consider entering for such an award. Porto was a delightful place at the time – a bit shabby and difficult to get to – but it felt like an adventure waiting to happen for expats arriving there. At the time, there were no 5 star hotels and just a handful of 4 stars (mostly in need of a lick of paint), no low-cost airlines, the waterfront was largely undeveloped, there was no metro and not a fat lot for tourists to do other than explore the backstreets, but all this was about to change…..
The real impetus for change was the arrival of low-cost airlines – the typical cost of a return flight to northern Europe for example dropped from around €200 to under €100 and the number of destinations flying in to Porto increased from around 20 to over 80 now. In 2021, just under 2 million foreigners visited Porto a tenfold increase over 20 years and with average expenditure around the €600 mark, that is a lot of money being sucked into the city and the tourism infrastructure has boomed to cater for all this demand, in particular new hotels.
As a DMC in Porto, where we have to organise all manner of corporate events, it has been a godsend to have so many new world class hotels to choose from, as it means that we can offer our clients a broad choice of hotels, from 150 bedroom chain hotels with all of the corporate facilities to small boutique hotels in restored historic buildings and everything in between. Because Porto started developing its tourist infrastructure much later than the other cities it trumped to this tourism award for example, it has meant that Porto has been able to learn some valuable lessons, in particular about not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs: so Porto has managed to hold on to its small city feel, by only allowing sympathetic development and wherever possible preserving original buildings and re-purposing them and it means that the city has somehow clung on to a sense of authenticity (which must be one of the main reasons it won the award!).
It is part of our job at Porto Events to bang the drum for Porto and we are of course enormously proud of what the city has to offer, making it the perfect destination for small and medium sized incentive trips and other corporate events. It is very gratifying though to see an independent organisation like the World Travel Awards so wholeheartedly agree with us!