Porto: A city thriving once again
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Increasingly referred to as “one of Europe’s best-kept secrets”, the city of Porto is well-worth a visit.
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After suffering an economic downturn during the financial crisis, the city of Porto faced a long road to recovery. Large parts of the city became abandoned ghost towns as people fled to find employment, local businesses suffered crippling financial strains and many shops were forced to close. Criminality rampaged the streets and drugs littered the lives of everybody at any corner, heavy drugs on the streets as an everyday basis.
However, despite the everyday struggles of life in Porto, tourism to this area has continued to rise over the years and, after seeing images of this colourful European city, it is not hard to understand why.
But the beauty of this city is not the only reason that tourism has continued its steady rise in numbers.
The Portuguese government recognised the importance of the tourism sector to their economy and decided to focus on an internet-based strategy to maintain these rising tourist numbers. Joao Cotrim Figueiredo, president of tourism in Portugal, comments, “[it is] no secret that we’re working closely with Google, Amazon and Facebook, so their knowledge of the consumer can be used to fine-tune our marketing effects.”
Since many people begin to research a summer break with no set destination in mind, Portugal has an opportunity to stand out. By paying for search engine optimisation, the tourism board can pique the interest of tourists towards lesser known areas of the country.
The strategy is mainly focused on directing tourists to places off the beaten path in order to reveal the hidden gems of this gorgeous country. According to the tourism board, once tourists arrive, they are always guaranteed to enjoy their stay due to the “Portuguese talent for hospitality and a balmy climate” - it is just a matter of getting tourists there in the first place.
The government has also taken a step back in the regulation of the tourist sector, allowing this industry to thrive without setbacks. For instance, rather than limiting tourist services by forcing them to pay expensive license fees, most tourism companies need only notify the government of their premises, vehicles and appropriate insurance before being approved.
Now, a multitude of airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, offer regular services to Porto making travel to this region more appealing to tourists.
Of course, Porto’s tourism success cannot be attributed solely to effective marketing techniques - the local people have maintained an optimist and welcoming nature despite the struggles they have faced. The snapshots of daily life in Porto can be the most fascinating parts of an experience in this city and the local people have continued to adapt and grow, maintaining a deep sense of pride for their culture while embracing modern developments.
This city is certainly one of contrasts; from family-run taverns serving traditional dishes with pride to modern fusion restaurants experimenting with new flavours, from grand medieval buildings to colourful local houses, from streets full of boarded up buildings in the old town to the buzzing, bustling cobbled squares.
Adrian Bridge, owner and CEO of The Yeatman hotel in Porto, was interviewed by Forbes magazine and insists that the city is experiencing an exciting and rapid change of pace. He comments: “we are writing the future of this ancient town which reaches back to pre-Roman times.”
Much like the port for which this region is famous for, ageing has only strengthened the city, adding more complexity and rich flavours over the years. As the Mayor of Porto says, "we don't want to have a city which looks like any other city" and Porto is certainly the unqiue product of a turbulent history and rich culture.
Strolling down Porto’s cobbled streets during high season, it is hard to believe the area is still in recovery from a recession less than a decade ago, however it is so important to see both sides of this city.
We encourage you to take a look behind-the-scenes of the typical tourist trail and try to understand the remarkable journey of recovery which locals and tourism companies have faced and conquered. Only then, can you truly appreciate the city of Porto.