26th Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition
12–14 March 2019 • Expocentre, Moscow

Destination Focus: Portugal

Russian visitor numbers to Portugal peaked in 2013, when 170,000 headed there for their holidays. Since then, things have begun to tail off. Yet Portugal is not done yet. Fighting spirit raised, Miguel Moraes, Director of Trade Marketing at Turismo de Portugal, spoke with us to let us know the state of Portugal’s tourism market – and how they plan on bringing more Russians into the country.
Destination Focus: Portugal
90,000 Russians entered Portugal in 2016 making the nation Portugal’s 15th largest market for tourism. But far from being winter for this segment of Portuguese tourism, it looks like springtime is coming round once again.

“For the first few months of 2017, in terms of passenger arrivals, we’ve seen increases of 40%,” Miguel Moraes said. “Presumably, we will start to hit our previous levels - maybe not this year, but by 2018, depending on the Russian economy.”

Faro Airport’s new terminal, opened in July 2017, is a crucial step in expanding the Algarve’s capacity to process and host the growing number of tourists it’s seeing.

According to Miguel Moraes, value for money is Portugal’s chief advantage over its competitors. Even so, the bulk of Russians travelling to Portugal are in the middle-to-upper income bracket.

“The majority of Russians stay in four-star hotels. Some stay in five stars, but most are at four-star level, so it’s a good mix,” said Miguel Moraes. “I think Portugal is seen as a quality destination, generally speaking.”

What else do they come for? It’s a mix of Portugal’s cities and beaches; sand and culture; water and walls. The typical Russian visitor mixes things up. Often, they’ll spend a few days in Lisbon before heading out to resorts in regions like Madeira or the Algarve.

One tourism sector that is growing is gastro-tourism – and this is bringing Russians to Portuguese provinces they may not have heard of before.

“There is a region in Portugal called Alentejo, between Portugal and the Algarve, which I visit quite regularly as my wife’s family is from there,” Miguel Moraes told us.

“Last year, for the first time ever, I saw a group of Russian tourists touring the region, which is a wine making region. They were staying at a small hotel, actually owned by a friend of mine, so I asked what they were doing here and what they wanted to see.

“They told me they were doing a wine-themed tour and interested in getting to know Alentejo. So it’s a sign that Russians are looking for different parts of Portugal.”

Package tours remain Russians’ first choice for a Portuguese holiday, but individual tourism is on the rise. Could it be Airbnb is helping encourage this market sector?

Probably not, says Miguel: “Airbnb is very strong in Portugal, but I’m not sure if Russians are one of its top markets. It’s very popular with French people, Americans and a lot of other markets. Airbnb has really grown in Portugal, but I’m not sure if Russians are its top users.”

Package tours, or those that give the best value for money, are Russians’ preferred choice when it comes to Portuguese vacations. This might be why Russians are not Airbnb’s top users in Portugal – and why tour operators are keen to sell the country across Russia.

Miguel Moraes says most Russian tourists to Portugal come from Moscow, with St. Petersburg the second largest source of outbound tourists.

“We have heard that more visitors are coming from other cities, like Ekaterinburg, so travel agents report we are getting travellers from other Russian cities.”

Even so, Portugal’s marketing efforts are not focussed on big campaign splashes – it takes a more subtle approach.

“Our strategy focuses mainly on joint campaigns with the key tour operators,” Miguel Moraes said. “So, whoever sells Portugal as a destination, we tend to work with them on joint projects.”