Video Credit: Gulf News

Porto, Portugal: The introduction of a new flight by Emirates from Dubai to Porto earlier this month will see a huge jump in the number of tourists between the two destinations, a top Portuguese official has said.

Speaking to Gulf News in an interview conducted during a media trip organised by Emirates to Porto last week, Ricardo Valente, city councillor for economy, tourism and commerce, said, “The direct flight will bring more tourists to the city. As of now, tourism makes up for 20 per cent of our GDP. In terms of bed nights, our official numbers show that close to three million tourists visit Porto every year. But we feel that the true number is close to five million.”

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Porto is very small but has a very different landscape Image Credit: Supplied

Asked what impact the direct flight is expected to make, he said direct flights do make a big difference as previous experience has shown.

20%

tourism sector's contribution to Porto cit's GDP

“If you have confidence in a destination, the first thing is you will have direct flights. We have seen that in the US. Our US-origin tourists increased by 35 per cent when we opened a direct flight to New York. The same thing happened when we had a direct flight with Toronto in Canada. If we add a direct flight, the destination speaks for itself. Porto has a big recognition as a tourism destination.”

If you have confidence in a destination, the first thing is you will have direct flights.

- Ricardo Valente | Porto official

Velente said the Middle East was a whole new market for Porto as tourists to the mainly came from Europe in the past. The new exposure was part of an expansion strategy that has seen tourists from other parts of the world also coming in.

“Traditionally, we were a city break weekend destination. But now we are working on a more diversified, complex product that puts together Porto and the northern region. This means tourists are staying longer in the region. Earlier, only Europeans would come here. Now we are catering to extra-continental tourists who are coming from Brazil, US, Korea China, Japan, Australia and other places.”

But how different is Porto from Lisbon or the rest of Portugal?

“Porto is very small but has a very different landscape. It is a unique experience. We are so close to the Douro Valley and that is the biggest asset we have. You are here in the city centre looking at the river, very close to the sea and in half an hour you can be in a different landscape at the Douro Valley. In another half hour, you go to Minhu, Braga and other places and have a different experience.”

Walking experience

He said the beauty of Porto lies in the fact that it is walkable. “I call Porto a human city because you can walk around the city. That’s very relevant for us. It’s a different experience from going on a bus or train.”

In the context of Dubai, Valente who only recently flew to the emirate for the first time, said, “Dubai for us is a unique experience. It shows the ability to grow something from scratch. A lot of Portuguese people go to Dubai on holiday during winter and for New Years. We feel close to home in the sense Dubai has a cosmopolitan atmosphere and we are able to enjoy that and also experience the culture of the Middle East.”

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People in Porto exploring the city by foot Image Credit: Supplied

1.7m

passengers carried by Emirates since start of Lisbon route

Earlier, Thierry Aucoc, Emirates’ Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, Europe and Russian Federation, told Gulf News, “Our Lisbon route, which started in 2012, has been performing very well and we believe that adding Porto will only strengthen our Portuguese offering. The service will further open our global network to the millions of travellers who use Porto Airport every year, to points not only in the GCC but also across Africa, East Asia, South Asia and Australia. The flight will also provide travellers from across our network with a direct flight option to the city and northern Portugal via Dubai.”

Emirates has flown over 1.7 million passengers to and from Portugal since the start of its operations to Lisbon.