”A journey through history and modernity” – Interview with Ana Mendes Godinho, Secretary of State for Tourism in Portugal

In the Summer Interview with TUI’s online media, the Secretary of State for Tourism talks about the most beautiful places in her country, Portuguese specialities, vibrant cities and “Levada”.


How do you welcome tourists in Portugal?

Ana Mendes Godinho: With a smile and open arms. That’s the “signature” of the Portuguese people.

What is the special charm of Portugal?

Ana Mendes Godinho: The diversity within our country that offers in a few miles a range of things to feel and to experience such as history, culture, fish, wines, surf, golf, fado-music, sun, peaceful environments and vibrant nightlife. The differences and the authenticity you see in each city, village and people become the living history of where we came and what we are. There are no two places alike.

What are your favorite spots and beaches in Portugal?

Ana Mendes Godinho: I am always discovering new spots and beaches in Portugal and this is what´s magical about my country. From Porto and Douro with the amazing vineyards, passing through Coimbra in the heart of Portugal (where you can see, for example, the animals that were brought from the expeditions of the XVI century), going through Tomar (land of the Templaries), stopping by in Alentejo, where you can completely recharge your batteries overlooking a unique and everlasting landscape or experience a surf trip in Costa Vicentina or just go for a stroll and dive in the ocean in the Algarve with its unforgettable light and sunsets. Lisbon is of course an obligatory point as our capital has become one of the most vibrant European cities where history and past is combined with modernity and fashion. Finally, our Islands are also a must. In Madeira I don’t miss a walk along the old aqueducts, called “levada”, and in Açores a special dive in the lagoons of extinct volcanoes.

And what does Portugal offer to visitors who prefer cultural events?

Ana Mendes Godinho: Festivals are a must in Portugal and you can spend great moments there. Most villages and towns in Portugal have their own traditional festival or pilgrimage celebrating Portuguese history, religion and culture. You can add to this mix some great contemporary events like music festivals, one of our main attractions during the summer season nowadays. To promote them outside Portugal we even created a special programme. I usually go to at least two festivals per year.

What is your personal hint to the foreign visitors in Portugal? What should nobody miss when visiting your country?

Ana Mendes Godinho: The belvederes in Lisbon and Porto at sunset, finger foods, wine and friends at any traditional tavern, called “tasca”, and finally get lost in the country to find the amazing Portuguese villages that are so unique.

How you say “Enjoy your meal!” in Portuguese and what local dishes would your personally offer to a friend and visitor?

Ana Mendes Godinho: Normally, I would say “Bom apetite!” or “Espero que gostem!” meaning “Hope you like it!”. I really like seafood – but tell me one Portuguese person who doesn’t? And Cataplana, a traditional clam-steaw, epitomizes our seafaring past and love for seafood.

When is the nicest time in a year to visit Portugal?

Ana Mendes Godinho: We’re an all year around destination and tourists know that. Each time of the year appeals to a different person, to a different tourism. Nevertheless, I would say that Spring and Autumn are great times to visit and discover Portugal. Here you can count on the 300 days of sun per year.

How important is tourism in Portugal?

Ana Mendes Godinho: Tourism represents 15,3% of our total exportations and 8,2% of the working force. It’s one of the main industries in our country, resilient enough to keep adding value to our economy year after year. Entrepreneurship in the tourism industry in booming and we’re working to make the future bright to those companies.

In just 6 years the total number of international arrivals in Portugal has double to a total of more than 12 million. This year is again a strong year for Portugal’s tourism. What are the success factors for this?

Ana Mendes Godinho: In my opinion, Portuguese tourism industry was ready to deal with all the game-changers we’ve seen the recent years due to the significant public and private investment we did in the last 10 years, namely in strengthen flight connections, improving unique experiences and promoting more entrepreneurship. People come to visit us because of our cultural, nature and gastronomic experiences and hospitality and safety and we’ve been enhancing this proposal for the past decade.

One of four international visitors in Portugal is from the UK. It is Portugal’s most important source market. Are you concerned of any possible impact the Brexit might have on Portugal’s tourism?

Ana Mendes Godinho: We are following with serenity what is happening in the UK, following the referendum results. It is a situation which naturally requires a deeper monitoring compare to what we do on a daily basis, but we have no negative signs for summer or for winter 2016-2017. The English market is an important source market for Portugal with consolidated regular operations and it has shown in previous years the ability to adapt to current circumstances. The important task for now is to work closely with tour operators and gain tourists’ preference so we can consolidate our position as a tourism destination market for the UK.

What should a visitor in Portugal do that would make the local people smile? And what the Portuguese do, to make visitors smile?

Ana Mendes Godinho: A smile is the most powerful energy source we have and a simple “Obrigado” or “Thank you” will make people move forward even when we ask the impossible. That’s why 99% of the tourists who visit Portugal reveal that they are satisfied or over satisfied with us. This is the best smile we can offer and get in return …