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Paula Oliveira, director of Turismo Lisboa

The director of Lisbon’s Tourism Bureau discusses record hotel results for Portugal’s capital in 2014, in an interview with Hospitality ON.

How has tourism in Lisbon evolved in recent years?

On the International panorama, Lisbon stands out today as differentiated tourist destination, that is authentic and high quality. In a few years it went from unknown to a tourist destination of excellence. Its recognition is confirmed by the many awards given by the most prestigious tourism trade institutions worldwide, as well as by the numerous positive articles published mostly abroad. In 2014, Lisbon presented its best results ever. It was the city with the highest growth in Europe in terms of total room-nights (+15.3%), and the city with the second highest growth of foreigners in Europe (+14.95%).

Source: INE (Jan/Nov 2014, in comparison with 24 relevant European cities on the Tourism sector)

What does tourism represent for the city's economy?

The tourism sector accounts for approximately 4% of the gross added value of the Lisbon region. According to the most recent figures, on the last five years, Lisbon had annual growth of 7.8% on room-nights, 9.7% on foreign room-nights, 6.1% on guests and 6.6% on global revenue. These figures put in evidence the excellent tourism performance of Lisbon as a result of our effort in terms of marketing and promotion, over the last years.

Source: INE and Rolande Berger Strategy Consultants

What does Business Tourism represent for the sector?

According to the ICCA, Lisbon ranks 9th worldwide. Improvement by 6 positions that reveals the strong growth of this strategic touristic product that represents around 40% of business in the Portuguese capital, and has motivated several international references in recent years.

The city's location, the available infrastructure, the quality/price ratio and weather are some of the pluses that make Lisbon a destination of Excellency for this Business product.

How has Lisbon's hotel market evolved in recent years?

The confirmed evolution by Hotels in Lisbon is characterized by effective revenue.

From 2013 to 2014 the offer of Hotel and Aparthotel rooms grew 3.2% from 17,310 to 17,870. From 2009 to 2014, the same offer grew an average of 3.8%. This is a result of a high interest in Lisbon as a tourist destination that in 2014 had an increase of +8.8 % on the Occupancy rate, and 14.1% on the RevPAR, compared to 2013.

Source: Observatório Turismo de Lisboa

Is Lisbon's hotel supply sufficient to meet demand?

The hotel capacity of Lisbon is growing in recent years and reflects tourism demand as well as the interest of hoteliers in the Region's tourism potential. Lisbon actually has a vast hotel supply, with a good quality/price ratio, and in 2014 the city of Lisbon had an average occupancy rate of 72.83%. This year 17 new hotel units are expected to open that will improve Lisbon's appeal.

What are the city's major projects for developing tourism?

Lisbon proves to be a reference of excellence for all sorts of tourists, from younger ones with a very informal and relaxed spirit - some of the world's best hostels are located in the region- to those looking for luxury and sophisticated services. This year we began to implement an ambitious Strategic Plan for developing tourism in the Region of Lisbon until 2019, in order to create new niches of tourist products, and increase the average length of stays and number of repeat visitors.

We still bet on the marketing and promotion of Lisbon, with a customized approach based on experiences and tailor-made to respond to tourist motivations, and through a broader and bigger approach to priority source markets.

What difficulties does the sector face?

Tourism needs to reinvent itself constantly, in a movement that makes the destinations more appealing, and in keeping with tourists' expectations. In terms of Lisbon, considering the city's importance as a Business Tourism destination, it is indispensable to work on its international exposure, PR and promotion to give it the value it deserves in light of aggressive competition from other capitals. The increasing number of International events taking place in Lisbon, the city to increase its infrastructures, resulting in the construction of a new Congress Centre with a capacity of 3000 to 6000. This is a crucial priority.

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