Vijay Bathija of Air Canada Leisure Group & William Delgado of Turismo del Portugal
The busy marketplace
Luiz Fernando Chimanovitch & Sérgio Bentes of Argon Travel
Butterfield & Robinson’s Mark Harris
The nicest lunch I ever had was in a sun-dappled courtyard: a long table of friends and fabulous local food, crisp white wine, music playing somewhere off in the distance. It’s one of my favourite memories of Portugal, and this week Portugal served up another memorable lunch - though the view this time it was at snow-covered Old City Hall in Toronto. Not quite the same atmosphere!
The occasion was the annual Portugal Experience, a delegation of some 25 hoteliers, tour operators, airlines and other tourism services. Visiting Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, the group has been busy networking and educating Canadian media and tour operators about the many charms of this compact and diverse country.
“This is a very good moment for us,” William Delgado, Country Manager (Canada) for the Portuguese National Tourist Office told me. “In 2015 we saw an increase of Canadian visits by 17% to 155,000 – and that’s not even counting the Canadians who drive in from Spain.”
Obviously lift is key to any European country’s success out of here, and Portugal is happy to have several strong partners including Air Canada rouge (with up to 6 flights a week to LIS from YYZ), TS with flights from both YUL and YYZ to a combination of Lisbon, Porto & Faro and Azores Airlines (formerly SATA) with flights from YYZ and YUL to a combination of Lisbon, Porto, Ponta Delgada and Terceira.
The mix of ground suppliers showcased the diversity of Portugal which is just 800 km from north to south. They included Argon Travel which offers, amongst its wide array of themed independent and group tours, faith-based itineraries including ones themed around the country’s centuries’ old Jewish heritage. And please save a spot for me at the Cooking and Nature Hotel! Located in a national park, this property has just 12 rooms, each themed after a movie (Out of Africa, Moulin Rouge, Marie Antoinette etc.) and offers nightly cooking classes where you roll up your sleeves and create your own dinner.