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“For the tourist business, it is essential to open and develop air connections”

Gonçalo Francisco

China’s doors are reopened and there is now a lot of work to be done in terms of economic rehabilitation. The Chinese market is very important for practically the whole world and, above all, for countries like Portugal. Tourism for several years has been the economic lever of this Portuguese-speaking country, which sees this market as a source of income. There is, however, a long way to go, starting with the increase in air connections between both countries.

In conversation with PLATAFORMA, Pedro Quintela, director of sales and marketing at Agência Abreu, one of the largest and main agencies in Portugal, saw the pandemic delay a tourist process that was growing, now emphasizing that there is work to be done.

“The potential of the Chinese market is enormous and proportional to the challenge it represents. By 2020, Abreu already had some connections established between the two countries – either as a destination or as a market; and he was always aware that there was still a long way to go. But the pandemic interrupted this path, conditioning, until today, the growth process”, began by considering Pedro Quintela, obviously attributing the fall of this market to the recent pandemic, not only in Portugal.

“The Abreu Agency has relevant positions as a Travel Agency and Tour Operator in Portugal and Brazil for the Grandes Viagens product, and China has been a regularly promoted and sold destination for many years. The pandemic temporarily interrupted this work and this demand, which we believe will quickly re-establish itself. At the same time, we have a presence in various parts of the world through our Bed Bank – both as a customer and as a supplier – and we were already working with Chinese partners in the same sense. Here the recovery was faster, and today we have more business partners in China than we had at the beginning of 2020, with a visibly recovering turnover and a growing interest in developing more business and establishing new partnerships”, he said.

It was in China, in 2019, that the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. Until practically the end of 2022, Xi Jinping’s government placed very restricted measures on access to the country, with the famous zero Covid policy. One of the measures, for example, was the reduction in the number of air connections to and from China. Portugal was one of the ‘affected’ countries, something that, unfortunately, from an economic point of view, has not yet changed.

“For the Travel Agency and Tour Operator business, sustained action from a tourism point of view is fundamental to opening and developing air connections. We believe that, gradually, in the continuity of the reopening of China to Tourism and depending on the behavior of the markets, we may start to anticipate some positive changes in passenger traffic between the two countries. For the Bed Bank business, the flow of passengers between Portugal and China is just one of the many points of contact with our Chinese partners – we buy and sell many other destinations in Asia, Europe, America, Africa and Oceania, so all the replacement of world air capacity counts for this business to continue to grow”, emphasized the sales and marketing director of Agência Abreu.

Some Chinese tourism associations, such as ACTEP, predicted one million Chinese tourists to visit Portugal in 2025. Agência Abreu is more thoughtful, but the watchword is trust, when it comes to ‘normality’.

“A number of this size for a small country like Portugal is always challenging, although, in past years, it has already demonstrated that it manages to receive tourists in a much larger number than its resident population. However, its air and airport capacity as well as accommodation and catering services, etc. – are still recovering from the pandemic. It is not a particular issue for Portugal, but a challenge common to all countries in Europe and the World, which since 2022 continue to experience a strong recovery in tourism, without the installed capacity being able to keep up with this pace. We trust that this recovery will come, and Agência Abreu will also make its contribution in this regard”, said Pedro Quintela.

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