THE PORTUGUESE Tourist Board is spearheading a campaign to put the destination on the map in the lucrative conference and incentives market.
UK director Mario Ferreira said the region's year-round good weather, excellent golfing facilities and new infrastructure make it an ideal choice for this developing market.
He said: "This market is growing and it is very important to us. It is an high revenue earner and, as most conferences or incentive travel events take place during the low season, it is a good way for us to fill hotels.
"Business and incentive travellers spend money buying souvenirs and very often these people decide they want to return to Portugal with their families."
Ferreira said the tourist board has identified five areas in Portugal where it wants to develop the conference and incentives market: the city of Porto; the capital Lisbon; neighbouring regions Estoria and Sintra; the Algarve; and the island of Madeira.
Each area has set up a dedicated convention bureau in the UK, operating out of the tourist board's head office in central London.
New initiatives include a Portugal showcase in London where the five bureaux show what is on offer to buyers. A showcase was successfully held in June and will be repeated again next year. The tourist board has just launched a twice-yearly newsletter for suppliers and conference and incentives organisers.
Porto, Madeira and Lisbon all have convention centres and Sintra and Estoril will each open a centre in 2000.
Ferreira said: "Lisbon also has many smaller sized facilities to cater for mini-conferences. There has been a huge renovation process, including a new train station and development of an underground transport network. We have also increased our number of four and five-star hotels."
In addition, the country benefited from significant exposure on the conference and incentives circuit earlier this year when Advantage Travel Centres held its annual conference in the Algarve in April.
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