Portugal’s travel sector to drive national recovery

By the end of this year, Portugal’s travel and tourism sector will contribute more than €35.8 billion ($37.78 billion) to the country’s GDP, driving the national economic recovery. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) believes the travel and tourism sector in Portugal could even surpass pre-pandemic levels next year, when it is projected to rise nearly 4.8 per cent above 2019 levels.

The forecast from WTTC’s latest Economic Impact Report (EIR) shows the sector’s total contribution to GDP could reach nearly €39.5 billion next year, representing 17.4 per cent of the total economy.

Employment in the sector could also exceed 2019 levels, creating more than 3,200 additional jobs, to reach more than one million by the end of 2023.

TTN spoke to Luís Araújo, President of Portugal Tourism and President of European Travel Commission (ETC), for more insight.

“Although we see very positive signs of returning to 2019, forecasts indicate that tourism in Portugal will recover the record numbers of 2019 only by 2023.


“Starting July, Emirates will resume its second daily flight from Dubai to Lisbon, which is a good indicator that demand is increasing“
– Luís Araújo

“We are committed to accelerating the growth of travel and tourism by diversifying markets, growing the connectivity and raising more awareness of what Portugal has to offer. We also intend to affirm tourism as a hub for economic, social and environmental development throughout the territory, positioning Portugal as one of the most competitive and sustainable tourist destinations in the world.”


According to WTTC’s knowledge partner ForwardKeys, latest flight booking data shows a promising summer for the southern European country.

Flight booking data shows that Portugal is set to be the fourth most popular European destination this summer, with a 179 per cent year-on-year increase of international arrivals, and only 9 per cent behind pre-pandemic levels.

The data shows flight bookings overtaking pre-pandemic levels, with bookings from the U.S., Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany, up 41 per cent, 36 per cent, 29 per cent, and 11 per cent, respectively.

While Europe remains the main source market, growth has resumed from countries such as Brazil, Canada and, most recently, China, as restrictions are being lifted and connectivity is restored.

“It is very important to recover the numbers of 2019 for Middle East tourists and keep them growing,” says Luís Araújo. “Currently, we have direct routes from the UAE (Emirates), Israel (El AI and TAP), and Turkey (TAP and Turkish Airlines) and the numbers show a growing flow of flights from these countries.

“Connectivity is hugely important and is one of the lines of action included in our Tourism Strategy 20-27. The main goal is to extend and increase the number of year-long flight routes, improving international connectivity with our country. Emirates is a good example of a successful story, having flown millions of passengers to and from Portugal, since the beginning of its operations.

“Starting July, Emirates will resume its second daily flight from Dubai to Lisbon, which is a good indicator that demand is increasing.”


VisitPortugal is not physically present yet in the Middle East, but we will keep exploring all the opportunities to promote Portugal there, since it is becoming an increasingly important market for our country, Araújo tells us.

“There’s a common ground between Portugal and the Middle East and we intend to keep developing that relationship. It’s a market with a strong potential in terms of outbound and high average spending.

“As showed in the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2022, these markets spend on tourism increased from $58 billion to $102 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 50 per cent in 2022 to $154 billion and reach $189 billion in 2025, so it represents a great opportunity for Portugal to increase the number of visitors, growth in revenues and reduce the seasonality.”

“We are ready to welcome the Middle East tourists, providing them the safety, warmth, and kindness of the people of Portugal,” Araújo tells TTN.


Expo Dubai 2020 was an excellent opportunity to show Portugal as a sustainable and innovative destination with a cohesive territory in which work is valued. Also, it was important to showcase Portugal as a destination that welcomes everyone and respects all differences, a place to visit, invest, live and study - inclusive, open to all and linked to the world.

Portugal’s Travel & Tourism total contribution to GDP represented 17.1 per cent (€37.6 billion) in 2019. WTTC’s latest EIR report reveals that 2021 saw the beginning of the recovery for the country’s travel & tourism sector. Last year, its contribution to GDP climbed 32.6 per cent year on year, to reach €23.1 billion.

“Portugal is a very attractive and competitive tourism destination for Middle East tourists. The proximity of Portugal to its main outbound markets, the mild climate, the fact of Portugal being a safe and stable country, together with a high quality of tourism offer are surely good arguments to raise the awareness of our country.