Portugal goes big at IBTM World 2023



# tags: MICE , Events , Portugal , Exhibitions , Meetings Industry

Several Portuguese companies went to IBTM World 2023 to promote their products and services.

IBTM World brought together 2,250 exhibitors from 150 countries and almost 4,000 buyers in Barcelona, providing them with business opportunities. The fair dedicated to the meetings and events industry featured a Turismo de Portugal stand, where companies and agencies from different areas were present.

On the Portuguese stand, there were some first timers at IBTM World. Among them was Go Travel, which, as Go Travel Everywhere, has been operating in the leisure market for almost 15 years. For the MICE segment, the company has created Go Travel Portugal, which aims to provide differentiating experiences in the country.

IBTM World serves as a platform for business meetings and for exhibiting products and services. And in terms of meetings, the first reaction to participation was "very positive" for Hugo Silva, MICE manager at Go Travel Portugal. More than the number of bookings, he values the "quality of the meetings" held, considering them "very good".

And the expectation is that "business will be done". Hugo Silva hopes that some of the projects and budgets agreed at IBTM World will be realised, "in terms of bringing an event to Portugal".

The year is drawing to a close and it's time to think ahead, assessing the results and discussing strategies and plans for 2024. "I think we'll continue to take part in fairs next year," it just remains to be seen which ones, and it's likely that Go Travel Portugal will be at the next edition of Fitur, which takes place in Madrid from 24 to 28 January.

"Fátima has a potential that goes beyond religious tourism"

As far as the MICE segment is concerned, IBTM World was the first fair in which the SDivine Fátima Hotel took part. "We're committed to this segment," as a result of the hotel's renovation in 2019, from two to four stars. With the renovation, "a large congress centre was built, which is currently the largest hotel congress centre in Fátima," explained Cláudia Silva Torres, sales & marketing director at the SDivine Fátima Hotel.

The hotel has several meeting rooms (which, at full capacity, can accommodate more than a thousand people), an auditorium, several banqueting rooms and a restaurant. "As well as all the indoor spaces for congresses or meetings, we also have one of the largest, if not the largest, hotel properties in Fátima, with lots of green space, nature and open spaces. This is also very helpful for the corporate segment," as team-building or other activities can be held outdoors.

The hotel barely functioned in its start-up, since it had to close because of the pandemic. "The first full year we worked from January to December was 2022. So we're in our second year of operation and this is the first time we're taking part in a corporate fair," she emphasises.

Cláudia Silva Torres adds that there are challenges in terms of promotion, "because Fátima is still very much seen as a religious destination". It's not that there's a need to create distance from this segment - after all, "we'll never stop being a religious destination" - but there is an attempt to make people realise "that Fátima has a potential that goes beyond the religious". The biggest challenge is therefore to make people realise "that they don't have to come to Fátima just to pray, there's a lot there that they can do and visit, relax and enjoy". There is therefore "an effort to appeal to other types of markets", which is why the SDivine Fátima Hotel has created pet friendly or bike friendly, for example.

For Cláudia Silva Torres, the distance of around an hour to an international airport (Lisbon) isn't a problem; "we're well located," in the sense that the connection between the two cities is fluid. But even so, because the international agencies' pointers usually point more towards Lisbon and Porto when it comes to corporate travel, "there's going to have to be more work here, a greater effort to show people that it's worth coming a little further to the centre and to other regions of the country, because we also have very good products that aren't in the big cities".

The markets that will work best for SDivine Fátima Hotel are likely to be Portuguese and Spanish, at least in the first few years. Later on, the United Kingdom and the United States could be part of this mix, to which we hope to one day add Brazil, "a market we welcome a lot in Fátima, but mostly for religious tourism".

Next year, the SDivine Fátima Hotel will continue to focus on taking part in national and international trade fairs, "but we're also going to focus a lot on door-to-door, on the Iberian Peninsula"; in other words, directly visiting agencies, operators and companies.

"We want to do more internationally"

Cátia Pio, director at Sociedades de Desenvolvimento (responsible, among others, for Porto Santo Golf), considers the presence at IBTM World to be "important", "because we want to internationalise a little more the developments we have on the island of Madeira", which focus a little on sports infrastructures, such as a sports centre, tennis courts, a natural grass pitch, an athletics track, among others.

"We're going to have the Ponta do Pargo Golf in the future, which is under construction," with the opening scheduled for 2026. "We want to promote this internationally," he said. Porto Santo Golf will also be expanded in the future, "because there are certain times of the year when we really have a lot of people interested" and there isn't enough space to cater for all the requests.

Sociedades de Desenvolvimento also has a couple of congress centres in Porto Santo and one in Fórum Machico, five minutes from the airport. "At the moment, we do events that are more geared towards the region and Portugal, but we want to do more internationally," leading to more incentive and tourism trips. To do this, they have a "magnificent island", many partners and a theme park that already has a lot of visibility around the world.

On their debut at IBTM World, they hope that the meetings held will bear fruit, given the great interest shown. It's certain that the focus on fairs is set to continue, and there are already guarantees of participation in events next year, such as Fitur and fairs more geared towards the golf segment. The international weight is felt more at Porto Santo Golfe, but the idea is for it to grow at all the resorts.

Expectations for 2024 are high, not least because tourism is booming in Madeira. "We're doing really well in terms of tourism," which has even led to some complaints from the locals, who are faced with full restaurants and a lot of traffic. As far as Fórum Machico is concerned, for example, there are already lots of bookings for next year; in December alone, the venue is hosting 29 events.