American tourist visits to
Portugal rose 20 percent in 2007 -- from 204,000 to
244,000 people -- perhaps reflecting the country’s status as one of
the more affordable destinations in Europe, despite the unfavorable
exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.
Aside from being a bargain compared
with other capital cities, Lisbon also is incredibly walkable.
Several neighborhoods lend themselves to leisurely strolls, a
wonderful way to spend a free afternoon away from the meeting
rooms. Lisbon Walker (www.lisbonwalker.com) offers a number of tours,
including the Old Town, Downtown, “Legends and Mysteries,” “City of
Spies” and “Revelation” tours.
According to the Lisbon Convention
Bureau (www.visitlisboa.com), about 20 new hotels are set to
open around the city by 2010.
Already welcoming guests is the
VIP Grand Lisboa Hotel & Spa, a 295-room
property in a building that once was the main office of RTP
(National Portuguese Television). The VIP offers about 5,000 square
feet of meeting space.
Also new is the 139-room Hotel
Fontana Park in the city’s center, near Saldanha Square.
The property’s nine meeting rooms accommodate up to 400 people.
Scheduled to open in 2010 is the
200-room Hotel Villa Rica - Centro de
Congressos.The property will have a conference center and
In the cozy realm of boutique hotels,
the 65-room Jeronimos 8 has opened in the shadow
of the Jeronimos Monastery, and the 44-room Hotel Belem
Altis will debut in November.
Larger groups visiting the city stay at
the 577-room Lisbon Marriott Hotel, which
refurbished its rooms last year, and the 517-room Corinthia
A new museum celebrating Portugal’s
relationship with Asia was unveiled in May. The Oriente
Museum hosts permanent and traveling exhibits; the current
roster includes “Gods of Asia” and “Masks of Asia.” In addition,
the facility offers a five-room meeting center for up to 150
people. The Macau Salon, which overlooks the Tagus River, holds up
to 200 for a reception.
Reopening sometime in 2009 is the
Design and Fashion Museum (nicknamed MuDe), filled
with one-of-a-kind couture outfits and design pieces. Exhibits
include furniture, glass and jewelry from 1937 to the present by
230 artists such as Charles Eames and Philippe Starck. The young
museum debuted in 1999 in the Belem Cultural Center and closed in
2006 to begin the relocation process to the 18th-century Verride
Palace near the hip Bairro Alto neighborhood.
To the south
Conrad Hotels & Resorts, a luxury
division of Hilton Hotels Corp., is building a 158-room
Conrad Hotel as part of a 17-acre, mixed-use
development near Faro International Airport in the Algarve. Opening
in 2010, the property will feature several pools and a
16,000-square-foot spa and health club. Portuguese and
international cuisines will be served at various on-site
restaurants, and groups will be able to gather in approximately
15,000 square feet of meeting space.
In other news
Last October, the tourist offices of
Portugal and Spain partnered to promote the conjoined nations.
Additional information can be found at www.portugalspainboth.com.
The country’s main airline, TAP
Portugal, said goodbye to paper tickets as of June 1.
For those aiming to plan a “green”
meeting, Lisbon-based Sustainable Side of the
Street (www.sustainablesideofthestreet.com) focuses on
business tourism with an emphasis on corporate social
responsibility. The company, a member of Dallas-based Meeting
Professionals International, chooses its suppliers based on their
environmental management policies.