Portugal city aspires to be a top-of-mind destination for Asian travellers

WOW, The Cultural District, located in Porto’s historic Port Wine district, was recently in Singapore to drum up visiting interest in both the destination and Portugal, among Asian outbound travellers.

Adrian Bridge, CEO of WOW, The Cultural District, who was recently in attendance at Vinexpo Asia at Marina Bay Sands, outlined the destination’s two-pronged strategy for the Asian market.

WOW, The Cultural District features museums dedicated to the history of the region, including the Wine Experience, pictured

“First, we want to target those who have a historical and cultural connection with Portugal, typically those with an interest in wine and are already buyers of Portuguese wines, for example, Macau and South Korea. Second, greenfield markets where there is potential for Portugal to become a popular destination (for travellers who have an) appetite for longhaul vacations, culture-driven tourism, shopping, food and wine.”

By “greenfield markets”, Bridge meant China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, adding that “every market is unique”. Currently, South Korea provides the greatest number of visitors to Porto.

Classified as a Project of National Interest in Portugal, WOW, The Cultural District, was created in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a large-scale urban regeneration project that has transformed the historic area by converting and renovating centuries-old wine cellars into a complex housing immersive and interactive cultural experiences and a variety of dining options.

Aside from port wine it is already famous for, Porto also offers architecture, history, culture and industry.

“Within WOW, The Cultural District, we have museums dedicated to the history of the region, as well as the cork industry. There are also 12 restaurants, bars, and cafés, and a chocolate museum that details how cacao is transformed from bean to bar while also offering chocolate tastings and workshops.

“This July, our Atkinson Museum will host an exciting exhibition curated from the Tate Collection. Called The Dynamic Eye, it was recently hosted in Shanghai at the Museum of Art Pudong, and will now be at The Cultural District until October 2023,” Bridge elaborated.

The biggest challenge at the moment, he said, was the need to establish more direct flights from Asia to Lisbon. WOW, The Cultural District is also working towards providing content – for instance, museum plaques and menus – in a visitor’s own language, and having ample interpreters or guides ready to assist visitors.

To generate more visitor interest, Bridge shared he will be working closely with “Visit Portugal teams in China, South Korea and Japan to deliver a framework that executes our strategy and objectives, (and show that both northern Portugal and WOW are) unique and compelling destination for groups, FITs and luxury travel”.

“In September this year, we will also be present alongside Visit Portugal at ITB China in Shanghai, and participate in other trade fairs in Seoul, Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok.”

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