Original Article by: Portugal News Online
The Portuguese ambassador in Beijing, Jorge Torres-Pereira, said this week that Portugal could aim to reach one million Chinese tourists a year. He made the statement just hours ahead of the first direct flight between Beijing and Lisbon.
“At the moment, we are at 200,000, if we increase by 35 percent a year, we can quickly be ambitious,” Torres-Pereira told Lusa News Agency.
The Portuguese diplomat was speaking at Terminal 1 of Beijing International Airport, where the first flight between the two countries was launched on Wednesaday.
China is already the world’s largest tourist market and, according to official statistics, 135.1 million Chinese travelled out of mainland China in 2016, up 12.5 percent over the previous year.
To accompany this growth, Portugal’s tourism agency Turismo de Portugal has, since 2014, had a permanent office in Shanghai, the economic “capital” of China.
Portugal also has nine visa centres in the Asian country, in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Shenyang, Wuhan, Fuzhou, and Guangzhou.
The flight will be offered three times a week – Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – between the city of Hangzhou, on the east coast of China, and Lisbon, with a stop in Beijing.
For the first two weeks, flights between Beijing and Lisbon already have an average occupancy of 80 percent, while in the opposite direction – between Portugal and China – occupancy is at 62 percent, a source from China’s Capital Airlines said.
The airline will also open up a flight between Macau and the Chinese capital, which will coincide with the connection to Lisbon, in order to serve the 15,000 Portuguese who live in the territory which was formerly under Portuguese administration.
Torres-Pereira considered the direct link “important to maintain the dynamics of a bilateral relationship that is effectively expanding,” and stressed the importance of the flight in the connection between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and Brazil, with Lisbon as a hub.
The ambassador also recalled that in recent years, Chinese investments in Portugal have gone from “tens of millions of euros to billions of euros”.
“There is no doubt that we have come onto the Chinese investment radar and, to use a British expression, the sky’s the limit,” he concluded.