Portugal's Tourism Minister looks to follow Israel’s smart city lead

Portugal is interested not only in emulating Israel’s model or its technology, but also in appealing to Israeli tourists, who have been traveling to Portugal in increasing numbers.

May 11, 2015 18:46
1 minute read.
THE TEL AVIV skyline; the area around the city is home to many Israeli start-ups

THE TEL AVIV skyline. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Portugal is looking to pick up some tricks of the trade in the field of smart cities, according to Portuguese Secretary of State for Tour - ism Adolfo Mesquita Nunes.

“We made a huge transformation on our promotion model,” he said Sunday. “We gave up traditional and off-line and are almost 100 percent in digital marketing, so we’re a case study for that.”

Nunes is in Haifa for this week’s United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Commission for Europe annual conference and seminar on mobile technologies for improving the tourism experience. In the next six years, he said, Portugal will be investing in smart destination features that appeal to “the mobile generation and the sharing economy, and we need to be ready for the tourists who want to be connected 24/7.”

“You are the start-up nation, and Tel Aviv is good on the smart destination,” he said. Tel Aviv, for example, has installed a free Wi-Fi network in areas tourists frequent and created apps that cater to target audiences, such as gay tourists.

According to Nunes, the future of tourism will involve “big data” metrics that will ensure countries correctly anticipate where their tourists visit, on what they spend money and where they take pictures to share with their friends on social media.

In the meantime, he’s interested not only in emulating Israel’s model or its technology, but also in appealing to Israeli tourists, who have been traveling to Portugal in increasing numbers.

Israeli tourism to Portugal has grown 25% to 30% in the last few years, almost three times the general increase in tour - ism to Portugal, perhaps with renewed interest since Portugal approved a law to repatriate descendants of expelled Jews. Since it took force in February, 100 Jews have been certified for citizenship.

Perhaps Israel has some things to learn from Portugal as well; the World Economic Forum rated it 15th in its recent Global Travel and Tourism Report. Israel came in a miserable 72nd, due in part to its high prices.

The UNWTO meeting, which has returned to Israel after 19 years, also includes a delegation of ministers from Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Lithuania and Belarus.

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