A boy performs with his skateboard in front of Santo Ildefonso Church at Batalha Square in Porto, northern Portugal.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Five hundred years ago Portugal discovered the world by sea, and now Portugal is being discovered by the world.
Portugal is considered a case study in Europe and an example of a country overcoming a period of crisis, with its economy now growing faster than the average European countries.
Tourism has played an important role in this evolution, and Portugal is now considered one of the top destinations in the world – we were just elected the World’s Leading Destination and were considered the third most peaceful country in the world.
Tourism in Portugal is growing at a rate of 20% per year, the strongest growth in two decades. We surpassed 20 million tourists in 2017, for the first time. The American market, for example, doubled to Portugal in the past two years and the US is now our 6th most important market.
Portugal is a very open country, that builds bridges between different continents and different cultures, and this is the reason of our success.
Portugal is a must, whether it’s to visit, to live or to invest.
We are a country with “concentrated diversity,” where you can have completely different experiences in a very short time: heritage, culture, beach, golf, trails, great food, great wines, especially kosher wines.
As we have a vast Jewish heritage and a very ancient and profound connection to Jewish communities – we have evidence of Jewish presence in Portugal since 390 AD – we identified as a priority the promoting of the Jewish legacy in Portugal.
There are 30 places in our country with strong bonds to Judaism, like Tomar’s 15th century synagogue, the Belmonte crypto-Jewish community, the Trancoso Jewish Museum, Castelo de Vide, Guarda or the Évora old Jewish quarters.
It is quite interesting to remember that in the 15th century, around 20% of the Portuguese population was Jewish, so we always say that every Portuguese may have a Jewish origin.
Jewish communities have played crucial roles in Portuguese history, for example Pedro Álvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil.
And in the United States, the oldest synagogue, Shearith Israel, located in New York, was founded by Portuguese Jews.
This is why we have created a special law to grant Portuguese nationality to descendants of Sephardi Jews, and have been experiencing very high demand.
We are also very proud of the important role that Portugal and four “Righteous Among the Nations” Portuguese undertook during World War II. Aristides Sousa Mendes, for example, issued visas and saved up to 10,000 Jews.
Portugal has a strategic geographical position and is becoming a crucial hub between America, Europe, Asia and Africa and this is also why the stopover program that was created in 2017 is a success.
You can go for example from the US to Israel, and stop for up to five days in Portugal (which is a good way to overcome jet lag) through this Portugal stopover program.
Hope to see you in Portugal! The writer is Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism.
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