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09LISBON105 2009-02-19 15:43:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Lisbon
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1. In a February 11 breakfast meeting ten Portuguese travel
and tourism contacts told the Ambassador the Portuguese
tourism industry is suffering from the impact of the global
financial crisis, and tourism to the US is harder hit due to
poor marketing of US travel destinations. The group also
complained of unfriendly treatment by DHS border officers at
US ports of entry, notably Atlanta's Hartsfield International
Airport. End summary.



2. Ten business leaders of Portuguese travel and tourism
shared their views on the state of their industry in a
February 11 meeting at the Ambassador's residence, the latest
in a series of USCS-sponsored industry breakfast meetings
with the Ambassador. Attending the February 11 meeting were
Luis Sertorio Ovidio of White Airways (charter), Diogo
Cassiano Neves of CN Sports (primarily golf), Francisco
Teixeira of Melair (charter), Luis Tonicha of Viagens Abreu
(travel agency), Joao Alves of Across Luxury Travel and
Safaris, Anil Sampat of the Lisbon Marriott, Sergio Pantin of
Continental Airlines, Nuno Almeida Costa of Aeroportos de
Portugal (ANA, airport management), Eduardo Pinto Lopes of
Sonhando (including Terra America tours with Florida
destinations), and Antonio Loureiro of Galileo/Travelport
(travel network and travel technologies and services).

3. The group consensus was that the Portuguese tourism
industry, including Portuguese travel abroad and foreign
visitors to Portugal, has slowed with the unfolding global
financial crisis. Travel forecasts are reduced across the
board, with the possible exception of luxury travel, which
Joao Alves was confident would hold relatively steady.
Sergio Pantin of Continental said travel to Portugal
originating in the US had declined more than that from EU



4. Antonio Loureiro's complaint about unwelcoming treatment
by DHS officers in Atlanta kicked off the most vigorous
discussion. When the Ambassador replied that he recalled
good experiences in Hartsfield's domestic terminals, Loureiro
and the others responded that "it is very different in the
international terminal." The majority of the group
contributed similar stories of rude or dismissive treatment
at various ports of entry, and Pantin related that he had
received poor treatment in Houston when "proactively"
presenting his documentation from the Electronic System for
Travel Authorization (ESTA), in response to which the DHS
officer said "I don't care about that." Almeida Costa added
that ANA has experienced some travelers altering travel plans
to avoid US entry points with more negative reputations.




5. Surprisingly, a number of the group blamed the low volume
of Portuguese tourism to the US on the lack of understanding
of the variety of US leisure destinations by Portuguese
consumers. Charter airline heads Luis Sertorio Ovidio of
White Airways and Eduardo Pinto Lopes of Sonhando said the
Portuguese know about Disney World and New York, but most are
unaware of the breadth of other US destinations and called
for more advertising and outreach to promote US attactions.
Several in the group claimed growth in US-Portugal travel is
also impaired by the limited number of direct routes between
the countries, but Pantin responded that insufficient
customer demand was preventing Continental from considering
any expansion in routes.



6. Reduced vacation travel during the current financial
crisis is expected. We are also accustomed to complaints
about inconvenient entry procedures at US ports of entry, the
magnitude of which tends to be exaggerated since travelers
rarely comment on satisfactory experiences. However, it is
surprising to hear that US destinations are under-advertised,
especially in a country with a sizable expatriate population
in the US. Portugal's population of eleven million persons
does not constitute a large target market, but we would
expect a staunch ally with which we share historically strong
ties to be more culturally aware of the US. Once world
economies start to recover from their respective recessions,
tourism from Portugal would benefit from a renewed invitation
from our diverse vacation destinations. End comment.

LISBON 00000105 002.2 OF 002

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