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The little miracle of marketing Portugal to America

Portugal is having a big year for travel and tourism from the US. The European nation is set to have a 27% increase in American guests for 2017, making it the fastest growing inbound market for visitors to Portugal, according to TVI. And spending by American guests, per capita, far outpaces other nations.

And in the past months Travel + Leisure named Portugal its Editors Pick Destination of the Year. Fodor’s included the Northern Minho area in their 2017 “Go List.” Condé Nast Traveler said Portugal was one of the places to go in 2017. Lonely Planet named the Azores one of the “world’s best regions to visit in 2017.” And, the Huffington Post declared Portugal “The Country Everybody Will Be Visiting In 2017.”

The U.S. remains one of Portugal’s fastest growing markets – and spending by American guests, per capita, far outpaces other nations.

Since 2006 the Louis Karno & Company has promoted American travel to Portugal and relaunched Portugal’s brand after a decline in tourist visits. An award winning (Magellan) comprehensive national media relations campaign was implemented.

By the end of 2009, Portugal saw a 19 percent increase in visitors over 2005, the second highest increase of any country worldwide. Today the number of Americans going to Portugal has nearly tripled, almost unprecedented for a travel market such as Portugal.

And, public relations is the main driver in this ongoing campaign.

Jayme Simoes from Louis Karno says: “The product is amazing, but the awareness in the US market was low. To boost American visits to Portugal we needed to tell the story of Portugal – as a unique and authentic destination.”

Simoes is of Portuguese descent, and his keen understanding for the product, and ability to translate from Portuguese to American English helped him lead his team. “We had a tight budget, and sometimes necessity is the key to innovation – and we really got creative- building a brand based on PR.”

Media reviews and articles on Portugal have spiked over the past year, with Portugal gracing so many top destination lists. The US public relations effort was run out of a boutique firm in Concord, NH, for the past 6 years. Louis Karno & Company used blogging, pitching unique stories to individual outlets, and intensive research for writers.

Simoes: “The media is always looking for what is new, different, and unique,” he said. “We connected with top editors, one on one, and helped them gain a sense of why Portugal was a fast emerging destination. “

So, where are Portugal’s consumer products? That is next: Tiles, wines, cork, rugs, copper, shoes, and pottery… Now is the time for Portugal’s wonderful section of crafts, arts, and food and quality products to step up and capitalize on the boom of Portugal’s image in the US market.

How? Simply use the buzz that Portugal is getting to boost your brand. People look for products from places they want to go or have been. Made in France, Spain and Italy has a lot of cache because of the huge awareness of those destinations. Made in Italy on foods, shoes and wines has a real premium impact. People value things that come from beautiful places. Now is the time to tell the rest of the story.

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