by Andrea Doyle | April 13, 2018
Portugal has much to offer for groups, from Lisbon and Oporto to the sandy, sunny beaches in the Algarve. The wine here is world class, the weather is said to be the sunniest country in Europe, and the coastline, diversity of landscape, and accessibility, are hard to beat - not to mention the top-notch meetings offerings.

Among these offerings are the properties of Minor Hotels, which recently completed the acquisition of Portugal-based Tivoli Hotels & Resorts and its portfolio of 14 hotels across Portugal and Brazil. Minor refurbished all of these properties, rebranded two, and brought Anantara and Avani brands into the country. 

"As an international hotel group, we explore new possibilities in hospitality with a diverse portfolio of properties designed intelligently to appeal to a variety of travelers, serving new passions as well as personal needs," Luís Coelho, global sales manager, MICE International for Minor Hotels, says. "Through our Anantara, Avani, Elewana, Four Seasons, Marriott, Oaks, St. Regis, and Tivoli properties, Minor Hotels operates in 26 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe, and South America."

Successful Meetings spoke with to not only find out more about Minor, as well as not-to-miss offerings in Portugal more broadly. 
 

What's new in Portugal for groups?

 

In Portugal, everyone is now focused on delivering unique experiences. It is a fact that we need to showcase our culture, beautiful landscapes, infrastructure, and resources, however, it is imperative to guarantee an authentic journey, in every single moment. It´s vital to tell a story, involve the participants, and deliver meaningful content. Also important are our new locations, venues, hotels, and refurbishing projects. The volume of national and international investment made in Portugal by hospitality brands is impressive.

An example is Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, part of our Anantara luxury brand, where modern travelers connect to genuine places, people, and stories through personal experiences. The resort was recently added to the Virtuoso global portfolio of upscale properties. Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort opened on April 1, 2017 and was proudly named the Best Newcomer Hotel by Condé Nast Johansens, along with being ranked No. 5 on the Reader's Choice list of Top Luxury Hotels in Europe by Condé Nast Traveler.

Also, a burgeoning trend is the focus on hosting events in unique venues. In the Algarve, there are unexpected locations galore including a plenary room in a garden facing the ocean, venues set in the scenic mountains, lovely sky bars, and rooftop terraces.  

What's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?

There are so many interesting, exciting, and unusual cultural activities and teambuilding options that fit different group needs. Depending on group size, we can showcase Portuguese water dogs, activities with cork (as Portugal is the largest producer in the world), boat trips to Ria Formosa Natural Park ending with an amazing meal on a desert island, clamming, tile painting, dinner on the beach, or cruising on the Tejo River. They could travel along the Lisbon coastline to Sintra -- a most romantic Lisbon village -- by convertible Beetle, culminating with a seasonal lunch or dinner at the exclusive Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, a 18th century palace, with associates dressed in character. Wine tasting is also a must. 

Other activities to consider are a private tram ride through the oldest districts of Lisbon, a traditional Portuguese custard cake tasting, and visiting some of the most amazing scenic spots of Portugal including Elevador de Santa Justa in Lisbon and the Saint George Castle.

Venues to consider are the Lisbon Cruise Terminal, the new Sky Bar from Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, Mother of Water venue at the end of Lisbon Aqueduct, the former National Coach Museum, the National Tile Museum as tile has been a key point of design in Portugal for centuries in private houses, street art, and even churches. In the Algarve, venues not to miss are the new Purobeach Poolside and Beachfront in Vilamoura, the new Algarve Congress Center rooftop, and Lick, in Porto Palácio da Bolsa which is located beside the ruins of Saint Francis monastery.

What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of Portugal's culture or history?

Portugal has a very rich history, with influences from Phoenicians, Greeks, Visigoths, Romans, Germanics, and Moorish, so it´s not difficult to organize a cultural tour or activity that immerses attendees into the Portuguese history. In addition, we have amazing companies that will exceed visitor´s expectations, offering creative cultural tours.

In terms of venues, Lisbon has amazing options from north to south. There is Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Belém Tower in Lisbon, the National Museum of Natural History and Science in Lisbon, Sao Jorge Castle in Lisbon, the Alfama district for Fado music and Portuguese food, Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Silves Castle in the Algarve, and Guimarães Castle.

Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?

Fado restaurants are always a good option, as they're cozy, intimate, and charming and it's truly special to spend a night immersed in Portuguese culture.Other unique options are Lisbon and Porto's local festivals. Every year in June, there is the Santo António in Lisbon and São João celebration in Porto. There is a lively parade with dancers in traditional costumes, massive parties on many street corners with grill stations and bars selling Portuguese sardines, beer, local wine, and sangria. It´s a unique opportunity for a group to feel the Portuguese culture, and groups can celebrate with the locals in a truly and unique event that lasts the whole night until sunrise.

Organizing private cooking classes is also a fantastic option, as groups will be surprised with the high quality and character of Portuguese wines. There are differences among the 14 wine regions that Portugal has to offer. 

Anything else that makes Portugal a great destination for groups?

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, and despite being relatively small, the Portuguese natural heritage is extremely rich and diverse.
Portugal was voted, "Best Destination of the World" at the 24th edition of the World Travel Awards, becoming the first European country to win this distinction. Portugal collected six of the highest awards such as "World's Leading City Break Destination" (Lisbon) and "World's Leading Island Destination" (Madeira) World's Leading Tourist Board (Turismo de Portugal), World's Leading Tourism Authority (Visit Portugal), World's Leading Conservation Company (Parques de Sintra), and World's Leading Luxury Leisure Resort (Pine Cliffs Resort). These awards are a result from huge investment from private and public sector in several key areas for tourism.
Portugal has so much to offer including the variety of options in and around Lisbon, Fatima, and Porto combining stunning beaches, hills, and mountains, religious sites, river cruises, cultural attractions, and visits to wine‐growing regions. 

This is a great advantage if you consider we can connect Lisbon to Algarve or to the Oporto/Douro Valley in two-and-a-half hours. For example, in Lisbon you can experience everything a big city has to offer plus, a 30-minute drive offers the coast line and a seaside destination, but also Sintra and Mountains, a 40-minute drive away.