Braga is an authentic city with endogenous resources that make a difference at a hereditary, natural and immaterial level due to the various events that mark the life of the city throughout the year. These resources make it possible to respond to the current tourism trend related to the demand for real experiences.
Following the search for a sustainable and inclusive development model for the growth of tourism, Braga will never pretend to be a “theme park” and will provide those who visit us with the same experiences and resources that guarantee the quality of life in Braga in the first place residents.
As statistically proven, over the last 9 years, tourism in Braga has made an exponential leap in terms of number of visitors, overnight stays, revenue, investments in the sector and the creation of new companies and projects.
From a strategic point of view, in close collaboration with local and national representatives of the sector (here with a particular focus on the Regional Tourism Authority of Porto and North and the Tourist Board of Porto and North, ATP, of which we have been part of the board for the last few years), the municipality of Braga has been strong invested in promotion, in improving the quality of the tourist offer and in the training of professionals in this sector.
In terms of national and international attractiveness, Braga was a diamond that really needed to be polished, that is, to show itself in all its possibilities. The promotional work started in autumn 2013, which is now considered normal and sustainable, was based on a series of initiatives carried out in partnership with different actors in the region, culminating in 2021 with the award of “Best European Destination” On this occasion we have 109,902 votes collected from netizens, consolidating us as a destination of excellence and reference in international tourism, after being recognized as the second best European destination in 2019 Braga, 72% referred to participants outside the national territory, a sign that demonstrates Braga’s projection at the international level.
The influx of visitors to the Braga Tourist Office is one of the main indicators of tourist demand. This year, the number of visitors (around 300,000 by the end of August) is gradually approaching the historic record numbers of 2019. In terms of source markets, Portugal, Spain and France remain the most representative. Great Britain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States are other important markets.
In 2019, Braga saw tourism growth above the national average and was the best tourism year ever with around 640,000 overnight stays. Raising awareness of the Braga brand inside and outside Portugal was a clear municipal bet. The aim was to increase the number of tourists, the length of each stay and their distribution throughout the year. In this effort, the municipality’s tourism professionals have been fundamental to achieve these objectives: planning and promoting Braga as a tourist destination, supporting the sector’s entrepreneurs and attracting new investors and tourism development.
Fundamental to the international recognition of the destination were also the recognition of Bom Jesus as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to which we have been involved with all our energy from the very beginning; the classification of Braga as a UNESCO Creative City in Media Arts; hosting the 2018 European City of Sports or the 2020/21 Atlantic Axis Capital of Culture; in addition to investments in equipment such as the Municipal Market and the Altice Forum Braga.
Business tourism and events, as well as a bold cultural strategy, have therefore acquired increasing importance in combating tourist seasonality and attracting an increasingly differentiated and qualified public.
The tourism office, which began offering extended hours — including weekends and bank holidays — was awarded TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice 2020, an accolade it had previously received in 2017 and 2019. The renowned British publication “The Luxury Travel Guide” also named Braga “European Heritage of the Year 2017”.
In addition to the work carried out in the tourist office on Central Avenue, the tourist shop was opened at the train station and support was provided for the establishment of a tourist office in Sameiro.
During this period, several relevant international publications have promoted Braga as a preferred tourist destination, with a particular focus on city breaks and senior tourism. Several reports and documentaries on Braga’s tourist resources were also produced during these years, particularly for the Brazilian, French, Spanish and British markets.
In 2020, the months of January and February have been the best year ever in terms of demand, due to the planning and forecasting of major events and congresses planned in the different multicultural spaces of Braga. For obvious reasons, 2020 was a totally atypical year and with the first confinement, the municipality focused on supporting professionals in the sector, carrying out a constant communication strategy on the possibilities of support for entrepreneurs, informing and clarifying how to carry out their activity in the face of the imposed restrictions could develop.
Accompanying specialist journalists, influencers and tour operators on press trips is another task and investment that is made in addition to the permanent renewal of tourism materials such as itineraries, maps and applications.
Promoting greater interaction between visitors and the city led to the availability of the Visit Braga app and website, which took advantage of the increasingly expanding infrastructure of Braga’s free WI-FI access network, as well as the production of several promotional videos.
The internationalization of the Municipality of Braga has been reinforced by its presence in several national and international tourism fairs, such as: B. Fitur – Madrid International Tourism Fair; Navartur – International Tourism Fair of the Kingdom of Navarre in Pamplona; Xantar – International Gastronomic Tourism Fair, Ourense; Salon des Vacances at the Brussels Expo in Brussels; B Travel Fair in Barcelona; Salon Mondial du Tourisme in Paris; Exhibitions in Bilbao; Turexpo Galicia – Galicia Tourism Fair – Spain; World Travel Show, Warsaw Tourism Fair – Poland; Intur – Valladolid Tourism Fair – Spain; Comptoir Helvetique in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Also worth mentioning were the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Tourism Development, the promotion of the Tourism Galas and Tourism Forum, and informal travel agent selection initiatives.
Of particular note is the collaboration with the training institutions, from the Braga Regional Center of the Catholic University to the various vocational schools that train resources in this field.
It is also important to mention the important role we had and still have in promoting the Camino de Santiago (Caminhos de Santiago) along the governmental and cultural institutions on both sides of the border, but we have also invested more than €150,000 for the Signage and qualification of the routes that cross Braga.
Braga has also tried to contribute, through the Minho Innovation consortium, to a greater articulation of the Minho communities and to a growing promotion of the sharing of tourism resources between northern Portugal and Galicia across the Atlantic axis.
Internationally, Braga was part of the URBACT Tourism Friendly Cities network and was invited by the World Tourism Organization to produce the report to be presented in 2023 on best practices.
Evidence of the tourist success are the new hotels, the renovation of the existing ones, the exponential growth of the local accommodation offer, where we have gone from 19 registers in 2015 to the current 530, as well as the countless restaurants that increasingly strengthen Braga as a destination of excellence in wine gastronomy.
Braga has been able to balance the development of the tourism sector with the needs of the people who live here, as this growth has not led to the desertification of the historic center and has not been a limiting factor for local citizens. We have shown a welcoming spirit and the local Bracarenses have integrated themselves into this increasingly multicultural and cosmopolitan reality, a result of the many tourists who come from different international markets and choose to visit the city.
This is further evidence that Braga is presenting itself as a dynamic pendulum driving the sustainable development of the region.