The MICE industry has faced major disruptions during the past couple of years and it will evolve into a very different ecosystem in the future. With exciting innovations shaping new hospitality landscapes, meetings, conferences, events and incentives will be smarter, more sustainable and better designed.
Other things - such as the attractiveness of destinations like Porto & North of Portugal - will never change. The region has a strong cultural offering paired with a vibrant lifestyle that is driven by proud and restless people who are defining the future of events in Portugal without compromising on authenticity.
We have spoken to Linda Pereira, one of Portugal’s leading MICE industry experts, to explore these topics and the way sports, history and culture merge in Porto to enchant its visitors. Linda, an entrepreneur herself, senior partner and CEO of the L&I Communications Group, is also the Executive Director of CPL Meetings & Events and internationally recognized as an innovator, educator and speaker. She is not only one of the most influential voices in the MICE industry but also a passionate member of many international associations and councils, where she sits on boards, and acts as a consultant to governments and businesses.
With this global background and her experience in promoting culture, heritage, social responsibility and start-ups, Linda shares her personal perspective on why Tourism and Lifestyle are one of a kind in Porto & North of Portugal.
Linda, please share with us how you have become an internationally renowned MICE industry expert?
[Linda Pereira]: I have been a planner for over 35 years. I have always worked with high level, high impact meetings and have long promoted their value and impact on destinations. Having worked for many years to bring recognition to our industry, I have travelled and worked in over 143 countries and connected with a vast network of professionals around the world. I am also highly involved in creating training and education around our industry so as to continually develop and educate the professionals of the future and so elevate the sector. This has meant that I have become recognised as someone who brings innovation and development to the industry and contributes to its recognition as a sector. Today most governments recognise the sector as crucial in accelerating economies. I have tried to practice what I believe: that it is important to do well in business by doing good.
As part of our "Meethology" campaign, we have been exploring the Porto Lifestyle with the Owner and CEO of Taste Porto, a local start-up dedicated to sharing culture through gastronomic experiences with a digital touch; Daniel Carvalho, an award winning Portuguese bartender who mixed us a signature cocktail representing the Northern Region; and a very appealing concept around the culture of Port wines at Espaço Porto Cruz.
What does Porto Lifestyle mean to you and what makes it different from other city flairs that you have seen around the world? Why should people choose Porto for their events?
[Linda Pereira]: Porto is vibrant and upbeat. It has a pulse that beats to the rhythm of its river. The moment you arrive in Porto from any angle it touches you with its honesty, its colours, its light. It is beautiful to the eye but also heart-warming through its colours. It welcomes you through its beautiful architecture but enchants you with its food, its wine and above all its people. Its people are proud but sincere and welcoming. The cafe culture and the night-life focused around music, and conversation around the table has long been part of the magic that is Porto. It is a destination of proud people who like to please the visitor. Nothing is ever too complicated, or too difficult or too much trouble. The myriad of possible venues to hold events and the philosophy of its people to say yes whenever a challenge is set is what drives me to recommend Porto as the setting for my events whenever possible. Porto is a painter’s dream. From modern day venues to historical palaces, to natural landscapes it holds everything that can contribute to an efficient, effective and truly memorable event. Porto is in a league of its own...
We love how sports, history and culture come together in Porto, and how the history of the city and the region can be told through the football club's story at the FC Porto Museum. Mafalda Magalhaes is heading the operations of this unique museum that has reached international recognition, and with her team has led this space to an enormous success, achieving 1 million visitors in 2020.
With your diverse background in supporting innovative businesses and your involvement in the Global Council for Women in Leadership, among many other boards and associations internationally, in your view, what are the key ingredients for success in the development of a vibrant and attractive cultural scene?
[Linda Pereira]: Porto protects its culture tooth and nail. It offers authentic experiences based on cultural points that resonate with people. Porto is the place that gave the nation its name and the cultural offering around the passionate and obsessive love for its football, for its river, for its traditions, for its food and wine, reflected and presented in ever-changing innovative ways is one of the destination’s great achievements. There is a pride which aspires to share the local sense of being. To disseminate its secrets. The great success of Porto is that they want the world to partake of their cultural wealth and they share it generously and enthusiastically in such a way that visitors immediately become ambassadors.
Any destination that proposes to be considered vibrant and attractive must not just proclaim to be inclusive but must also walk the talk. In my life-long role as an activist for gender parity and above all inclusiveness at all levels, I consider Portugal to be a beacon. The country, and more specifically the North have always welcomed strangers with the same warmth that they reserve for their own. A destination that feels safe and transits acceptance and tolerance as its creed while actively striving to make sure that the different perspectives, art, lifestyle and life options are received with respect and admiration, has all the ingredients to become a cultural magnet. Porto is precisely such a place. Porto is precisely the kind of destination that I would call a Renaissance city. Accepting and encouraging movements focused on equitable development and community-centred arts and culture to strengthen the equity impact, which in turn brings a racial and economic equity to all members of the community, building greater social cohesion, and feeding economic vibrancy. Over the last decade, Porto has actively increased collaboration between all the stakeholders, and this is resulting in true transformative and creative change. Porto understands that Arts and culture are critical elements of an equity framework; they reflect the assets of communities and enable cohesion in pluralistic values. Without equity, community redevelopment can improve a physical place but will leave some people behind, stifle broad creativity, bring economic benefit only to a few or displace many. Arts and culture can accelerate equity, build communities of opportunity and design for broadly shared prosperity. Porto is the living example of a society that strives for equal opportunities for all and this in turn creates a vital pulse in the city. There is no need to stress again how hard the Meetings & Events industry has been hit by the pandemic nor that a lot of previously existing trends have been accelerated by this situation.
We would be interested in hearing your take on what the MICE industry will look like in the future and what new roles and functions will be relevant in a destination to make it attractive for MICE planners?
[Linda Pereira]: Every client that we have spoken to over the last 18 months has expressed a desire to return to live events. We now know that technology works, that it is highly valuable but that it does not substitute the face to face experience. The future is eminently human. The future is high touch and based on human connection. Technology is the tool that allows us to reach further but it is a mere tool. For the next few years live events will be smaller and more local and regional but with greater outreach via technology. Hybrid events are here to stay. Destinations must learn to be flexible and learn new marketing and communication skills. Their offering must be new and different and they must also learn to promote in a different way. It is going to be about partnerships, knowledge hubs, connection to the subject, professional excellence, a sense of safety and security. The future is about trust and that is precisely what has been eroded. The destinations that continued to communicate and show that they care will now be the first to be valued. The live component must now be truly worth it to convince the post covid generations to travel for their events. So destinations must effectively communicate their skills and their innate value to the event itself. So priorities must be ease of work, high speed internet, good value for money, strong cultural offering, innovation, novelty, amenities, a great understanding of planner needs and event objectives.