The importance of foreign tourists in the Autonomous Region of Madeira

  • Miguel Albuquerque
  • 10 May 2021

A unique, authentic and inclusive territory, where those who visit us feel like a local and to which there is always the desire to return.

Tourism is a vital pillar for the development and economy of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, with cross-sectional contributions to other economic sectors, mainly the commerce, restaurants and services. The strategic importance of tourism for the Region is undeniable, which represents more than 26% of the GDP and 30% of the GVA of the regional economy, providing about 20,000 jobs, which represents about 17% of the employment in the archipelago.

In 2019 – the last usual year before the pandemic – Madeira’s tourist accommodation establishments recorded 8.1 million overnight stays, of which about 7.11 million correspond to 1.25 million foreign guests. Germany, the United Kingdom and France were the markets that stood out the most, as generators of overnight stays, each with 1.9, 1.8 and 0.75 million overnight stays, respectively, and as a whole, the 3 markets accounting for more than half of the total value of overnight stays in that year, that is, 4.5 million overnight stays. Portugal was in the third position as a market generating overnight stays, with around 1 million.

The tourist connection between Madeira and the world is secular, and from there to the island strategically located in the Atlantic, as observed in the history of European tourism.

The English were the first to offer their countrymen the chance to come and discover the beauties of Madeira.

First, tourism developed through the quintas (manor houses) rented for the stays of those who visited us, and then, with the evolution and greater demand, travellers began to stay in guest houses and hotels.

Scientific expeditions, in the 18th and 19th centuries, gave exposure during the stopovers they made on the island, as happened with James Cook’s exhibitions, in 1768 and 1772. This aspect would allow the discovery of Madeira’s unique qualities in the therapeutic aspect, thus capturing a growing number of foreign tourists. These endogenous potentials were an important contribution for Europeans who sought treatment, especially for lung diseases.

miIn this evolution, at the beginning of the 19th century, the first known guide is published in London: “A Guide to Madeira containing a short account of Funchal”.

For more than two centuries, Madeira has been experiencing a growing demand from Europeans, and even from other countries outside this continent, with many international public figures who wanted to visit it, from aristocrats and traders, artists and politicians, to naturalistic researchers, aviators, lawyers, among many others.

The list is long and has even led to the publication of the book Ilustres Visitantes na Madeira (Distinguished Visitors in Madeira), where we find great names, among many others, such as: Luigi Manini, Italian architect, painter and scenographer; Charles Van Beneden, Belgian writer and playwright; Harvey Foster, the Brit who brought a car to Madeira for the first time; Archduke Maximiliano Eugen de Habsburg; Frederic Edwin Smith, British lawyer and politician; Bernard Shaw, writer, journalist, theater critic and Irish playwright; Ruth Elder, American actress and aviator; Prince Henry and Prince Edward of Wales, members of the English Royal Family; Júlio Prestes de Albuquerque, Brazilian politician and lawyer; Józef Klemens Piłsudski, Polish statesman; Italo Balbo, Italian aviator and politician; Amy Johnson Mollison, British aviator; Jean Murat, French actor; Dolores del Rio, Mexican actress; Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman, writer, journalist, speaker, historian and painter; D. Juan de Bourbon, Count of Barcelona, ​​Royal Prince of Spain; Ghandi; and Pope John Paul II.

If some of these well-known personalities have been in Madeira many years ago and have helped to ennoble, publicize and attract an increasing number of foreign tourists, the truth is that the presence of celebrities on the island has been continuous over the years, in parallel with the usual tourist, which constitutes the majority of the thousands that travel to the Region in a growing movement.

In general, tourists, regardless of origin, look for well-kept, differentiated and at the same time genuine destinations, which requires us to be permanently qualified and bet on a diversified and authentic tourist offer. This is what we do continuously, even though we know that Madeira Destination secularly differentiates itself from the others.

Naturally, visitors interact with residents, sharing the same spaces, events and leisure activities.

Equally important is to be a vacation spot known for its striking landscapes and diversity, where the mountains, sea and culture stand out. Components which allow visitors to have the privilege of enjoying an activity in the mountains and shortly afterwards to enjoy the pleasures of the sea, later assimilating our Culture, which is unique and distinctive.

For most foreign tourists, this multiplicity of environments, the mild climate and the hospitality, are determining reasons of attraction when choosing the location to travel to.

Furthermore, in the present times, we are going through, the crucial safety factor is also another reason.

In this context, it is necessary to underline the relevant measures that the Autonomous Region of Madeira promptly implemented in favor of the defense of Public Health, and, later, with the creation of a Good Practices in Tourism Manual, in which Madeira was a pioneer in the country in doing so, as well as in the measures taken at Madeira and Porto Santo Airport with regards to testing and tracking, the Certification of the destination against biological risks, which is unmatched in the world, and in the green Corridor that we adopted for those who arrive at this destination.

Confidence in the destination’s security is the key factor that makes the difference between international destination offers to travel to. And, on that point, we strictly follow all the steps to offer an even more appealing destination.

Madeira Destination is prepared to move forward, reinforced with the recent launch of the new Madeira Brand, which is much more than a graphic identity, constituting the identity as a territory and its people. That which distinguishes us and makes us unique and special. Who we are and the way we want to be seen!

A unique, authentic and inclusive territory, where those who visit us feel like a local and to which there is always the desire to return.

  • Miguel Albuquerque
  • President of the Regional Government of Madeira