Finally, 2020 is over but our #ExperienceOfTheWeek series is here to stay. In the first interview of the year, we’d like to introduce you to our friends from Tours de Portugal. This week, we talked to Joaquim Lopes, the founder of the whole idea, and we discussed everything from how Tours de Portugal started and what it is now to summer season 2020. Wanna hear more? Let’s get to the interview then.
Q1: Hi Joaquim, how are you doing?
Good morning, in these times that we are living, I’m doing the best I can.
Q2: Tell us more about the story of Tours de Portugal. Where did the idea come from?
Well, it was a consequence of accumulated experience in the tourism business. I finished my History University Degree in 1999 and started to work as a tour guide immediately in a big travel agency. The feedback on my services was always amazing. It was because of the way I treated the clients and how easy it was for them to relate to me. This was where the encouragement for me to start my own agency came from. In 2014, I started the Tours de Portugal – Tours Agency.
Q3: Lisbon is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and I bet there are dozens of things to show to fellow travelers. How big is your team? Are you all locals?
I started alone, of course. At the beginning, I was the “Agency” but the clients kept returning and giving good references to their friends and other travel agents in their hometowns.
Now, we are a team of 5 full-time guides and around 20 other freelancers. All of us are locals, with university degrees, from International Relations to History, Sociology, Archeology, etc… We have a very good group of fluent guides covering all major 5 or 6 spoken languages in the world.
Q4: Your selection of experiences is literally endless – you offer everything from walking tours to professional transfers. What are the most popular activities among travelers who come to you?
I started Tours de Portugal only with private tours. I was working almost exclusively with 5-star hotels. But I love to be me and when you worked with 5-star hotels, they imposed lots of rules, from what perfumes are you allowed to use, what music can you play in the car, color of shirts, shoes, belts, watches, everything! The thing is that I’m very good at what I do because I do it in my own way just by being me.
Gradually, I started to diversify, from small group tours to walking tours to packages of multi-day tours with everything included. Today I’m offering a very good range of different choices of tours, some of them entirely created by me, so they are totally exclusive of the Tours de Portugal – Tours Agency.
Of course, small group tours are very popular. They give you the possibility of having the feeling of doing a “private tour”, at just 20% of the normal price. But now since I started to do the Free Walking Tours in Lisbon, walking tours are rapidly becoming the most popular ones.
Q5: Today many people travel and plan their itineraries on their own. Why would you recommend booking one of your experiences to our travelers?
Because we’re very good at what we do! 🙂
Our main concern is to give our clients good memories. Many times this results in a situation when an 8-hour tour that should end at 4 pm ends around 6 or 7 pm. If clients are enjoying it so much, on such days, it doesn’t even feel like I’m working, I’m just driving around the country with some friends.
Personally, I would totally hate it, if I was on a tour to visit New York City, and the tour guide would tell me that I only had 10 minutes to see the Empire State Building. I mean, what?! I just crossed the Atlantic Ocean to visit NYC, will probably never come back again, and I only have 10 minutes to create my life-lasting memories? Do you understand what do I mean? I always put myself in my clients’ shoes. I created Tours de Portugal to be different. Because I’m different. And our whole team is.
Q6: The travel industry is in uncharted waters right now but we all hope travel will rebound soon. What does the situation in Portugal look like right now? How was your summer season?
The situation in summer was awful just like for everybody else in the world. We’ve had agencies laying off everybody, hotels being closed for almost 10 months now, unemployment growing by 15%. For us, summer meant almost 95% loss of income. We’ve been working almost exclusively with Spanish tourists because all they had to do was to cross the border. Everybody else stayed in their home countries. Let’s hope that the vaccine will restore confidence in the world, and things will start to go back to normal as soon as possible.
Q7: Last but not least, what is your favorite spot around Lisbon that you’d take your friends to see or experience? Tips from a true local are always worth it!
It is a secret… hehehehehehe. But nobody crosses the river to go to the other side. And there are over 40 miles of white sandy beaches just 10 minutes away from Lisbon. Pretty much 99% of tourists don’t know about this place. So just book our tours and we’ll take you there 🙂
Book some of the most popular experiences by Tours de Portugal here:
Lisbon Private tour
Obidos, Buddha Eden, and the Jurassic Park
Private Tour to the Sanctuary of Fatima, Nazare, and Obidos
Lisbon Full-Day Small-Group City Tour with River Cruise
LISBON + SINTRA – 2 Excellent tours with special prices