European Culture Capital Gives Portugal a Boost

Guimarães, the smallest city ever to be chosen as European Culture Capital, provided Portugal with a significant boost in tourism revenue throughout 2012.
“We managed to meet all our expectations,” proclaimed the event's programming director, Carlos Martins. He explained that the number of tourists visiting Guimarães doubled to reach the one million mark for the first time
“We have also prepared the city and the country for the future by celebrating our common heritage,” he added.
Organizers are hoping that the success achieved by the Guimarães 2012 Culture Capital programme will help Portugal out of its crippling economic downturn.
“The social change factor is cultural or it does not exist,” Martins remarked, adding that the culture city programme boosted the economy in different creative ways.
One visitor who was pleased with what he saw was the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Alan Katz, who said that he was both 'surprised' and 'enchanted' by what he found in the mediaeval city, in particular the way local residents threw themselves into all the cultural projects. “People often say that the Portuguese are not very enterprising. This is evidence to the contrary,” he said.
Many locals became tour guides for free, showing visitors from all over the world the main sites and explaining the historical importance of the ancient city, which is located 350 km north of Lisbon.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists, numerous artists, scores of businessmen and politicians converged on the city throughout the year.
Among those celebrities were Finnish film director Aris Kaurismaki, British director Peter Greenaway and Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira.
The European Union launched the European Culture Capital initiative in 1985 with the intention of highlighting the cultural diversity of Europe and bringing its nations closer.
The cultural program for Guimarães over the past year included more than 500 events and related activities, costing an estimated €25 million.