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Birmingham business leaders visit Porto to strengthen regional links

To highlight the commercial significance of its new direct flights to Porto from Birmingham Airport, Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, recently flew a group of prominent business leaders from across the West Midlands’ region to the Portuguese city, on a three-day fact-finding business trip that opened up discussions on many new opportunities.

The visit was conducted to not only highlight the developing business relationships between the two cities, both of which have a rich manufacturing history, but also to show how fast and convenient it is to now fly between the two since Flybe started the new year-round new route, with a choice of up to four flights a week.

Included among those accompanying Paul Willoughby, Flybe’s regional sales manager, was Peter Mathews CMG (managing director Black Country Metals and UKTI Export Ambassador); Paul Noon (regional director West Midlands UK Trade & Industry) and Jason Wouhra (director of East End Foods and regional chairman West Midlands Institute of Directors) together with representatives from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Birmingham airport.

As well as holding individual business meetings, the group also carried out a full programme featuring high level meetings with UKTI Lisbon, the mayor of Porto’s office, the British Portuguese and Porto Chambers of Commerce and AEP’s Business Services, Portugal’s equivalent of the UKTI, at which they explored potential opportunities to strengthen and develop further existing trade links and investment relationships between the two regions.

Willoughby stated that Flybe’s new Porto service emphasised further Flybe’s strong commitment to supporting the UK’s regional economies.

“We realise the importance of maintaining and developing easy and affordable connections between key cities.

“We were absolutely delighted and honoured to have received the enthusiastic support from such high level and well-connected Birmingham and Porto business leaders.

“Their response was fantastic and I think everyone agrees that it was a hugely successful and worthwhile trip for all concerned,” he added.
Porto is the second largest metropolitan area of Portugal and is considered the economic powerhouse of the country.

A large part of the Portuguese research capacity is based there and the region boasts significant industries including the production of shoes, furniture, textile, cork and of course port wine, as well as the mechanical industry.

There are also a number of tech hubs near to Porto, which reflect the entrepreneurial characteristics of the region.