ELVAS (AFP) – The star-shaped walls of the hilltop town of Elvas dominate the plains of Portugal’s southern Alentejo region near the border with Spain.
But despite being declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2012, Elvas receives few visitors aside from the occasional Spanish day-tripper.
To try to change this, Portugal’s second largest hotel group, Vila Gale, is spending around five million euros ($6.0 million) to convert a former convent into a luxury hotel.
Dozens of builders are working on the 17th-century whitewashed building, last used as a military court, to transform it into an 80-room, four-star hotel that is set to open next year.
“We are convinced that with a quality hotel, tourists will stay in Elvas,” said Jorge Rebelo de Almeida, the president of Vila Gale, which was awarded a 40-year lease to operate the state-owned building.
Tourism has become a key driver of Portugal’s economy since 2014 when the country exited a three-year 78-billion-euro international bailout that imposed harsh austerity measures on its citizens.