Portugal has undergone many changes, structurally, economically and in terms of its popularity for business and pleasure alike. Always a favourite choice of holidaymakers, it now attracts more than two million British visitors annually. Many of these enjoy its beautiful Algarve beaches and warm hospitality, some stay and forge a living for themselves and their families. Others are transferred to work in the larger towns on behalf of a growing number of multinational companies taking root in Portugal and benefiting form a clement economic climate.
Portugal has now enjoyed membership of the EU for almost 20 years, and is currently reaping the rewards of various financial subsidies that have led to large investment by companies such as VW, demonstrating the growing confidence in this country. Major communications companies such as Vodaphone, the mobile phone company, have grown phenomenally over the past five years. The Portuguese people have forged ahead with training in such areas as computing, business and engineering, and are able to compete favourably with other nationalities - they are also multilingual, most of the younger people today being happy to communicate in French, English, German or Spanish as well as their mother tongue.
In 1998 the last great Exposition of the last millennium (Expo 98) was held in Lisbon. A huge site on the side of the river Tagus, hitherto an abandoned oil refinery, was transformed into an awe-inspiring exhibition and entertainment area, and played host to more people than actually live in Portugal itself! As a direct result of all the structural work undertaken leading up to the Expo, Lisbon now boasts an extended (and extending) underground system, a new bridge over the river (the Ponte Vasco da Gama), and Europe's second largest oceanarium - a legacy of the Expo site. Elsewhere in the country new motorway infrastructure is easing communication between north and south, and high-speed modern trains now link Lisbon with Oporto, the south and Spain.
At the same time Portugal maintains its links with agriculture, and the land is an important factor in many people's lives. And that remains part of the appeal Portugal will continue to have for the many people who visit it: the slower pace of life and the friendliness of people in rural areas are things we all long for as our own lives become increasing rushed and complex.