ASMAA, the Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association confirmed today that “Surf Schools” are not per-se considered as being “Tourism Activity” businesses by Tourism of Portugal. And we agree with Tourism of Portugal!
Does that mean that this is the end of Surf Schools in Portugal? Not at all, stated Laurinda Seabra, ASMAA’s CEO.
Seabra went on to say, “that although there isn’t another industry in Portugal that has had so much confusion stirred up than the Surf industry, ASMAA is of the opinion that all that is required, is to put things in correct perspective; instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
So much confusion has been created in the Surf environment that we think this can only be an orchestrated effort by individuals and organisations with a vested interest in keeping the waters murky.
We need to understand the surf environment which has two very distinct sectorial areas. One area being the non-commercial Surf Sector dominated by individual surfers and not-for-profit/non-commercial structures such as Surf Clubs and non-commercial Surf Schools that are authorised to provide surf training to its member’s only, and the other is the Commercial Surf Tourism sector.
Both sectors have a totally different focus, although numerous attempts have been made to keep it all in the same bag. This has given rise to confusion in even such simple matters as the issuing of Licences by local Maritime authorities to commercially driven service providers of surf tourism activities.
A case in point; is for example the fact that the Capitania do Porto de Lagos decreeing that any commercial surf activity provider, when applying for licences for the use of the beaches in the Western Algarve to exercise their business activity, have to be registered and certified by the Portuguese Surf Federation. Furthermore, licences for three specific beaches during the bathing season have only been granted based on the length of time that an applying commercial surf service provider has been registered with the said Federation and are restricted to a select few service providers.
It must be pointed out that such selection criteria was greatly motivated and even endorsed by the AESCV (Associacao das Escolas de Surf da Costa Vincentina), an association that was created with the sole purpose of preventing the entry into the sector of new commercial surf activity providers and to restrict access to many existing and competing providers across the Western Algarve. This is supported by e-mails that are in our possession as well as through various Internet posts in the public domain.
We need to keep in mind that the above license selection criteria are not factors that are required by current nor past tourism legislation, but are as well, factors that could be construed as being in direct conflict with the European directive passed into law in Portugal as Decreto-Lei 92/2010 of 26 June, which it clearly states that it’s the intention of the European Parliament to not only simplify and reduce bureaucracy, but also to create a platform where service providers compete in an open market, thus contributing to economic growth and job creation in Portugal and the European Union.
ASMAA is of the opinion that the current selection criterion has no place in the granting of surf activity beach licences, and we applaud Tourism of Portugal’s efforts to differentiate the two surf sectors through legislation and to bring solutions to the current dilemma.
But what is “Surf Tourism”?
Surf tourism is a sub-section of Adventure Tourism, or Outdoor Tourism or even Nature Tourism as per the latest legislation, and not, as so many people believes, a Maritime Tourism sub-category.
Adventure Tourism refers to commercial tourism products that are targeted at adventure seeking travellers seeking a mix of sport, culture and nature experiences for their holidays and can be broken down into four very distinct traveller markets in the surf sector, namely:
1. Experienced surfers who travel to surf and go it alone.
2. Surfers that buys Surf Packaged Safaris and Tours.
3. Travellers looking for ad-hoc Surf experiences that buy once-off surf lessons that can last from a few hours to a few days.
4. Travellers that seek surf experiences in a more sophisticated environment such as Surf Resort, Surf Camps or Surf School operations.
It does not refer to any surf activities that are not of a commercial nature as these are governed by a totally different legislation.
We must also keep in mind that when commercial adventure tourism entrepreneurs take paying surfers on surf experiences in the Algarve, there is necessarily an interaction between at least four different cultures:
• the commercial and competitive ethic of the surf activity tour operator;
• the desires and codes of each surfer;
• the traditional and current perspectives of local residents;
• and the requirements of government officials supported by legislation.
We know that it is through these interactions, that the role of surf tourism in the sustainable development of the Algarve economy is influenced.
Surf tourism is a growing component of the adventure tourism sector, and as an association, ASMAA has taken on the role of being an organisation that is promoting an ethical, sustainable and responsible surf tourism sector, amongst others, in the Algarve.
We do that by looking after the interests of our commercial surf tourism service providers that are members as well as the local communities that are directly and indirectly affected by all of our members, as well as that of the thousands of Adventure Activity seekers that visit our communities in the Algarve.
Concurrently we engage with the various tiers of government. In this regard we have been invited to participate in a Task Group by the representatives of the Capitania do Porto de Lagos and as part of our commitment to a safe, ethical and fair Surf Tourism sector in the Algarve, we compiled and submitted a draft proposal with our recommended changes for the allocation of foreshore and beach licences to Surf Tourism operators in the future.
We have also taken on the mandate to ensure that all our members comply with a strict code of ethics and with our voluntary code of good practice in an endeavour to ensure the safety of all, and hence reduce exposure to risks for everyone.
A Surf School is not a tourism based activity, but Surf is absolutely an integrated part of tourism, which ASMAA supports fully. Let us not confuse the two issues.
Surf is Up! Let’s together ride some great waves!