Portugal once was a poor country with a hardworking people who carefully took care of their resources. Families grew vegetables, harvested fruits and nuts. They were happy, had plenty of gold, but there was no freedom of speech.
We have in Portugal one of the best environments for tourism in nature, with 3,000 hours of sunshine every year, a good balance between sun and rain, a huge variety of flora and fauna, and beautiful lagoons and lakes where migratory birds land.
There are some 40 ‘tourism in nature’ niche markets. These are well organized in Spain and France, which have fewer niche markets to cater for.
Turismo de Portugal boasts of attracting 16 million tourists in 2014, not mentioning that this is only slightly more than we had in 2000, 14 years ago.
When considering inflation, the turnover of 16 million is around 3% more than in the year 2000.
Countries that have only recently joined the EU have increased in these niche markets by focusing on specific training and targeted marketing.
The Council and the Boards of the Algarve Tourism Board and Tourism of Portugal have representatives from the big hotel chains and politicians without experience in tourism in nature; this segment is worth almost €2 billion a year and here is ignored.
Tourism in nature needs the highest number of workers in proportion to its investment and its cost. The major costs of a 4 or 5 star hotel are the interest payments on the loan needed to build the hotel, energy, advertising and commissions.
All of the costs in nature tourism are for people, as no investment is required and advertising is by word of mouth and a few small low payments for hosting websites. Natural Tourism creates jobs - it does not enrich tycoons – this is why it is despised here.
In the book EMPREENDER TURISMO DE NATUREZA there are plenty details of how to organise these niches and how each municipality can make it easier for people to exploit them. The book, with foreword by former president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, is used in the best tourism training centre, Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, but only in a few of Portugal’s tourism schools.
Increasingly, the tourist who spends a lot of money, requires destinations with certification and sustainable tourism operators.
Six years ago I was a judge for the International Sustainable Tourism Awards and saw only one Portuguese project among almost 1,000 submitted.
“Mr. Prime Minister, employ 80,000 more people in ecotourism without any investments!”
Yes we can - together!
© Jack Soifer