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Breaking Travel News investigates: Sustainable tourism in Portugal

Breaking Travel News investigates: Sustainable tourism in Portugal

Turismo de Portugal has taken leadership of a new sustainability strategy approved by the national government.

Under the patronage of Ana Mendes Godinho, secretary of state for tourism in Portugal, the motivation behind the plan is to embed sustainability into the national tourism policy.

Following a national debate, the ambitious initiative has outlined several crucial goals and targets to be reached across three dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.

Within this framework, Turismo de Portugal has developed a set of monitoring indicators - otherwise known as sustainable tourism indicators system - based on recommendations from international organisations including the UNWTO and Eurostat.

The objective will be to evaluate the performance and progress of the 2027 strategy.

With ethical tourism policies and eco-friendly initiatives high on the global agenda, Portugal has put in place a cohesive strategy to position the nation as a leading destination within the sustainability criteria and a thought leader in the future for European and cross-continental tourism.

Environmental Sustainability

The 2027 strategy looks to maximise the efficient management of water, energy and waste.

The objective is to improve environmental efficiency from the public and private sector related with tourism, increased efficiency and focused development in the effective management of resources.

The key milestones pertaining to the environment include:

  • Energy: To boost the number of tourism companies developing energy efficiency measures by 90 per cent in 2027.
  • Water: To boost the number of tourism companies developing water efficiency measures by 90 per cent in 2027.
  • Waste: To boost the number of tourism companies developing waste management measures by 90 per cent in 2027.

Social Sustainability

The strategy will also work with three goals in mind: to solidify the standard of qualification for the Portuguese workforce, reduce seasonality among tourists and improve residents’ satisfaction with the process of tourism development.

The following social goals have been outlined:

  • Skillset: The 2027 strategy will aim to increase the number of ‘secondary’ level skilled workers from 30 per cent (2015) to 60 per cent, and superior skilled workers from 12 per cent (2015) to 28 per cent.
  • Year-round tourism: To reduce seasonality from 37.5 per cent to 33.5 per cent by 2027 and have tourism figures positively even out across all seasons.
  • Local attitudes towards tourism: To increase the number of locals recognising the positive impacts of tourism by 90 per cent in 2027.

Economic Sustainability


The 2027 strategy will also focus on boosting economic sustainability by increasing the number of overnight stays and revenues from tourism as a result of the touristic activity.

The strategy outlines a clear plan to have overnight stays in the country rise from 48.9 million (2015) to 80 million by 2027.

In return, revenue generated as a result of tourism will look to rise at a rate beyond double from €11.5 billion (2015) to €26 billion in 2027.

There will also be an aim to increase the average stay and average spend of guests in certain regions as this can be a decisive factor in economic progress.

The monthly evolution of overnight stays by region also allows for the seasonality of tourism to be managed.

Further to this there is an active emphasis on increasing the average stay and spend of guests in non-traditional regions to promote additional and balanced demand dispersal to accelerate significant economic progress.

Action Plan

The action plan includes seven key verticals put in place in order to ensure the stability of tourism based on the following five strategic axis: value the territory, boosting the economy, enhancing knowledge, increasing connectivity and promoting the country.

Some of the measures already implemented include:

  • Valorizar Program To stimulate a more balanced distribution of tourism demand, reduce seasonality and generate employment throughout the country. This action plan includes support for providing Wi-Fi access in historical/tourist areas, supporting projects to implement measures for people with special needs, developing and enhancing the heritage and endogenous resources of the regions and initiatives to promote greater integration between tourists and residents to ultimately improve resident’s quality of life while also improving their recognition towards the value of tourism for the community. During the first two years of the program, 1719 proposals were submitted to Turismo de Portugal to which 641 were approved with an incentive of €91.3 million
  • Portuguese Trails: Aimed at stimulating cycling and walking routes in Portugal to position the country as an international destination for this activity. This action plan will focus on the qualifications of regional destinations to capture new markets and promote business services in partnership with industry stakeholders.
  • Portuguese Waves: Aimed at promoting the sustainability of surf spots. The main aim of this vertical is to highlight the country’s excellence as a surfing destination while also promoting best practices in the way of sustainable tourism. This includes the preservation of nature.
  • Innovation: To build the future of sustainable tourism. This will be actioned by the Tourism Innovation Centre, in partnership with companies like Google and Microsoft, in order to promote technology, new business ideas, transition into a digital economy, open innovation programs, all this in partnership with tourism leaders and other stakeholders from inside and outside the industry.
  • Promote Knowledge: To make progress measurable. This will involve programs to monitor the environmental performance of tourism enterprises and sustainability at destination level. Further to this there will be a network of sustainability observatories and mobile data to identify impact. This will also see the participation in international projects to promote knowledge in tourism sustainability via UNWTO MST, INSTO and other educational vehicles.

Speaking at the evaluation of the first two years of the 2027 Tourism Strategy, Luis Araújo, chairman of Turismo de Portugal said: “In Portugal, we intend to affirm Tourism as a hub for economic, social and environmental development throughout the territory, positioning Portugal as one of the most competitive and sustainable tourist destinations in the world.

“To achieve what we have set out, it is essential to define implementation measures with adequate funding, investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources.

“It was in this sense that specific funding lines were created to promote the development of tourism in the interior and instruments that allow the mobilisation of tourism companies and public entities in order to guarantee a more sustainable, accessible and inclusive tourism offer.

“Finally, a decisive commitment to knowledge and, in particular, to the monitoring of sustainability, as an instrument to support the decision-making of sector agents. The huge and and multiple challenges we face as a sector require a concerted response from all stakeholders in the industry.”

More Information

There is more on the sustainable tourism indicators system here.

For more on Portugal - considered the World’s Leading Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards - head over to the official website.

Image: João Paulo