How to be an eco-friendly tourist

Never has the word “Sustainability” been so important for Tourism. In the natural paradise of the Azores, maintaining the ecosystem alive is a real concern while assuring the social and economic quality of life of locals and visitors. In the end, we all live on the same planet. 

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that there are no borders in the world when Natures threatens human life. That’s why we know in the Azores that we are part of an ongoing changing Nature having has a goal the regeneration of the ills affecting us. Tourism often implies crossing borders, and if we want tourism not to be detrimental to Nature, we have to become more and more sustainable. It should be noted that the Azores are, for the second consecutive year, under the process of Sustainable Tourism Destination Certification by Earthchek – the responsible entity for the certification of tourism destinations – and, in its first year of participation, it was considered the first archipelago on the world to be considered a sustainable destination. We leave you 5 tips to help us keeping the Azores a sustainable destination. You will almost certainly be able to comply with many of them.

1 – Say no to plastic

Plastic packages are proven to pollute the planet and mainly the oceans. The Azores have an earth-and-ocean-based culture. We are like a stone raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the ocean is a natural extension of our mainland. Terrestrial animals and mainly marine animals are increasingly exposed to plastic waste. Anything that can prevent plastic waste and consumption should be promoted.  

2 – Use recyclable bottles

Based on the previous tip, we highlight that when you visit the Azores and stroll through our streets, landscapes, lagoons, and beaches, you should preferably use reusable bottles. This prevents leaving thousands of plastic bottles across the natural paradises of the island, which remain lost for several years after you leave the archipelago.

3 – Walk or use ecological vehicles

You are going to realize that walking is one of the best activities when in the Azores. Experience the tracks, the parks, the cities, and the countryside. It is a real moment of interaction with our fascinating nature. The air you breathe will be brought by the clean and regenerative wind coming from the Atlantic. That’s why, when walking is not possible, the most convenient solution is to use an ecological vehicle or the local transports. Anything you can do to prevent emissions of polluting gases is welcome.

4 – Don’t leave garbage behind

This wouldn’t even have to be mentioned. Just act if you were home: don’t leave garbage behind in public spaces. When necessary, take an extra bag with you to deposit the trash and then place it in the appropriate location. We all thank that attitude.

5 – Favour the local products

Help to promote economy and social life and get to know the local gastronomy. Experience flavors and products that you won’t probably find anywhere else in the world. We also have beautiful Azorean handicraft that you can offer as souvenirs from your trip to the friends you left at home. And, that way, everyone wins. When that happens, we know that there is a harmony between the people who live here and those who, for brief moments of their life, become part of this stone raft in the middle of the Atlantic, between two major continents.

A Rural Tourism in the name of the Environment

Among the several measures adopted for sustainable tourism in the Azores, we can also highlight the work that has been done by “Casas Açorianas – Associação de Turismo em Espaço Rural” (Association of Tourism in Rural Environment). It is a non-profit association established in 2004 by the owners of tourist units and pioneer of Rural and Nature Tourism in the Azores. Presently, the association represents about 50 members spread by eight of the nine Azorean islands. The association presents itself as “a repository of experiences where one can observe and experience the entire evolution of the gastronomic and civilization culture of the Azores throughout the centuries”, explains its president, Gilberto Vieira. The vast majority of the Azorean accommodations are located in rural spaces, surrounded by environments where nature is the predominant feature and it is based on that principle that this association has been advocating its preservation to maintain the existing characteristics and cultural essence of tourism in the rural space. Promoting the best the Azores have to offer, this is an association that drives the restoration of existing buildings in traditional environments that would otherwise be abandoned. The association invests, as much as possible, in the original architecture and materials without neglecting the current safety and comfort needs. For the Azores to be able to avoid the effects of mass tourism, it is of crucial importance to make the visitors aware of the specificities of the place they are visiting. The best that the Azores have to offer, namely tradition, gastronomy, and nature, is harmoniously combined with Tourism in a Rural Space. There the visitor finds a unique place, “differentiating itself from the mass offers by its welcoming environment in which cultural, ecological and customization issues are true concerns”, says the president of Casas Açorianas. Moreover, the Azorean Regional Government “is one of the main partners of the association as it acknowledged that rural and nature tourism is fundamental for this already appealing destination. This acknowledgment allowed developing in partnership the investment in the sector and mainly an effective promotion of such a unique and special product. As an example, Gilberto Vieira presents their future proposal to assure the authenticity, the quality and the engagement with the natural and harmoniously humanized environment, a concept that the Association advocates and practices since the beginning,” he added. Lastly, the people who book the Azorean Houses “are attracted by the warranty of the immersion in a more genuine context allowing them to enjoy the unique tourism offer of the Azores”, says its president. Gilberto Vieira concludes: “There is a contact with nature in surprising ways. The interaction with a legacy of fruitful and calm humanization, chatting with friendly and honest people, sea-based gastronomy in which simple and healthy products gain incredible flavors by the hands that replicate ancestral knowledge. And also quietness and safety – unbeatable ingredients in the tourism scenario at a global scale”.

To read the edition 8 of our inflight magazine Azorean Spirit click here.

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