Good practice destination Azores (PT)

Contributor Sabrina Vecchio Ruggeri
Country Portugal,
  • Destination management organization
  • Destinations-in-Europe
  • Europe
  • Protection of sensitive environments
  • Sustainable destination strategy
Release date 23/06/2014
  • Natural Heritage & Biodiversity
GSTC Criteria for Destinations
  • D.2. Protection of sensitive environments
  • A2 Destination management strategy and action plan
  • A1 Destination management responsibility
Type Best Practice Destination (Best Practice Destination)
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# File name Contributor Release date Uploaded by Upload date Size Content type
Good Practice Innovation Sheet
Items Description
1. WHO
Key people and organisations (initiator, leader, partners)  Faial Natural Park
 Associação de Turismo dos Açores
Associação Regional de TurismoThe island of Faial belongs to the central group of the Azores
archipelago. The Azores are a Portuguese region and have an
autonomous government, the so called Autonomous Region of the
Key Figures Surface Inhabitants Tourism arrivals Tourism nights
 219 Km2  14.994  39.126 (2012)  100.100 (2012)
2. WHY
Reason for taking the good practice action  The geographic isolation of the Azores archipelago has always been an important reason for low touristic flow in the islands, aggravated by the fact that there are nine different islands all competing in the same destination. Also, the lack of a well-structured touristic offer should be
corrected, joining in one entity the disperse existing services, and implementing a set of services and infrastructures of both public and private initiative in order to provide the long distance traveller diverse and quality services and information about Faial.
The development of the touristic potential through a sustainable approach, focussing on high quality, certified tourism while taking advantage of a well preserved and unspoiled natural environment was the driven force to implement a solid touristic and social project in Faial.
Issues and challenge  Biodiversity and geodiversity, cultural traditions and collective memory are core ingredients of national identity and heritage and require sustainable management in order to be preserved for future generations. The protected areas managed by Faial Natural Park include unique habitats that harbour endemic species of fauna and flora from the Azores’ natural heritage, priceless geological formations that help understanding the origin of the Earth and cultural sites of significant importance. Historical buildings like the centenary light house in Capelinhos, the old whaling factory in Porto Pim, the Dabney’s family summer house, the fortresses around the city of Horta dating from the 16th century and the Levada, a water duct built in the 1960’s and
destroyed in the 1998 earthquake are historical relevant buildings and constructions part of the history of the Azores that were in ruins before the Natural Park creation in 2008. All these buildings were in serious risk of rapid and irremediable destruction. The main challenge of the project is to manage this natural and cultural patrimony, while developing the Faial and the Azores potential as a sustainable touristic destination and to serve as a model of development while bringing value to local development.
3. HOW
Methods /steps / tools used (to develop the good practice)  Faial Natural Park was solemnly created in 2008 and was the first of its kind in the Azores. The 13 protected areas enclosed in the park totalize 219 Km2, both in land and sea; 17,5% of the surface of Faial island is part of a protected area. Together with the territorial management,
various visitor support and interpretation infrastructures have been set up, in particular the Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre, the Faial Botanical Garden, the Porto Pim Aquarium, the Dabney’s House, the Caldeira Houses and ten pedestrian trails (with interpretative stations). All these infrastructures regard different aspects of Faial and the Azores: geology and volcanology, nature and conservation, cultural heritage and landscape. The buildings that serve these infrastructures were all rebuild from old ruins, respecting the landscape and traditional
architecture; original materials and collective memory were kept. The Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre is a good example of this, perfectly hided in the natural landscape and is the result of the rebuilt of the old light-house affected by the eruption of the volcano. The Porto
Pim Aquarium was installed in the old whaling factory; the Natural Park headquarters and the Dabney’ s House, that holds an exposition about this historical American family were placed in the ruins of the Dabney’ s family summer house and cellar. The Caldeira houses recovered old
roadman and ranger shelters. Visiting information and signs for blind people were installed in the majority of these buildings. The Levada trail, set in the 1960’s water duct, the most important hydraulic engineering work in the Azores and very affected by the 1998
earthquake, undergoes the third phase of reconstruction. This reconstruction allowed the functioning of the hydro electrical power  plant that was shut down after the earthquake and the production of 1% of Faial electrical power. Also, trails and natural areas are maintained in good shape all year round. The Pedro Miguel Bogs, a humid area and Important Bird Area (IBA) were acquired in 2012 and transformed from pasture to forest by the plantation of 4000 juniper
trees by every child in school in Faial. A bird observation tower was built in order to increase the offseason bird watching visitors. A mountain biking trail was also opened.
Information on these subjects is easy to access: a Portuguese and English Guide about Faial Natural Park were created; extensive information is available in the website and flyers, muppies and other supports were developed. The Natural Park has given adequate formative preparation to a number of certified guides and all visitor centres have guided visits. All walking trails are marked under international codes and well described in the guide as well as interpretative boards have been set-up in the most significant places. This information is always available in Portuguese and English as well as in braille. An extensive project on conservation of natural values and landscape is in action including invasive species control, erosion control,
rare and endangered species recovery programs, habitat recovery, endemic species seed banking, propagation facilities for threatened plant species, planting tree species involving social partners specially schools. A broad program of environmental education for children
includes visits to interpretative centres and practical classes. A team of an environmental police (Vigilantes da Natureza) is the guarantee of protection and safeguard of the environment.
Extensive testimonials of Faial inhabitants that witnessed the Capelinhos volcano eruption were collected and are available in the SIARAM website. This website also contains detailed descriptions of Faial Natural Park structures and centres.
The Natural Park of Faial has developed a partnership program that integrates local service providers, from whale watching to dolphin swimming, scuba diving, diving with sharks and sailing, glass bottom boat, canyoning, guided trails and jeep tours, horse riding, rustic golf, mountain biking, orienteering, accommodation, restaurants, travel agencies, scientific  foundations, magazines and transports, totalizing 37 partners that offer 750 daily activities. The impact of the Natural Park in the media sector is high. Local, national and international media show significant interest. International travel agencies, journalists and tourism authorities are regular visitors and welcomed with programmed and oriented visits. Special environmental actions are undertaken, like SOS Cagarro (Corry shearwater), a campaign that saves thousands of sea-birds every year and endemic plants plantations in the natural areas. Recycling is done in all areas of the Natural Park.
Specific/measurable results, benefits  The number of tourists in Faial is relatively stable from 2010 to 2012 being 39,126 at this year, but numbers for the first semester of 2013 show that total number of visitors raised by 13%, compared to the same period of 2012. Also, nights per visitor in Faial tend to raise, being 2,6 in 2012. International visitors tend to increase replacing the traditional Portuguese visitor. In 2010, foreign visitors were 14,674, in 2011 the number raised to 16,847 and in 2012 the number reached 18,817 which shows a good evolution on the international marketing of the destination. This numbers show well that the common efforts developed by authorities and entities, with a relevant place for the Natural Park of Faial, have given results not only in the total foreign visitors but also in the time they spend in Faial, leaving added value in revenues from tourism activities. Local service providers related to tourism are increasing and show financial stability even with crises. The number of visits to the centres managed by the natural park are stably increasing, reaching 32,000 entries in 2012 and increasing by 10% in 2013. Inquiries show very good results and excellent satisfaction among visitors. Sustainable practices among accommodation providers are increasing as well showed by the green lodgings award Miosótis Azores, developed by the Regional Government. Sustainable management of natural sites where actions of limiting the human presence in certain areas like Caldeira Natural Reserve (a Ramsar, Habitat and Bird Directive and Natura 2000 area) and bird nesting areas like in Capelinhos volcano have produce good impacts on the sites conservation. The Code of Conduct in Natural Areas, implemented by the Natural Park is showing good results. What was first a controversial measure to remove all garbage containers from natural inaccessible areas, which were a source of problems from wind spreading to animal use of garbage, as shown to be an efficient measure to reduce waste in natural areas and to implement a responsible waste management on visitors. Investment in the Natural Park structure has given the opportunity to develop a proper and effective nature conservation program, specially implemented by the Botanic Garden of Faial, by "in situ" (in the place where species and habitats occur) and "ex situ" (out side the natural areas"). In situ conservation led to interventions in protected areas by controlling invader plant species and threatened species population’s reinforcement. Ex situ actions are developed in the Regional Seed Bank, hosted in the Botanic Garden and the nursery, where rare species are propagated. The extensive educational programs developed by the Natural Park of Faial with local schools and general public is raising awareness between the population and showing good results in nature conservation. In 2012, 1,000 school children attended oriented workshops and sessions in Faial Botanic Garden and Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre.
Recognitions (e.g. awards)  Due to natural significance and rarity of habitats and species existing in Faial, natural areas have been classified under EU Directives and International Conventions: - 13 protected areas under International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification; - Natura 2000 Network: 4 Special Areas for Conservation, 1 Special Area for Protection;- 1 RAMSAR Convention (Humid Areas) site; - 6 Important Bird Areas in Faial both terrestrial and marine 2007 - National Geographic Traveler magazine recognized the Azores as the second best islands in the world for sustainable tourism; 2008 - Lonely Planet editors classified the Azores as one of the worlds best destinations; 2010 - The Forbes magazine distinguished the Azores as “One of the world’s most unique travel destinations”. 2010 - Quality Coast Award 2010 – The Sunday Telegraph: one of the world’s best destinations for cetacean observation; 2011 - National Geographic Traveler: one of the world’s best destinations for 2011; 2011 – Natural Park of Faial was distinguished by the Portuguese Board of Tourism as winner and Portuguese representant in the EDEN – European Destinations of Excellence; 2011 - Natural Park of Faial was awarded by the European Commission as the first EDEN – European Destinations of Excellence, in Portugal; - The Capelinhos Volcano Interpretation Centre (CVIC) was selected as one of the 150 best European projects as a success case of European investment which was highlighted in the magazine “Investing in our Regions – 150 examples of projects co-funded by European regional policy” in 2010; - CVIC was the only Portuguese representative in the Regio Stars Awards 2011, winning the first prize in the category; - CVIC was 2009 nominee for the architecture prize Mies van der Rohe; - CVIC was finalist in the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) 2011; - Faial Botanic Garden was awarded a Honorius mention in the 2011 edition of the Portuguese Tourism Board Awards in the category: Requalification of Public Project; - Quality Coast Gold Award 2012-13; - European and Global Geopark 2013; - Faial Natural Park: Honorius mention in the National Landscape Prize 2013 with the Capelinhos Volcano Project.
Lessons learned  Investment in people, education, qualified work creation and team building, from the field worker to management positions is the most rewarding. Also the commitment to nature and heritage conservation and collective memory preservation as the main goal to achieve in every action is critical for success. Only by respecting this we can contribute to a solid, stable and quality touristic offer. Organizing and concentrating disperse services and structures in one main organization were, in terms of touristic offer, absolutely essential to contribute to a rewarding experience to the visitor. The more embracing but yet simple way the information is provided to a visitor is vital, not only when arriving to Faial but also when preparing the journey. Further steps should be taken in order to have all this information available when a traveler is deciding the destination to visit in the next vacation. Constant evaluation in order to quantify economic, social and natural impact should be implemented further and can be used as cornerstone in order to show benefits/results and influence decision makers as well as public awareness/recognition.
Challenges met  The Natural Park of Faial served as a model towards the development of the Azores. Being the first of its kind in the region, a specific legislative frame was developed and served as a model for each of the 8 other natural parks that were created in the Azores since then, as each island has a Natural Park. This structure is also the fundamental piece for the Regional Strategy for Nature Conservation as each Natural Park encloses natural areas, resources and infrastructures to implement the strategy. 
Critical success factors  The development model adopted serves as a reference: by concentrating the environmental public services and infrastructures in one entity, unifying what was before spliced through a number of different entities, gave the park the possibility to undergo a strategy of integrated management, oriented to results. This success model has been adopted in other Azorean islands.
6. MORE 
web-references, documents