In Portugal, public infrastructure and environmental decisions are typically decided by a city council. However, in the picturesque resort town of Vilamoura, an outside company handles the city’s public areas and environment. This company is known as Inframoura and they are on a mission to make Vilamoura the “eco-city of the future”.
Inframoura’s mission is to execute excellence in the areas of management, conservation, maintenance of all public areas, and environmental protection. They exist in order to improve the quality of life of Vilamoura’s residents and tourists, and consequently stimulate the city’s economic growth.
While I was in Portugal, I had the opportunity to meet with their Chair of the Board of Directors, Fatima Catarina. Fatima has a background in Geography and previously worked for the Algarve tourism board, before entering the role as Chair at Inframoura. Here’s what she had to say about sustainable tourism in the Algarve and what Inframoura is doing to pave the way for a more sustainable tourism in the Algarve, Portugal, and worldwide.
1. How has sustainable tourism positively affected the locals in the Algarve? And how has it positively affected the Algarve as a tourist destination?
Sustainable tourism has promoted its own local development, through economic growth that has led to the widespread production of regional products and created new companies.
2. Earlier this year, Portugal committed to partnering with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Some of the initiatives cited during this partnership were to promote the rehabilitations of historical buildings and routes through natural areas. Can you add how the Algarve is contributing to this partnership?
The Algarve, especially the municipality of Loulé, has a rich cultural heritage. Cultural diversity is of the utmost importance. Loulé has buildings of great architectural value (such as Loulé Castle and the Municipal Market Building) and Roman ruins in Vilamoura. It is a very rich culture. Recently, an exhibition was inaugurated at the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, totally dedicated to the culture and history of this territory, with great national impact.
Regional culture and the environment are of strategic importance. The Strategic Marketing Plan for the Algarve Tourism itself assumes culture as a strategic product for the region.
3. What are some challenges within sustainable tourism in the Algarve and Portugal?
Taking into account that, in a global world, tourists are increasingly seeking experiences based on local culture and identities, one of the challenges highlight in the Strategic Marketing Plan for Tourism in the Algarve is “to safeguard the environmental, landscape, and cultural values while preserving the natural, cultural, and territorial factors of tourism competitiveness.” Increasingly, there is respect for culture and tradition, articulated with authenticity and sustainability.
At the regional planning level, the Algarve Regional Development Plan (PROT) identifies several challenges including:
- Generating new actors of development more committed to the qualification of the economic fabric and regional structures
- Combat the unsustainability of real estate production in recent years, while still considering the role of construction in the regional economy
- Safeguarding environmental and cultural values while preserving the natural, cultural, and territorial factors of tourism competitiveness
4. Portugal is one of the most vulnerable European countries when it comes to climate change, how is the government and environmental groups addressing this issue?
Regarding this, the Municipality of Loulé developed its own adaptation strategy, as demonstrated in a recently published publication which was in line with the national strategy. This document identifies the impacts and vulnerabilities to which the municipality is exposed, as well as adaptation options.
5. What would be one tip you would give to people to be more sustainable travelers?
During your stay, avoid wasting energy with lights and don’t leave the air conditioning on when there is no need.
Deposit waste in the appropriate container: recycling plastic, glass, paper, batteries, etc.
If you are taking a pedestrian path, avoid degrading natural areas.
6. Are there any notable innovations being put forward to make the Algarve more sustainable?
In an area of 19 square kilometers, Inframoura is a public company of the municipality of Loulé that manages the entire network of public infrastructures of Vilamoura and Vila Sol. Our mission is to provide a service of excellence in the management, conservation, and maintenance of the public spaces, which guarantees high standards of living in the territory.
In Vilamoura there is a huge concern about environmental issues. Our public company, Inframoura, has an environmental campaign underway to promote education and awareness about proper disposal of waste. In 2015 and 2016, 355 LED light bulbs were replaced, which will create a 10 years’ savings estimated at 422, 000 euros and a global energy saving of almost 75%. We have the largest network of shared public bikes in the country, with 43 stations and 260 bicycles throughout the Algarve. Between 2013 and 2016 it was estimated that the bikes saved over 600, 000 kilometers of driving distance, avoiding the production of 2 tonnes of CO2.