The Azores’ and Istria’s Green Tourism

Azores (Portugal) and Istria Region (Slovenia) are totally different environments, but have a lot in common in the field of rural and landscape area and tourism development. For those who don’t know, Azores are a Portuguese archipelago located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about two hours by plane from the Portuguese coast, recently winners of green and sustainable tourism awards all over the world.

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What do Azores and Istria Region have in common?

  • Isolation
  • Passive and conservative community
  • Big % of green area
  • Difficult/expensive access by public transports
  • Decrease in the number of youth (gone to study or to work and usually don’t come back)

Why are Azores considered one of the best green tourism destinations in the world, with a score of 8.9 in GSTR?

  • Best combination between green tourism policy, nature, environment, society, culture and green economy:
  1. Renewable energy – geothermal and wind
  2. Only 5% of all the islands are urbanized and the number of protected and UNESCO areas is rising
  3. The main industries work essentially with their own natural resources: agriculture, dairy farming, livestock ranching, fishing and tourism
  4. Sustainable outdoor/wildlife activities as a tourism attraction: hiking, cycling on well-regulated trails, canyoning, kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, golf, sailing/ whale and dolphin watching, swimming with dolphins and sharks, bird watching, horse riding.

One of the facts that is protecting the Azores islands and increasing the green tourism is exactly the fact that it is an isolated area and the transports are expensive for most of the people that want to visit it. Even now that it started to accept low cost airplane companies in some of the islands, most of the islands don’t have an easy access and even when it is possible to get there, there is not much available accommodation – beside some local and not many big hotels, the islands created a lot of rural accommodation places, which include houses in landscape areas, camping parks and the so-called “Pousadas da Juventude” that are a national big company with hostels all over the country that are low cost and for the youth.

This kind of accommodation helps to avoid the construction of big hotels and buildings that would completely destroy the region and the landscape, offering more sustainable and comfortable options to the visitors, for a full experience in the nature and not in a resort. It also helps to limit the number of visitors so it won’t get too crowded and ruin the experience for them.

Beside the agriculture, tourism is the most profitable activity in the region and it’s important to highlight that it only has a long-term possibility of success if it keeps going green. The fast and easy tourism that makes changes in a short period of time, including landscape changes and new buildings is also fast and easy to destroy the cultural heritage and to destroy the interest of the visitors. And why? Because this kind of “industrial” tourism is standardizing the region and not focusing on its own characteristics like a specific culture, habits, architecture, landscape, resources…



How can this situation relate to Istria Region?

Park Istra is located in a remote area at the border with Croatia, just like the Azores are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The number of inhabitants have been decreasing, since the youth are leaving to study or to find a job that fits them better and most of the people who stay here are already retired or work in the city during the day. This makes the region empty of people, inhabitants or visitors, since the inhabitants are not here anymore, the visitors can not come without a support or a local community.


Hereupon, the development of this region is especially important in the matter of avoiding desertification of a rural area, protecting the cultural heritage and perceiving the non-used resources of the countryside as an advantage and not as something negative to point at.

Since nowadays the concept of travelling and knowing new places is getting so popular and people are more and more curious about other cultures and countries, the number of people going around have increased significantly and the concern about green ways of doing it as well. Slovenia is very well known as one of the greenest European countries with 60% of non-urbanized areas, being a country that offers one of the most sustainable lifestyles not only for the locals but for the visitors as well, investing in green low-scale tourism as a source of profit. This is actually very clever for a small country to do, as getting too famous would provoke an invasion of tourists and consequently a decrease of the quality of life to the local community, an overuse of the resources and destroying the tourist potentials.

So, the resources in Istria Region should be better used in a way to improve the quality of life and revive the area again. Azores are actually a great example how it is to succeed and become one of the best destinations to go to while never forgetting to keep it small enough.

Beatriz Lourenço (EVS Volunteer – Portugal)