Tourism is one of the world’s most important socio-economic activities, presenting a great capacity to generate growth and employment. However, this sector, due to his nature and to the diversity of its components (accommodation, transport and other services) has a significant impact on the environment, with high consumption of resources (energy, water, materials) and environmental emissions.
It is, thus, vital for the tourism sector the optimization and the development of strategies, plans and projects that seek to improve the performance between environmental, social and economic components. The legislative current policies and European and national strategies already intend to favor a coordinated approach to initiatives linked to this sector and define a new policy framework to enhance their competitiveness and sustainable development.
In 2015 the Tourism 2020 Action Plan takes the 2020 tourism vision where “Portugal wants to be the destination with higher tourist growth in Europe, supported on sustainability and competitiveness of a diversified tourist offer, authentic and innovative, consolidating tourism as a central activity for the economic development of the country and its territorial cohesion”.
The operating strategy for Tourism 2020 points as guidelines – of the eleven thematic objectives – smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in order to ensure the strategic objectives – attract, compete, train and communicate.
It is clear that tourism has been adhering to the movement for search for sustainability, which has emerged as one of the greatest (if not the most) transversal trends to all disciplines and markets in recent decades. In recent years the tourism industry has already been creating environmental programs that seek to optimize their performance and provide environmentally friendly services.
The assumption of Portugal as a tourist destination of excellence and the integration of good environmental performance and search for sustainability in the activities of tourist agents and areas, allows to context and develop the concept of ‘sustainable tourism destinations’.
Sustainable Tourist Destination: a destination (zone) where there is a demand for good environmental, social and economic performance, especially in aspects that are relevant and support tourism activities. To create a destination of this kind is necessary that some services such as accommodation, restaurants, tour operators, among others, assume and implement the search for sustainability.
The destinations sustainability project of LiderA IST (CERIS) is one of the referenced projects in the 2020 Tourism projects, particularly in section III. “CAPACITAR, na Capacitação, Formação e I&D+I” in Tourism. Thus, the project is one of the initiatives included in the Tourism 2020 Action Plan.
LiderA Destinations project starts at the beginning of the year 2013 as a result of research and work carried out by Professor Manuel Pinheiro, Phd, professor of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), University of Lisbon, which in 2000 had already created the LiderA system – a auxiliary and volunteer system of support to the search for sustainability in the built environment.
LiderA system, having certified the demand for sustainability of various types of tourist facilities, is now promoting a supportive approach to promote its emergence in certain areas of tourism destinations.
Therefore it is presented a program to create, train and certify sustainable tourist destination, optimizing sound environmental practices in the tourist activities of these territories based on LiderA standards. In this context, the program foresees the involvement of different sector entities, such as tour operators, accommodation, restaurants, transport and other services, and regional (regions, municipalities and others), thus creating a network of sustainable destinations.
With official presentation in April 2014, LiderA Destinations begins his way in developing partnerships and training to improve performance and the seek for sustainability of the tourist destinations and network services that belong to it.
LiderA Destinations intends to:
- Promote the development of a sustainable, responsible and quality tourism;
- Enhance a network of services and sites with optimized and proven performance;
- Improve environmental performance and reduce costs;
- Consolidate the image and visibility of Portugal as a set of quality sustainable destinations;
- Contribute to attract and retain customers with environmental concerns.
LiderA Destinations is based on two stages.
1st stage: When the area involved and tourist services adhere to the sustainable tourist destination, they take on a contribution to the search for sustainability (through an environmental policy), demonstrating the practices they adopt and being receptive to implement improvements.
2nd stage: Depending on the implementation and performance status of each service it will be performed an analysis, assessment and classification according to LiderA classes (from G to A++). In order to integrate the network of sustainable destination the services need to obtain at least a class C, which represents a 25% improvement from the common practice of reference (class E).
More information at project webpage LiderA Destinations.