Torres Vedras, 18 May 2012. – The Azores islands are Europe’s most sustainable coastal holiday destination. Regional government representatives were presented the QualityCoast Gold Award by the President of the QualityCoast Jury, prof. Francisco Taveira Pinto, at a sustainable tourism events in Torres Vedras, Portugal. At this event the QualityCoast Top 100 was revealed: the hundred European holiday destinations that best maintained their local identity, their natural and cultural heritage, their scenic beauty, and a clean environment. After the Azores, Ierapetra (Crete) received the Award for the 2nd place, and the islands of Gozo & Comino (Malta) the 3rd.
QualityCoast is a programme of the European Coastal & Marine Union – EUCC, supported by the European Union. The QualityCoast Top 100 is the result of extensive research and a rigourous assessment of nearly 1000 coastal and island destinations. 120 Indicators have been used to evaluate them. One of these is the number of Blue Flag beaches; another is the number of ‘green accommodations’ (Green Key or Travelife) in the destination.
A number of tour operators (e.g. those connected to TUI, the Netherlands) will pay special attention to the QualityCoast destinations in their holiday brochures and in the selection of their vacation destinations.
The Azores and sustainability
The Azores are an excellent example of a region developing tourism on the basis of its own local identity and the local products of the islands, that also provide an amazing scenic beauty, wildlife, and a clean environment. The region gives high priority to environmental conservation of the islands and the sea surrounding them, to its architectonic patrimony, its traditions and cultural heritage. It does not allow tourism to spoil these values.
The Azores have grown their own food and drink for a long time. The Azores has profited from local and regional product brands, especially wine, cheese, fruits (passion fruit), tea and tuna. Azores tuna is captured with traditional poles and lines, in a dolphin friendly manner; it is among the most sustainable canned tuna in the world market. Its tourism policy has been beneficial to the local economy. The region has managed to turn the economic drawback due to the international ban on commercial whaling into an opportunity by developing whale watching. A high unemployment, some twenty years ago, has changed into the lowest unemployment among Portuguese regions.
The Azores regional authority aims at exploring and optimizing renewable energy, in particular wind, geothermic and biomass. Currently 28% of the energy originates from renewable resources, targeted at 75% in 2018.