Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism
Rita Marques, photographed when she was Secretary of State for Tourism Photo: JOÃO RELVAS/LUSA

Portugal “should be ‘sold’ as most sustainable country in world”

Tourism secretary seeks to increase revenue from sector

Tourism secretary Rita Marques has made a valiant effort at increasing positive soundbites today by suggesting Portugal should be marketed as “the most sustainable country in the world”.

“This is what we want”, she said during an event in Vouzela – just at the same time when government colleague Duarte Cordeiro was in another part of the country explaining the obstacles in getting there.

“Portugal is one of the (European) countries that will be most affected by climate change”, he said in his capacity as minister of the environment.

To face up to this, “the whole coast needs permanent interventions – a persistent and vigilant replenishing of beaches (to make up for sand washed away by rising sea levels); repositioning of dunar systems (again because of sand lost); maintenance of coastal defence structures and the dredging of coastal breakwaters/ dune systems)”.

In other words, Portugal may well be able to be sold as the most sustainable country in the world, but for this to happen a huge amount of work, investment and vigilance will be necessary.

Rita Marques admitted a joint effort” is needed “at various levels – namely economic, environmental and social, to obtain certifications of sustainable tourism”.

But she believes that if this is done, the country could be on track to touristic revenue in 2027 of €28 billion. “It is a very tangible target”, she told her audience.

Right now, in the central region, there are around 140 companies (mainly holiday lets and ‘touristic animation’) with, or in the process of achieving, coveted UNESCO Biosphere accreditation.

“Tourism cannot simply be marketed because Portugal has extraordinary assets: idyllic landscapes, a wonderful sea and genuinely delicious gastronomy”, said Marques. “We have to work towards a different perspective and professionalise this work, orienting it towards major trends (…) Today sustainability is something viewed positively by clients”, she stressed.

While climate change is not. This is where Duarte Cordeiro’s ‘persistence and vigilance’ will have to come in.

The minister was in Vila do Conde for the signing of an €800,000 protocol for interventions to “protect the system of dunes between Mindelo and Ribeiro de Silvares”.

He described other interventions along the nation’s coastline involving €143 million and “large volumes of sand”.

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