The Azores is the first archipelago in the world to be assessed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) with an end goal to become certified by Earth Check.
The Azores are nine volcanic islands some 900 miles from the coast of Portugal and are currently one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries.
The islands are also a popular bird-watching destination and are home to the Azores bullfinch, one of the rarest birds in Europe.
The destination has recently announced it will be the first archipelago in the world to receive the certification of ‘Sustainable tourist destination’ awarded by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), early 2019. There are currently nine certified regions, but no archipelago.
Achieving the sustainable tourist region certification means meeting a specific set of criteria. To initiate the process, on Wednesday 6 December 2017, during the ‘Azores 2017: towards sustainable tourism’ conference, a sustainability charter initiated by the government to encourage tourism stakeholders to commit to positive change has been signed by 41 private and public companies.
The conference, organised by the newly created Regional Secretary for Energy, Environment and Tourism, reiterates the importance of preserving Azores’ natural and cultural heritage while setting the goals to meet the sustainable development standards in time for the 2019 certification.
Throughout 2018, all 41 companies will regularly report on their efforts to meet the criteria directly to the Regional Secretariat for Energy, Environment and Tourism of the Regional Government of the Azores.
The event was also attended by the Secretary of State for Tourism, Ana Mendes Godinho, who dubbed the Azores as “New Zealand of Europe”. She also added: “Tourism has been embraced by the local population as a trigger for positive change. We now have to do our best to make sure the Azores become a year-round destination, valuing and supporting the tourism sector and working together with all private and public stakeholders to meet the sustainability criteria”.