The Municipality of Baião was certified with the Silver EarthCheck Award as a sustainable tourist destination, an internationally recognized certification validated by the international organization Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
Baião is the “greenest” municipality in the district of Porto with 68 percent of its territory covered by green areas and forest and thus becomes the first Portuguese municipality to obtain this distinction as a “Sustainable Tourist Destination”.
ANALYSIS AND IMPROVEMENT OF INDICATORS
The process concerning Baião started in 2018 and is the result of extensive work to collect and analyze information for three years, culminating in an audit carried out by the international entity “EarthCheck”, a leading Non-Governmental Organization in the area.
In the meantime, in December 2019, the municipality received the bronze medal for its benchmarking process, in an event that took place in the Azores at the time of certification of that archipelago, which became the first world archipelago certified as a Sustainable Tourist Destination.
This audit shows the county’s evolution in various environmental, economic, cultural, and social indicators and makes a comparison with other equally certified territories. The work methodology allows for alignment with what is best done worldwide, as well as the identification of good practices in terms of sustainable development in territories that wish to develop their tourist potential in an integrated and balanced way.
Several indicators were analyzed such as energy consumption, including the use of clean energy, waste treatment processes (quantity of waste sent to landfill and waste sent for recycling), water treatment, green areas, but also indicators associated with the security, economy, and culture.
A CONTINUOUS PROCESS
This certification is an ongoing process, which implies concrete improvement objectives based on a five-year Action Plan that includes a set of transversal and complementary works, actions and projects aimed at the sustainable valorization of tourist assets. The focus of the implementation of this certification is centered on a balance between 4 pillars: environmental, social, cultural, and economic, in an integrated development approach in which all the assets and actors of the territory must be mobilized for sustainable development.
Audits will be carried out every year that will allow for ever higher certification levels to be reached. It is intended to contribute to an environmentally friendly municipality in a philosophy in which cultural, environmental and landscape assets are dynamizers of the economic and social fabric, benefiting the entire community.
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY
“We are committed to making Baião a reference territory as a sustainable tourist destination. We want to be recognized as a land of good environmental practices where the economic activity of tourism is seen as a resource for people’s well-being, in respect and balance with our traditions and nature.
We don’t want to be certified just for being, but for the importance of this process. We know the tourist potential of the county. It is vital that we are an environmentally friendly municipality because this means greater well-being for the people and contributes to positioning Baião as an attractive destination for tourists looking for welcoming, safe, and environmentally sustainable places”, says the mayor, Paulo Pereira.
“The tourist profile has been changing. Today they are more aware of environmental issues and sensitized to change. In the future, either tourism is sustainable, or it will cease to exist. This is what we defend for Baião: a tourist development project, generating wealth for all, but in which there is a responsible and responsible ecological footprint for all”, adds Paulo Pereira.
EarthCheck CEO and Founder Stewart Moore said Baião joins a global movement of EarthCheck Sustainable Destinations that dare to make a difference.
“Together EarthCheck can help build Baião’s reputation as a leading sustainable destination for visitors and local communities,” Mr Moore said.
“I’d like to congratulate the entire Municipality of Baião team for their dedication to measure their impact and benchmark their performance against industry best practice.”
“Destinations around the world are recognizing the need to embrace sustainability. Only when a destination fully understands its environmental and social footprint and has community ownership can it make informed decisions on how to plan and manage its future. It is important to acknowledge that you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Mr Moore said.
SUSTAINABLE TERRITORIES ARE INCREASINGLY DEMANDED
In an international context in which climate change caused by human activity will exponentially affect human activity and in which tourism is seen as an important development tool for communities, it is important that territories with high tourist potential, such as Baião, adopt measures and concrete and responsible actions that allow a balance between tourism as a revenue generating factor, the environment, and communities.
More and more territories have advanced in this certification process all over the world, betting on quality tourism capable of attracting demanding tourists and visitors, who seek authentic experiences in places that demonstrate sustainable practices between the environment and communities.
The pandemic context we are going through has hampered this process, but in the coming years, it should register a new impetus, according to the existing action plan.
One of the objectives of the Municipality of Baião is to promote greater involvement of schools, associations, companies, and the population of the municipality in this cause, and to evolve its most emblematic events into “green events” or “environmentally responsible events” embracing the motto “Verde é o novo Destino/Green is the new Destination”.
EXAMPLES OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES DEVELOPED BY THE MUNICIPALITY OF BAIÃO
– Creation of a free Domestic Monster Collection service;
– Creation of a free service to collect demolition construction waste;
– Acquisition of forest land in strategic locations of high environmental, ecosystem and/or cultural value, which will contribute to a more resilient and orderly territory;
– Development of environmental engineering projects for the creation of footpaths along the Ovil, Teixeira and Douro rivers and other water lines;
– Replacement of the municipality’s public lighting system by a more efficient system with less CO2 emissions (LED technology);
– Carrying out reforestation actions (14,290 trees planted in the 2017-2021 term);
– Promotion of youth volunteer actions to defend the forest and environmental protection (“Patrulha Baião” project, in partnership with the IPDJ);
– Repopulation of the Ovil and Teixeira rivers with trout;
– Creation of a Municipal Network of “Oleõs”– it currently has 22;
– Expansion of the Municipal Ecopoints Network – it currently has 118 ecopoints (partnership with RESINORTE);
– Distribution of 3000 recycling bags to citizens (partnership with RESINORTE);
– Gradual renewal of the municipal car fleet with a focus on electric vehicles.