New Training Contexts for Geoeducation and Tourism: Action and Education Strategies in the Qualification of Estrela Geopark Communities in Portugal

New Training Contexts for Geoeducation and Tourism: Action and Education Strategies in the Qualification of Estrela Geopark Communities in Portugal

Gonçalo Poeta Fernandes (Instituto Politécnico da Guarda, Portugal & CiTUR, Portugal), Emanuel Castro (Associação Geopark Estrela (AGE), Portugal), Hugo Gomes (Associação Geopark Estrela (AGE), Portugal) and Magda Fernandes (Associação Geopark Estrela (AGE), Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4318-4.ch016
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The development of non-formal educational strategies and the promotion of territory Serra da Estrela as a didactic resource constitute, at present, a stimulating action model for learning and qualification of human resources, promoting knowledge, and developing competence of value for sustainability. Knowledge of endogenous resources, heritage, and lifestyles enables the development of tourism initiatives to be promoted, recognizing its strategic value (economic and social) and spreading good protection practices. The Estrela Geopark, through the development of educational programs, aims to stimulate contact with the geoheritage of the Serra da Estrela territory in an outdoor learning approach, educating and sensitizing students from different cycles to the importance of geoconservation, heritage enhancement, and sustainability of tourism. In this context, the compression of history, evolution of the Earth and life, in the context of a natural mountain laboratory is promoted, providing knowledge and attitudes for the conservation of heritage and the valorization of the territory.
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The relationship between tourism and the territory is symbiotic in that the resources of the territory can be transformed or become tourist attractions (Buhalis, 2010; Cunha, 2006). It should be noted that tourism practices and products to be developed and promoted in the current context will have to be increasingly supported by the difference, authenticity, culture, and values associated with the natural elements that make up the regions and cultural resources that host this tourism (Buhalis & Amaranggana, 2015; Fernandes, 2015). At the same time the community must know and value the resources for tourism demand and practice. Training actions should be promoted to foster their conservation and support qualified tourism products and associated services. Training and promotion of geosciences is a fundamental sustainable strategy for the areas of great heritage value and the basis for enhancement as spaces for geo-education and tourism.

Estrela Geopark comprises a geographically defined territory, with well-known geological and geomorphological resources associated with its own ecosystems and ways of life. The diversity of glacial vestiges, the wealth of its heritage, and the character of its landscape make a unique geography out of the Serra da Estrela, whose structured approach allows the creation of a strong brand with touristic, patrimonial, and cultural potential (Castro et al., 2017; Gomes et al, 2017). Heritage and landscape bring to this territory an eco-cultural dimension of great relevance that constitutes a living laboratory in which the resources, the ways of life of the population, and the biological and geological diversity blend into cultural landscapes. In this context, its classification as a UNESCO Global Geopark recognizes its heritage relevance and the existence of territorial valorisation strategies that enhance geoconservation, the well-being of communities, education, and tourism.

A geopark is a well-defined territory, with a relevant geological heritage, linked to a whole strategy of sustainable development that has its main pillars in geoconservation, education for sustainable development, and tourism. Geoparks as an innovation for the protection of natural and geological heritage play an important role in the development of geotourism and knowledge exchange. The global network of geoparks (GGN) states that a geopark should also enhance, promote, and preserve biodiversity, cultural heritage, scientific research, crafts, and gastronomy, among other aspects, and should seek to improve the population’s living conditions, promoting in an integrated manner endogenous values and their tourist appropriation (Stueve et al., 2002).

Geo-education and geotourism have gained relevance in the projects of tourism development, above all in low-density territories; education is the basis of geotourism and a pillar for heritage sustainability and their local communities. Tourism is learning according to the didactic interpretation tools that are being offered. In this context, strategies, educational programmes, and pedagogical paths were developed that address tourism issues, with a view to promoting education for its sustainable development, in space and time. The educational programmes aim to empower communities in the areas of citizen science of knowledge, sensitivity and attitudes for the preservation and enhancement of ecocultural resources, and sustainable tourism practices, given the fragility that many of the resources present. In this context, pedagogical paths and programmes have been structured for the different levels of education, which aim to stimulate curiosity and interest in the geosciences, contributing to the conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage of Estrela.

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