Perceived Impacts of Running Events in Protected Areas: The Case of Trans Peneda-Gerês at Peneda Gerês National Park, Portugal

Perceived Impacts of Running Events in Protected Areas: The Case of Trans Peneda-Gerês at Peneda Gerês National Park, Portugal

Goretti Silva (Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, Portugal & UNIAG, Portugal), Alexandra I. Correia (Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, Portugal & UNIAG, Portugal), Elvira Vieira (Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, Portugal & UNIAG, Portugal & Research Group of ISAG, European Business School, Portugal) and Luís André Soares (Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, Portugal & UNIAG, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2224-0.ch018


This chapter reflects upon the reality associated with running sports events in protected areas, in particular at the Peneda Gerês National Park (PNPG), with a particular focus on the Trans Peneda-Gerês (TPG), and understands its impacts within a sustainable tourism development perspective. With the diversity of landscapes and natural resources, and its characteristic villages, PNPG, as many other protected areas in Portugal, has a strong potential for Outdoor Sports/Tourism, offering some of Portugal's best running trails. As such, a considerable number of running events are currently being hosted. Based on a research process which includes both questionnaires and interviews, the authors propose to identify the profile and behavior of 2019 TPG edition's participants, and to assess local stakeholders' perception of economic, environmental, and social impacts, and to contribute to the discussion from a sustainable development perspective of the creation and management of tourism-related sports events, namely running, in protected areas.
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In an increasingly competitive global marketplace destinations need to find ways to differentiate themselves (Hudson & Ritchie, 2009). As most destinations´ attributes, as scenery, attractions, friendly people, and a unique culture and heritage, may be perceived as common by visitors, these factors may no longer be differentiators and destinations are focusing more on the tourist experience, and creating events, both culture and sport-related, to increase their recognition and appeal (Richards & Wilson, 2004; Wilson 2006).

Sport and tourism are amongst the most sought-after leisure experiences (Ritchie & Adair, 2009). Traveling due to sport-related activities and events has become increasingly popular as has been demonstrated by a growing number of studies (Gammon & Robinson, 2003; Gavrili-Alexandris & Vakalakis, 2016; Koronios & Kriemadis, 2018). Sports events are acknowledged as having an important contribution to positioning (Gibson, 1998) as well as to economic development and regeneration of host cities, regions, and countries (Getz & Fairley, 2004; Lee & Taylor, 2005; Wilson, 2006). The main economic benefit for a region derives, not only from the consumption by visitors during the sport-related event but also from increased tourism flows in the post-event period (Preuss, 2005).

However, and despite the positive impacts, it is important to keep in mind that sports events may not always be perceived as positive, particularly when taking place in natural, sensitive areas, with outstanding environmental features. In such cases, tourism flows and sports activities, as is the case of outdoor running, are also likely, to some extent, to cause negative environmental impacts. Adventure racing events are an example of sports events, which occur across a range of land tenures, including protected areas, and that may be commercially sponsored and involve hundreds of competitors and spectators. Thus, and although adventure race is becoming a well-established recreational use in many countries, the question of whether it is an appropriate activity for a particular protected area, should be considered (Newsome, 2014).

Concerns regarding the continuously increasing number of tourists visiting destinations, whether they are urban, or rural, and the unsustainable mass tourism practices (often referred to as overtourism, are growing, not only in society, expressed by the motives of “anti-tourism” movements, but also in academia (Milano et al., 2018; Seraphin, et al., 2018). A high concentration of visitors might put places at risk due to the destruction of natural and cultural resources, compromising the place sustainability (Milano et al., 2018). Furthermore, there are concerns that visitors are impacting negatively on the quality of life of locals, contributing to noise and to trash that is often left behind, for example, while the positive economic contribution to local businesses is limited. In this context, the idea of responsible tourism has gained attention in the last few years, both from scholars and practitioners. It has been highlighted that responsible tourism has the potential to create positive tourism impacts by allowing the achievement of businesses’, visitors’ and local communities’ objectives and expectations, and to, simultaneously, contribute to the protection of resources in tourism destinations (Pan et al., 2018).

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