The Valorization of the Surface Waters on the Inland Regions in Differentiated Tourism Products: The Offers of Estrela Geopark Territory (Portugal) and the Strategies of Qualifying the Destination

The Valorization of the Surface Waters on the Inland Regions in Differentiated Tourism Products: The Offers of Estrela Geopark Territory (Portugal) and the Strategies of Qualifying the Destination

Gonçalo Poeta Fernandes, Hugo Gomes
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4855-4.ch012
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The purpose of this study is to address the importance of water resources in tourism and leisure activities, to establish a framework of activities in inland waters and their meaning in the territory of the Serra da Estrela, namely within the scope of Estrela Geopark. Recognizing tourism as one of the pillars of a UNESCO world geopark, the image and brand of this destination is enhanced by the classification obtained, which drives the strengthening of partnerships; collaboration and cooperation between stackholders; the appreciation and diffusion of its heritage and culture; encouraging increased visitor numbers, consumption of goods and services, and decreasing seasonality of tourism. The attraction of its waters for tourism and leisure activities represents a resource for the strengthening of the economic activities within the region with concrete effects on trade, hotels, and local restaurants, in view of the practices involved, the natural and cultural contexts that the territory offers, and the opportunities for new activities.
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Tourism in its relationship with the territory and the transformations carried out, conveys the meaning of tourism destination, promoting that its resources become products, which are associated services and generate features for its enjoyment. Forms of ownership should be increasingly carefully and properly planned to ensure their best use and sustainability, particularly in areas of natural relevance.

The surface water resources of the inland regions (rivers, lakes, dams, canals, marshes, among others) have always been attractive to the population for the development of leisure and recreation activities, beyond those considered essential for the human presence, namely the supply water, agriculture and industry, transport and circulation. The existence of water has promoted recreational uses for the riverside communities, or for visitors, who seek in these surface leisure areas, of which bathing, sports activities, fishing, observation of natural ecosystems, among others, are important attractions to associate with tourism. Inland waters acquire increasingly important for leisure and tourism, and various activities that are associated with them and multiple users who seek them throughout the year with different interests and practices.

Local people value tourism activities supported in river environments and realize their relevance to a model of territorial promotion and well-being, fostering interventions to accommodate these activities in safety and the consequent concern for environmental preservation. It is worth mentioning that it is the quality of the waters, the heritage value of the landscape, the maintenance of the characteristics of the river ecosystems, and the own rurality that support the value of these spaces in the tourist activity. In their appropriation, social, economic and environmental interests tend to be divergent, implying the existence of principles and guidelines that promote their proper regulation, establishing limits and conditions for the uses and practices to be developed.

These spaces can take place playful, recreational activities, sports or competition, dependent on geomorphological conditions, existing riparian ecosystems, the size of the water masses and developed infrastructure. Given the environmental value of these resources and the ecosystems they represent, there is a latent fragility that requires proper management and adaptation of spaces to different uses and functions, without compromising the sustainability of ecosystems and user safety.

Taking into account the constant and growing tourism competitiveness, it is essential to open to new markets and focus on non-mass tourism products, supported on quality and differentiation, and result from the optimization of endogenous resources available at local and regional levels, associating services and territorial integration. These tourism and leisure activities supported by local water resources provide socio-economic and cultural impact, which must be valued, but at the same time monitored to ensure its sustainability.

The chapter is structured in three parts, the first corresponding to the framework of the importance of inland waters in the development of tourism and leisure activities, the second promotes an approach to the Estrela Geopark and its potential in terms of recreational and leisure activities to be promoted, given the surface water resources held. Finally, the river beaches of the Geopark territory are analyzed, their characteristics and management forms, developing a perception analysis on their importance for the development of the destination and its communities. The aim is to illustrate the importance of river resources in the promotion of tourism and to assess the recreational and sports potential that the Estrela Geopark holds and analyze the perception of the value of river beaches for local communities and the image of the destination.

The Serra da Estrela, being the largest mountain of the mainland in Portugal, originates from the main portuguese rivers along with a set of lakes and dams of relevant importance for water supply to populations and economic activities, constituting the last two decades as a bathing leisure and sports space. Thus, the forms of management, the entrepreneurial initiatives promoted, and the contributions to the local communities are perceived, in an approach of tourism value and sustainability of the inland waters and the strengthening of the demand and the identity of the destination.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Entrepreneurship: A collaborative process of developing formal and informal relationships between organizations that seek, flexibly and innovatively, to qualify for economic performance that generates wealth and social well-being.

Inland Waters: Inland waters include river ecosystems and artificial or strongly modified water bodies associated with them (dams and canals), as well as other ecosystems where the aquatic component is of permanent or temporary importance, such as tributary rivers or ponds, including its banks, which several ecological, economic and social functions.

Estrela Geopark: Estrela Geopark (integrates since 2019 the UNESCO network of global geoparks) has the mission of contributing to the protection, valorization and dynamization of the natural and cultural heritage, with special emphasis on geological heritage, to deepen and disseminate scientific knowledge, promoting tourism and sustainable development of the Serra da Estrela.

Differentiated Touristic Products: Tourist products which, due to their specificities and characteristics, depending on the resources and practices they involve, establish themselves as attractions and promoters of new markets in a given tourist destination, requiring specific guidelines for their management.

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