PORTUGAL WELCOMED THE 1ST SuSTowns INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR by MiB

The 1st International Seminar Agenda, occupying an entire journey, was composed by different blocks, from which it should be highlighted at the opening session by the official representatives of the local authorities hosting the project pilot territories.

The 1st SuSTowns International Seminar was held in Faro, Portugal, on July 14th, being hosted by Make it Better (Association for Innovation and Social Economy) and coordinated by the University of Algarve. The event was integrated, in a same mobility, with a Transnational Partners Meeting, being this last held for the second time in a face-to-face manner after a long period of limitations imposed by the global pandemic. The mobility could gather again the partner delegates from the regions involved in the project (Portugal, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Albania, Slovenia and Greece), constituting an important milestone, and being its global agenda devoted to project management, to updates on the state of the art, to achieved and expected results, but at the same time to decisively contribute to project results dissemination. In addition to the working agendas, and during five days (12 to 16 July 2021), the hosting organisation have provided to all visiting participants a great opportunity to appreciate the regional wonders and to come again together for an energetic and productive team-building action.

The 1st International Seminar Agenda, occupying an entire journey, was composed by different blocks, from which it should be highlighted the opening session by the official representatives of the local authorities hosting the project pilot territories, namely Carlos Baía, Councilor of the Municipality of Faro, João Português, Mayor of the Municipality of Cuba, Henrique Graça, Tourism Responsible of the Municipality of Lagos, among other municipal delegates. In their welcoming and introductory words it came clear the common challenges being tackled at each municipal level regarding the necessary efforts that need to be endeavored  to concretely install a culture of sustainability and respect for the local natural and cultural resources, but as well the pertinence of the SuSTowns initiative as a trigger for a more wide and participatory approach when it comes to the design and development a more stable and effective tourism local governance system and of sustainable tourist packages.

The welcoming session was followed by an introduction to SuSTowns, overviewing and contextualizing the project before an audience of stakeholders and interested parties from the Algarve and Alentejo regions, but as well from many other regions of the country and of Europe, present in the conference auditorium or following the event through online streaming.

José Nunes, on behalf of Make it Better (entity responsible for the pilot territories of Cuba, Alentejo, and Culatra Island, Algarve), and Francesco Filippi, on behalf of MUSOL Foundation and coordinator of the testing phase of the project, could go around the main topics that outline the project, revisiting the objectives, the activities, its outcomes and expected results, and the methodology tested in 19 pilot towns and now being disseminated.

It also should be highlighted the important participation of Luis Araújo, the president of the National Tourism Authority (Turismo de Portugal, IP), who have presented the brand-new national strategy and plan for sustainable tourism, underlining the measures envisioned to support and accelerate the tourism of the future, more responsible, resilient, green and digital, while engaging all stakeholders in changing attitude.

The regional strategies for sustainable tourism were subject to special attention, complementing the national strategies previously presented by the national authority. Representatives of the Regional Tourism Authorities from Alentejo and Algarve were invited to make part. Susana Miguel, from the Algarve Tourism Board, had the opportunity to showcase the pillars and objectives pursued by this entity in terms of sustainable tourism development and in the general achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, underlining some of the best practices, projects and achievements of the region.

Josep Rodríguez, coordinator of the Interreg Med Horizontal project - the MED Sustainable Tourism Community -, went through a brief characterization of the growth of the tourism flows in the southern and Mediterranean Europe, introducing the challenges and the intervention plans resulting from the large set of projects being funded by Interreg MED Programme concerning Sustainable Tourism. A list of relevant outputs and tools, produced by these projects, can be found available on the internet (https://sustainable-tourism.interreg-med.eu/).

The 1st International Seminar of the SuSTowns project – Enhancing Sustainable Tourism Attraction in Small Fascinating MED Towns, constituted itself indeed a very important milestone for the partnership. It was the first large scale event held in the frame of the project and it gave a great opportunity to the pilot territories representatives and to the working teams engaged in the testing of the SuSTowns Methodology to present the challenges and experiences, the learnings and results achieved all over the European MED participating regions. In order to share such, the seminar room gave stage to the municipalities of Cres – Croatia; Bohinj – Slovenia; Volvi – Greece; Ses Salines – Spain; Griegos – Spain; Città Sant'angelo – Italy; Subiaco – Italy; Lagos (Algarve, Portugal); Faro – Culatra Island (Algarve, Portugal), and; Cuba (Alentejo, Portugal).

Ten out of nineteen SuSTowns pilot experiences and case studies were presented in the frame of this fisrt international seminar. The remaining nine experiences not presented at this stage, will have the opportunity to go on stage and be the focus of the second international seminar to be held in Greece.

In the Portuguese context, the event was prepared and inserted in a comprehensive wider program offered to local, regional and national levels, aggregating all the activities predicted under the transferring phase of the project. The program, entitled as Programme for Transferring SuSTowns Best-Practices, was then composed, besides this 1st International Seminar, by three other activities dedicated to a larger target audience: a National Seminar participated by more than 120 stakeholders all over Portugal; The Flash-MASTER on Sustainable Tourism, a set of training actions in the different topics addressed by the SuSTowns methodology and main outputs/deliverables, and; the Advisory Services offered at regional level to support third-party local authorities in the transferring of the project results, deliverables, and outputs.