Visitors and the general community are becoming more aware of the need to protect and conserve the natural and cultural environment on which tourism is built. They are also becoming more conscious of their travel choices and seek travel experiences which connect them to special places, people and culture.
As tourism is one of the most important sectors of the economy, the Municipality of Baião has started an ambitious process of reviewing the planning and destination management practices which are currently in place and then seeking advice and support on how they can be enhanced to balance growth and development. The EarthCheck Sustainable Destinations program has been selected to help guide this process. EarthCheck provides an international benchmarking and certification program to help communities to achieve the desired outcomes of sustainable development.
According to the Mayor of Baião, Paulo Pereira "EarthCheck certification provides Baião with a framework to take ownership of sustainability goals and to build on local planning initiatives. Most importantly it also provides Baião with a competitive position as a leader in sustainable tourism”
EarthCheck is regarded as the gold standard for destination benchmarking and certification. The program helps destinations assess and monitor their environmental and social impact, while allowing sustainability to be promoted as a market asset. The EarthCheck Sustainable destinations program is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, a global organization, created with the support of various entities linked to tourism and the environment and various United Nations bodies.
The program assesses a number of environmental indicators, such as energy consumption, quality and rationalization of water consumption, waste recycling, chemical emissions and destination safety environment, commitment to the community, among others. These are subsequently compared to the global average of destinations and crossed with those who have the best practices worldwide.
In 2019, the Municipality of Baião was awarded the EarthCheck "Bronze" seal for being "Benchmarked". A new audit will take place in Baião next week. The objective of this phase will be to achieve the distinction "Silver", after verification and correction of any "non-conformities" found.
In Portugal, only the Azores archipelago has received this distinction and all over the world, regions certified as a sustainable tourist destination are in small numbers. Sustainable tourist destination certification is a process that implies continuous improvement, so destinations wishing to embrace this commitment will have to be audited annually in order to assess the evolution of their performance in all defined criteria.
The municipality is also developing an internet page dedicated to the certification process, accessible here baiaosustentavel.pt, where you can obtain information about the region's tourism resources, vision and policy adopted in the field of sustainability, description of the certification process, communication of initiatives and events related to the same themes and a space dedicated to public participation.