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Modeling Nature-Based and Cultural Recreation Preferences in Mediterranean Regions as Opportunities for Smart Tourism and Diversification

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posted on 2023-09-20, 20:10 authored by André Samora-Arvela, Jorge Ferreira, Eric de Noronha VazEric de Noronha Vaz, Thomas PanagopoulosThomas Panagopoulos

The tourism and recreational offer of Mediterranean destinations involves, essentially, the promotion of mass tourism, based on the appeal of the sun and beach, and the quality of its coastal assets. Alongside the impacts of climate change, poor tourism diversification represents a threat to the resilience of the territory. Thus, heterogenization of noncoastal tourism products presents an opportunity to strengthen regional resilience to present and future challenges, hence the need to study, comparatively, the complementary preferences of tourists and residents of these regions in order to unveil their willingness to diversify their recreational experience, not only in coastal spaces, but also—and especially—in interior territories with low urban density. Consequently, this strategic option may represent a way of strengthening resilience and sustainability through diversification. In this context, a survey was conducted among 400 beach tourists and 400 residents of a case study—namely, three municipalities of the Algarve region in southern Portugal—in order to analyze their degree of preference for activities besides the sun and beach, such as nature-based and cultural tourism activities, and to probe the enhancement potential of each tourism and recreational activity through the various landscape units considered by experts, stakeholders, and tour operators. The respective degree of preference and enhancement potential were indexed to the area of each landscape unit. Subsequently, respecting the existing recreational structure and constraints, a suitability map for territory enhancement and the implementation of smart tourism practices for each tourism activity and landscape unit is presented. Results show a significant preference for noncoastal outdoor recreational activities.

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