Tourism in Azores is growing fast. In order to take advantage of this trend, an island project is exploring ways to make of the senior’s stays in the archipelago a truly inclusive experience. Among the targets of TU-SÉNIOR 55+, which runs until 2019, is the creation of a touristic program.
The obstacles for the senior tourist can be found on all corners, whether in or out of doors, and we are not just talking of physical difficulties. "The greatest challenges", according to Teresa Medeiros, researcher responsible for the project, coordinated by Gaspar Frutuoso Foundation, are related to the need for "greater differentiation and functional specification of the offer".
The researcher points out the "reduction of architectural or spatial barriers" as one of the greatest challenges, for example in "adapted transportation", but also refers to the need to strengthen the autonomous region's supply using compatible food "for groups of people who require, for example, macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan gastronomy and also a food supply with very low salt, or without sugar, or suitable for those with gluten problems”.
But there is more, of course. In addition to ensuring the adjustment of supply to the most specific needs of the senior tourist, there is still a broad set of structural changes to operate. According to the researcher, they add the "imperative need to regulate tourism in a logic of sustainability and preservation of natural ecosystems, organization and activities of tourism animation," the improvement and "increase of signage in the islands," the increase in the supply of cultural information and even the restoration menus translation into several languages. The enlargement of fonts and the provision of simplified information are other of the main challenges listed by Teresa Medeiros for the Azores region.
For the researcher, tourism today is "an essential component of Western modernity", an "elemental form of being in contemporaneity". The need to ensure the participation appears. Azores wants to position at the forefront of inclusion, taking advantage of the fact that it leads the growth of tourism in Portugal. Data from the National Statistical Institute (INE) shows that overnight stays in the archipelago increased by 18.6% over the same period last year.
Currently, the project is a way of listening to the concerns, wishes and needs of visitors over 55 years of age, but also of decision makers, agents and tourist promoters. A number of people and economic agents will be heard in the islands of São Miguel, Terceira, Faial, but also in Lisbon, on the east coast of the United States and in the city of Toronto, Canada.
The end of the project, due on 2019, should culminate in the organization of a congress aimed at promoting the results achieved.
After that, sustainable solutions should be implemented, resulting in an experience that meets the "needs, motivations and interests" of each visitor and does not put any obstacles to the full enjoyment of tourist resources in Azores.