Demand of the tourists visiting protected areas in small oceanic islands: the Azores case-study (Portugal)
In general, tourism plays a significant role in the economy of archipelagos and islands. The Autonomous Region of the Azores has a great potential for tourism, offering multiple attractions, both natural and cultural, creating a big challenge for a sustainable tourism policy since little attention has been paid to the archipelagos and their special needs. This work aims to understand the profile and type of ecotourist that visits the Azores. This knowledge is of great importance for a better management and development of nature-based tourism, and products tailored to the needs and expectations of visitors. The data were collected by means of exit surveys conducted at the Airport of São Miguel Island, the larger and most populated island of the archipelago, during the high tourist season—July–September 2009. The analysis of the visitor’s profile and preferences is crucial to draw adequate strategies of management for tourism, while it helps to adequate the offer to the demand. Results showed that 41.1 % of the tourists claimed to be attracted to the islands due to their “natural values” (e.g., landscape, biodiversity, and geodiversity). The most practiced activities were whale-watching (32.4 %) and mountaineering/hiking (31.6 %), followed by diving (7 %) and other sports (5.1 %). The tourists’ profile points to a mainstream, soft, and incidental type of ecotourist. This information helps to develop and support a strategic planning and management, both at local and regional levels, for sustainable tourism policies.