Nature-based tourism and green infrastructures: towards an strategic landscape approach at regional scale

Authors and Affiliations: 

Isabel Loupa Ramos, IST, University of Lisbon
Andreia Vaz, IST, University of Lisbon
José Manuel Simões, IGOT, University of Lisbon

Corresponding author: 
Isabel Loupa Ramos

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) reported 2015 as the “sixth consecutive year of above-average growth” (WTO, 2016). Tourism industry is a global endeavour and the movement of this amount of people brings major economic, environmental and social impacts. Being one of the biggest economic activities nowadays, tourism has a marked impact, especially on natural resources. Literature points out that it is urgent to develop a paradigm shift towards sustainable forms of tourism to transform this industry into a balanced business (Koncul, 2008).
In recent year the city of Lisbon has become an appreciated tourism destination. To avoid seasonality in the tourism sector the responsible authorities see today a solution in nature-based tourism in the wider Metropolitan Area of Lisbon. This metropolitan region is eventually one of the few showing indeed high potential for this type tourism as it accounts for 5 Nature 2000 sites, an UNESCO cultural landscape, an extensive Atlantic coastline and 2 major river estuaries within its limits. These and other natural assets have been captured in the green infrastructure (GI) network in place in the Regional Spatial Plan of the Metropolitan Region of Lisbon (PROTAML). There is worldwide a vast experience in GI planning at multiple scales (e.g., Roe and Mell, 2013). Still, experiences fully implementing GI in ways capable to bring out its potential are pauper, notably at regional scale.
In this paper we would like to argue that the GI network in Metropolitan Region of Lisbon could set the backbone for the development nature-based tourism if a strategic landscape approach is used. This approach shows potential to provide a territorial continuity in exploring and experiencing the landscape in its multiple dimensions, and preventing typically scattered tourism activities focusing on outstanding landscapes or landscape features only, which tend to keep it disconnected from the territory and its people.
With the purpose in mind to sustain our argument on how to envision a “win-win” situation, both for the tourism sector and to ensure the implementation of green infrastructures, we surveyed tourism resources (natural and cultural) at regional scale, as well as, existing tourism activities/initiatives in order to understand how these resources and activities spatially relate to the regional GI network. Ultimately, this analysis is presented and discussed based on interviews to local and regional stakeholders in order to assess and define priorities for action that can be further developed in local land use plans.
Despite the known impact of tourism on nature and biodiversity, notably associated with mass tourism, our results show that there might be still opportunities to focus on niche tourism in ways that fosters the sustainable implementation of green infrastructures.


Koncul, N. 2008. Environmental Issues and Tourism. Economic Thought and Practice, 2:157-165.

Roe, M. and Mell, I. 2013. Negotiating value and priorities: evaluating the demands of green infrastructure development. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 56(5): 650-673.

World Tourism Organization 2016. UNWTO Annual Report 2015. Available at:

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