João Gomes in an interview with Agrotejo Magazine tells us about Equestrian Tourism and the conclusions of moneris’ recent study for ANTE (National Association of Equestrian Tourism)
Equestrian Tourism in Start-Up mode
The National Association of Equestrian Tourism – ANTE – recently presented in Golegã, the Strategic Plan for Equestrian Tourism of Portugal (PETUR), which includes the characterization and Evaluation of the Competitiveness Measures of Equestrian Tourism Portuguese . At the moment, entities that are truly dedicated to this type of tourism are scarce, which does not prevent, from the few existing ones presenting a standard of service and intentions quite structured and properly grounded. However, the reality of our equestrian tourism can compare itself to a start-up, at first, full of ambition and with all the conditions to progress and become a star.
First of all, realize that this type of tourism is associated with nature and activities carried out outdoors. But it’s much more than that, it’s certainly holding enormous potential at various levels. We can divide it into two large blocks – Horse Tourism and Horse Tourism. The first when the tourist develops the practice of riding, or when the trips imply the use of the horse, for example: leisure and active tourism on horseback, specific circuits and riding courses. The second encompasses all activities related to the equestrian world, without developing by the tourist the practice of riding, such as fairs, pilgrimages, thematic exhibitions, sports equestrian events, tauromaquia, among others.
Our equestrian panorama is intimately, and always, linked to the Lusitanian horse and the old agricultural houses and studders, which were and still are, brand images of an impending agricultural Ribatejo and Alentejo and with an entity extremely rooted in customs and traditions. In addition to these regions, there are some clusters,such as Ponte de Lima, which has on the horse an exponent of identity and foundation of local and regional economic activity.
Portugal today presents ideal basic conditions for the development of equestrian tourism and its surrounding ecosystems, based on 4 autochthonous breeds, including the Lusitanian Thoroughbred horse (there are more than 300 breeders), with more than 5,000 years of history and internationally recognized, climate, gastronomy and wines, hospitality of its people, variety and diversity of landscapes, infrastructure, as well as an unparalleled historical and cultural heritage. To all this, in addition a recent preference for Portugal as a tourist destination, awarded several international awards, with prices and quality of highly competitive services.
It will not be at all wrong, to say that equestrian tourism could act as a hub of attraction for a type of tourism with above average economic capacity, which alone will already be an important source of revenue. However, but we cannot hide the fact that this type of operation can above all be used as leverage and or support to the studs and farmers who keep this activity inserted in their farm, enhancing sales of horses and also obtaining synergies that allow them to enjoy flow channels and currency entry.
Equestrian tourism has to be understood as a product anchored within and within tourism in Portugal. To this end, all entities present in the sector, and with ambition and interest in it, should internalize the idea that this plan will only succeed with concerted and united action between all of them, whether public entities, including the Local Power, or entities Private. To this end, it will be necessary to develop and enhance the offer of Equestrian Tourism as a Product and develop its Brand, thus responding to the requirements of the tourist who seeks us: identification of reference tourism, creation of a network of itineraries Equestrians duly flagged and authenticated by public guides (at this totally non-existent time), creation of an information aggregator website and exclusive to the dynamism and availability of information from the horse and rider, and on the other hand, by providing computer support, be it a Guide to good practices, itinerary signage, classification guide and certification of equestrian tourism locations and definition of an international marketing plan.
The classification and certification are in fact structuring, and will allow it to distinguish and give guarantees to tourists the quality and infrastructure they will find, which in itself is a structuring sign of the quality of the product offered and all surrounding services. But basically, the international promotion of Equestrian Tourism Portuguese together with the support of economic actors, the implementation of good international trade practices and the potential ity of existing capacities will be the basis of this strategic plan.
This will translate our forces, materializing them into increasing tourists and strengthening our economy, and may be an alternative or a lever for the traditional agricultural activity of some owners, breeders and farmers, without forgetting that this tourism is practiced mostly by ladies from northern European countries. It is imperative on the other hand, not to forget at no time our weaknesses, such as reduced international exposure, absence of a brand, poor cooperation between entities, lack of equestrian routes and itineraries and training/availability of specialized human resources.
It should also be registered that several threats hang over the sector, namely the culture focused on the horse and averse to the change to Tourism and the absence of common objectives in the different entities of the sector.
Thus, and for equestrian tourism not to be visioned as a poor relative of Tourism, it is necessary to base the bases, unite the actors and transmit to the international market a common product of high quality and guided in search of the satisfaction of the final customer. Of course, all this should be seen as a stone in the foundation of something deeper, which aims not only to create a specific tourist product, but also to implement synergies that allow breeders to enhance their agricultural and livestock businesses, making the sector the sustainability base of the economy of the regions where they are inserted.
I conclude, leaving the idea that we are facing a structuring and ambitious challenge, which is in its embryonic phase, requiring the help of all the entities involved so that their implementation is a reality, based on tradition, history and while innovating on a successful trail.