By Julia Vera
Partner & Managing Director

Back from Porto! WAOH!'s first International Stakeholder Workshop

The “WILDSEA Atlantic Ocean Heritage (WAOH!) Route” Project successfully celebrated its first International Stakeholder Workshop in Porto (Portugal) last November 14th and 15th, 2018. The Workshop brought together 30 stakeholders - public administrations, diving centres, marine ecotourism operators and NGOs from the “WAOH! Route” founding destinations (PortimaoSesimbra & Cascais in Portugal; Galicia in Spain; Cornwall in the UK; and Donegal in Ireland).  

The main objective of the International Stakeholder Workshop was to lay the foundations for the “WAOH! Route”, working with key stakeholders of the Route’s destinations to:

  1. Gather local knowledge and input towards building a shared, transnational identity for the Route.
  2. Discussing key success factors to consider when developing the Route’s transnational tourism products.
  3. Identifying the needs and challenges of diving centres, sea kayaking companies, whale watching operators and other marine tourism operators and destination management organizations to transition towards marine ecotourism.
  4. Providing networking opportunities for local stakeholders from different destinations to meet and engage with each other, setting up a sound framework for collaboration along the Route.

The Workshop built upon extensive input and feedback on the “WAOH! Route” Project gathered between February-September 2018 from local stakeholders through local consultations carried out in the Route’s destinations, using the previous work to set-up the working methodology and structure discussions, departing from all previous contributions.

During the Workshop, representatives of the WAOH! Route destinations signed the “WAOH! Route!” Pledge to Sustainability, which is intended to inspire and provide guidance to local stakeholders from the Route destinations to advance sustainable tourism through specific actions, as well as bringing new destinations into the Route in the future that share the Route’s vision of opportunity regarding the development of marine ecotourism in Europe.

The unique Atlantic maritime heritage & traditions, its rich geological and ecological diversity and the hospitality of Atlantic coastal communities' people were some of the features identified as core, shared values across all the destinations along the Route.

Participants were also asked to share the reasons why they wanted to be part of the WAOH! Route and to give an indication of the benefits/return they expected to be able to get from their engagement in the Route. While an increase in tourism and business where amongst the possible responses that could be anticipated, many participants highlighted other motivations to engage in the Route that speak about the Route’s potential role in providing leadership and knowledge exchange opportunities to improve the environmental & social sustainability of tourism across the Route destinations.

The results of the Workshop will feed the development of new, transnational diving & marine ecotourism products and the Route’s marketing plan, as well as guiding the content of the knowledge exchange sessions that will be held in the framework of the Project in Portimao & Lisbon (Portugal), Galicia (Spain), Cornwall (UK) and Donegal (Ireland) in Spring 2019.