Rural Tourism

Integrating the Agro-food sector into the value chain of the Tourism Industry in the Algarve region (Negra Mole grape). 

The Algarve region is one of the most important regions in Portugal for tourism and even if we depend on our beautiful beaches, 360 days of sunshine and an emphasis on families, we need to highlight that we should integrate the agro-food sector (particularly enhancing the Negra Mole grape), into the value chain of the tourism industry in the Algarve region due to significant reasons. The Algarve, known for its beautiful beaches, amazing climate, and rich cultural heritage, is a popular tourist destination. By linking the agro-food (Negra Mole) sector with tourism, the region can enhance its overall tourism experience and create a more sustainable and immersive destination for visitors aligning the inland Algarve with the littoral area.  Our region despite not being one of the main wine-producing regions, has been modernising and gaining some production scale, already being the focus of interest for national companies such as Casa Santos Lima and Aveleda, in the Algarve, there are approximately 15 producers of the Negra Mole variety  (source Viticulture Commission Algarve.  These include:  João Clara Vineyard, José Manuel Cabrita, Paxá Wines, Morgado Quintão, Arvad, Aveleda, Villa Alvor, CSL, Quinta dos Santos, ÚNICA, Herdade Barranco do Vale, Agrolares, Quinta da Penina, and Malaca. The biggest producers in the Algarve are Aveleda, Quinta Barranco Longo, Quinta dos Vales, Quinta da Penina, Quinta da Tor, Arvad, Cabrita, Paxá and Convento Paraíso.   It is relevant to mention that according to CVA and IVV (2017), in 2010 there were 16 certified producers in the Algarve and seven years later there were 34.  This clearly demonstrates the professionalisation of the sector and having more than 175 wine brands, with 76.5% of the Algarve production being consumed in the regional market and 8, 5% national and the remaining 15% export, reveals that there is still a long way to go for Algarve wines to gain international notoriety and scale it to a quality wine touristic destination, but the work being done is on the right path. 

The characteristics of the Negra Mole variety in the Algarve are recognised for its ability to adapt to the hot and dry climate of the region, where the terrain is characterised by sandy soils and maritime influences.  These conditions allowed to shape the distinct characteristics of the grape and influenced the production of unique wines and with a lighter and more international profile. Despite the enormous challenges it has overcome over the decades, Negra Mole has enormous historical and cultural value in the Algarve, currently enabling it to have 15 reference producers in the Algarve with enormous quality. In terms of statistics the so-called Tourism in rural areas (TER/TH), according to consolidated data from TravelBI by Turismo de Portugal (2022) the Algarve in terms of overnight stays in 2022 vs. 2019 had an increase of 56.1% and 2022 vs. 2021 (+56.1%), representing 286,000 overnight stays.  This is a relatively low number but we observe that there is a new type of demand for differentiated products in rural areas that can offer unique experiences.  This new dynamic in 2022 generated approximately 21 .5 million euros in global income, and was the highest revpar (revenue per available room) in the Algarve compared to other accommodation offers (68.2EUR vs. 66.30EUR for conventional hotels). As Negra Mole is an indigenous grape variety in the Algarve, it is like an ex-libris of the region, as is the Alvarinho variety in Minho, and thus the integration of the primary sector (agro-food) in the main tourism region of Portugal is to be praised (Algarve). 

Here are 5 key topics/reasons why integrating agro-food into the value chain of the touristic sector in the Algarve is crucial: 

Culinary and Wine Tourism: Food and Wine are an essential part of any travel experience, and culinary and wine tourism has gained immense popularity worldwide. By integrating the agro-food sector, the Algarve can highlight its unique local cuisine and wines, traditional dishes, and farm-to-table practices aligning its sustainable production of Negra Mole. This integration can attract food and wine enthusiasts, who seek authentic culinary and wine experiences and are interested in exploring local flavours and food traditions. 

Sustainable Practices: The integration of the agro-food sector allows the tourism industry to promote sustainable practices. The Algarve has a strong agricultural heritage and a diverse range of agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wine, and seafood. By incorporating these local products into the tourism value chain, the region can support sustainable agriculture and minimise the carbon footprint associated with food consumption in the tourism sector. 

Economic Development: Integrating the agro-food sector with tourism can stimulate economic development and create new business opportunities. It encourages collaboration between farmers, food producers, restaurateurs, and hospitality providers, fostering a network of local businesses. This integration promotes economic diversification, job creation, and increased revenue streams, benefiting both the agro-food and tourism sectors. 

Authentic Experiences: Visitors are increasingly seeking authentic and immersive experiences when travelling. By integrating the agro-food sector, the Algarve can offer tourists a chance to engage in activities such as farm tours, agricultural workshops, wine tastings, and traditional food preparation. These experiences provide insights into local traditions, cultural practices, and sustainable farming techniques, enhancing the overall tourism experience and encouraging longer stays in the region. 

Strengthening Local Identity: The integration of the agro-food sector in the tourism value chain helps preserve and promote the Algarve’s local identity. It highlights the region’s unique agricultural practices, traditional recipes, and cultural heritage associated with food production. By showcasing these aspects, the Algarve can differentiate itself from other touristic destinations, attract a niche market interested in sustainable and local experiences, and foster a sense of pride among local communities. 

To conclude, to effectively integrate the agro-food sector into the tourism value chain, collaboration and cooperation among various stakeholders are essential (Private and Public). This includes cooperation between farmers, food producers, hospitality providers, tour operators, and local authorities. By working together, they can create synergies, develop sustainable supply chains, and ensure the preservation and promotion of the Algarve’s agro-food heritage.  This will contribute to a more vibrant and sustainable tourism industry, focusing on the Negra Mole as a case study to be replicated across the Algarve. The path is being done by several stakeholders in the Algarve.  We just need to focus our goals on a new quality galaxy, meaning that we should find the best strategy to increase our brand awareness in the world, and change the status quo to a more sustainable economy integrating different sectors in the Algarve to mitigate seasonality. Above all as an Algarvean we should be proud of our region and products and innovate in terms of design, marketing & communications in Europe and the World. The wheel is already invented, we just need to create a different economic cluster in the Algarve as demonstrated in other regions of countries Italy and Spain.

The Algarve is indeed one of the best areas in the world with enormous opportunities to develop and integrate different sectors in the value chain of tourism. We just need to align the economy and politics of the region to boost these opportunities.