Project "Lousã, Accessible Tourism Destination"
Strategically located in the central region of Portugal, Lousã is an area whose unspoilt natural beauty is represented best by the landscapes of the Serra da Lousã.
Such characteristics mean that Lousã is a favoured destination within Portugal for Nature Tourism, Rural Tourism and Active Tourism. It also has pride of place within the local Rede das Aldeias do Xisto (‘mountain slate villages’).
Lousã is also known for the rich cultural and architectural heritage of its heraldic mansions, the authenticity of its traditional mountain produce, and the refined quality of its touristic services.
In April 2007 the town hosted the first Access Tourism National Congress, which provided a way of linking the local potential for tourism with the notable work carried out in recent years by local bodies in the fields of rehabilitation and social inclusion. Such work is highlighted by the creation in 2004 of a council-funded body for people with disabilities, the Provedoria Municipal das Pessoas com Incapacidade da Lousã
As a result of this conference, Lousã civil society organized a task-force to plan for the development of Lousã as the first Accessible Tourism Destination in Portugal, a project which can then be copied both nationally and internationally.
The project “Lousã, Accessible Tourism Destination” now has the political backing of the local town council, and accessibility is recognised as an issue of relevance to all areas of local life. In this way a systematic approach to accessible tourism is being developed which calls for the active involvement of all local bodies.
This demanding and ambitious stance aims to promote improvements in the quality of life both for the people of Lousã and for its visitors. At the same it aims to encourage the emergence of economic opportunities based on everyone being able to exercise their right to enjoy leisure activities.
The business model thus defined rests upon a programme of action aimed at promoting accessibility in the areas of tourism development (accommodation, hospitality, and cultural events), social support (health and safety services, technical and human support), and regional development (improving accessiblity at the main local tourist attractions, providing access facilities, and developing new forms of adapted means of transport).
This project also involves a technical advisory body which is based on the concept of the ‘Accessible Lousã’ Mission Structure. This team is directly responsible for the management of the project ‘Lousã, Accessible Tourism Destination.’
To fulfil the stated objectives, the Mission Structure will work with a group of national and international experts with experience at relating tourism with accessibility.
Insitutionally, this initiative is sponsored by national bodies such as Gabinete da Secretária de Estado Adjunta e da Reabilitação,Instituto Nacional para a Reabilitação,Turismo de Portugal, I.P, and, internationally, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT).
At a regional level, bodies involved in this project include Direcção Regional de Economia do Centro, Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Centro and Entidade Regional de Turismo do Centro.
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