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Nº 53 – Added value

Saturday, 19 th September 2020

Let’s get this straight! Among the many items on the news agenda this week, there were two that stood out in particular. Tourism restrictions due to the pandemic are having their first positive effects on the climate.

Representatives of Porto’s Association of Coach Companies (ARP) pointed out, in a press release, that their business depends on group activities, excursions, tourist visits, coach trips and transfers to hotels and the airport. There are more than 2,000 coaches and 2,500 drivers that have been left idle over the past 180 days, and are likely to remain so. The driver’s jobs and the very survival of the companies are at risk. As many coaches were bought on hire purchase, we should also bear in mind that they may have to be repossessed. So, let’s go and ask the State for more subsidies …

Buses being repossessed? This should be something beneficial for our Mother Earth. But, as sustainability is rarely a priority concern in the tourism sector, this news hasn’t been published and hasn’t led to any solutions. It is just easier to lament. How can the Government continue to pour money into an old-fashioned sector that will cease to exist tomorrow anyway? Every bus that is standing still in these pandemic times whether because there is no demand or because its use poses a threat to public health – represents a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels and, therefore, less CO2 in the atmosphere.

The current model of tourism in Portugal is very badly designed. CO2 emissions and other environmental factors are never taken into account. They are not part of the business model. And as long as the costs of keeping nature unspoilt – both for the sake of the diversity of species and the conservation of biotopes – remain unaccounted for in company budgets, there will be no possible future for buses and their drivers, nor for planes, hotels, restaurants, car rental companies or aquaparks. Being a pilot or a flight attendant were once many people’s dream jobs, but today they are a nightmare that must be discarded. We need a broad range of new and sustainable visions.

 

This is where the second piece of news, sent by Paulo Guerra dos Santos to ECO123, comes in, revealing that in Portugal there is a network of 5,283 kilometres of cycle paths, with 19 long-distance rides. And there is even a guide showing all the routes. In this short article, we won’t be comparing coach trips to possible cycling alternatives, but we are proposing that we should be ready to leave our comfort zone when considering which sectors the State should be giving its financial support to. Such support should be based on the sense that something makes, on its strategic value for the future, if we really want to move closer to enjoying an everyday life and travel habits that are emission-free. We are thinking of the trips we can make by bike, by hiking, or even travelling by train, but we’re also considering the role that buses and coaches play in public transport. We strongly advise you to visit our website at www.ecovias.pt, available in Portuguese and English.

And what else? Perhaps the sensational news, yet to be released by ARP, that its coaches will all be made electric so that we can travel from A to B without causing any emissions.

Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, has lived in Monchique Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123.

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