Welcome to our Basque Country sustainable tourism stories and examples. During our destination visit of the Basque Country in November 2015, we had the opportunity to witness first hand, how this region is taking steps towards sustainable tourism development, and how pioneering accommodation providers have created examples of best practice – points of reference for the destination’s ambition to become a leader in sustainability.
We also gained a unique insight into the political economy of destination stewardship by talking to various key stakeholders during the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20 conference in Vitoria-Gasteiz. For the Basque Country, developing strategies for sustainable economic development through responsible tourism isn’t just about market share and competitiveness. It is a chance to offer opportunities and to maintain peace in a region whose people and reputation have suffered from terrorism and violence for far too long. Here are some of the stories of tourism professionals who are helping Basque Country in developing the image of a forward-thinking destination with sustainability and ecotourism at its core.
Many thanks to Basquetour – the Basque Tourism Agency for facilitating these interviews and for hosting us during our visit to the Basque Country in November 2015.
How tourism businesses and destinations in Basque Country are championing sustainability:
- Las Casas de Ea Astei sets the standard for energy-efficient accommodation. Taking advantage of renewable sources of energy, and using biodegradable, renewable and ecological materials in its construction, this set of rural homes is a worthy example to follow and the perfect abode for the eco-conscious traveller.
- Las Casas uses solar panels for heating water and Canadian well technology to maintain a constant temperature of around 17-19°C, throughout the year.
- Pine chips from the family’s construction business are recycled to heat the houses, pool, and spa.
- Agroturismo Arkaia in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz has been awarded the EU Ecolabel certification for its sustainability practices, including measures such as fixtures to save water, efficient domestic appliances, thermal insulation, installation of a biomass boiler, among many others.
- Agroturismo Arkaia has made a commitment to be “barrier-free” with all the rooms adapted to be wheelchair friendly by removing architectural barriers, installing braille signage, and audible and visual alarms in all bathrooms.
- The importance of the EU Ecolabel certification is further cemented by Lurdeia Casa Rural’s recognition for achieving maximum energy efficiency for their bioclimatic architecture and other eco-friendly measures.
- Lurdeia Casa Rural has been practicing organic farming for more than three decades and all their fresh produce offered to guests is from their own farm.
Basque Country’s sustainable tourism changemakers
Who is leading sustainability efforts in Basque Country, making, and keeping it attractive as a tourist destination? Below are our interviews with some of the region’s responsible tourism champions and changemakers.
Mertxe Begiristain on energy-efficient construction at Las Casas de Ea Astei
Las Casas de Ea Astei is a set of five family-friendly rural vacation homes located in Vizcaya which prides itself on its energy-efficient construction. So low is its energy consumption that it is Spain’s first home to produce more energy than it consumes. Its owner, Mertxe takes us through the architecture, design, engineering, and materials used in the construction.
Ángeles Arroyo Sánchez on sustainable rural tourism at Agroturismo Arkaia
Another eco-friendly rural guesthouse located just five minutes from the center of Vitoria-Gasteiz is Agroturismo Arkaia which boasts of its traditional architecture, sustainability measures, and for being accessible to people with differing levels of mobility. Arkaia’s manager, Ángeles also talks about sustainability certifications such as the EU Ecolabel and its benefits.
Josu of Lurdeia Casa Rural on practicing ecotourism in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve
Overlooking the coast of Bay of Biscay, Lurdeia Casa Rural, its manager, Josu takes us through the sustainability measures implemented in their accommodation which won them the EU Ecolabel recognition. They take pride in organic farming, recycling, and dependence on renewable energy.