OLIVEIRA, M.R., PITA, C., GONÇLAVES, J.M.S., LEITE, L., COSTA and ERZINI, K., 2011. Ecotourism Snorkelling Routes at Marinha Beach (Algarve). In: Micallef, A. (ed.), MCRR3-2010 Conference Proceedings, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 61, pp. 274–281. Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy, ISSN 0749-0208.
Coastal ecotourism is one of the fastest growing leisure industries in the world and snorkelling is emerging as an important beach-based activity. Snorkelling has the potential to enhance biodiversity conservation when developed within environmental education framework. The aim of this study was to implement and evaluate snorkelling routes, in the Algarve (South Portugal), as a sustainable ecotourism offer. To achieve these objectives, three snorkelling routes were established at the pristine Marinha beach. After the diving experience, a face-to-face questionnaire survey was conducted to collect information about individuals' opinions regarding the underwater routes, their social demographic characteristics, ecological appreciation, opinions about beach facilities and trip expenditures. The survey was undertaken during the summer months of 2008 and 2009, and 202 people were interviewed. Data was analysed using univariate and multivariate statistic methods. Most respondents perceived the existence of routes to be good for the preservation of the local biodiversity and reported this experience as “good” or “excellent”. The only difference in perceptions was observed by visitor snorkelling in groups of more than two people. Interviewers consider that emergency support and sanitary facilities are the most important beach support infrastructures. Overall, these routes seem to be an effective tool for developing ecological awareness in tourists, as they enhance the preservation and the understanding of the marine coastal environment.