Next Paths

Casa Estêvão,

By Sergio Costa and Vasco Zeferina - Ecorustics

We (Sergio Costa and Vasco Zeferina) first met on day one of uni when we began studying mechanical engineering at the University of Aveiro. Since then, we have become part of a bonded group of course-mates and friends that have been getting together for almost 15 years. We have had many adventures and fun times together. Our first group friends’ holiday was back in Summer 2008. We camped for a few days in Sergio’s village, Santo Estêvao. Since then, our group has met all around the world, visiting each other, or just travelling together: from Barcelona, Malaysia, Brazil, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Manchester, Gothenburg, Vietnam, Toulouse or Brussels; but the Santo Estêvão experience was unique and it led us to return there several times, and become connected, somehow, with this almost abandoned village. Vasco sees in Santo Estêvão many similarities with his father’s village, Caratão – Mação, where he used to spend part of his summer holidays.

At the beginning of 2017, we started discussing some ideas about rural tourism in Portugal. Both of our backgrounds are related in some ways to rural areas in Portugal. That was probably what lay behind our agreement that it was time to work more seriously on our ideas about the development of our regions. We had the sense that rural tourism could somehow reinvigorate our families’ villages and it would be fun/interesting to explore these possibilities ourselves. After some research into the market and discussion about our findings, we decided to make a trip around Portugal to explore and get to know people already investing in rural tourism in Portugal.

This trip, and increasing understanding of the rural tourism market in Portugal, made us realize that our personal and working situations would not allow us to embrace a project such as to create a guesthouse in our villages, at least in the near future. On the other hand, we realized that many other villages and regions have the potential to be reinvigorated with ecotourism, and so we decided to create Ecorustics is a project focused on rural tourism and ecotourism in Portugal, disclosing rural places and hidden gems in Portugal. Our aim is to connect the local agents in remote Portuguese areas with potential eco-tourists from around the world. Thus, we think we can contribute to revitalize the Portuguese countryside.

Connecting the locals of remote places with foreigners is not an easy task mainly because of the language barrier. For us to understand the challenges we decided to involve Sérgio’s parents, who only speak Portuguese, in hosting tourists in the village of Santo Estêvão. During the last two years they have hosted almost one hundred people of which most don’t speak Portuguese. Therefore, this is the most challenging situation when it comes to reinvigorating the countryside: the remoteness of the village and the language barrier. We have come to the conclusion that the language barrier is not detrimental. In fact, it can even add value to the tourist experience. Travellers also appreciate that being a tourist in a genuine environment comes at a cost. The cost is that locals don’t speak English; but the tourists praise the more genuine appreciation and the care taken by the locals. The gentleness with which the tourist responds to these also helps the locals to feel more at ease and then the whole interaction becomes very pleasant.

The very positive feedback we got from the reviews of guests staying in Santo Estêvão gave us some guarantees that it is possible to replicate this scenario. This means more rural places can benefit by gaining visibility online as can any local who is willing to receive the tourists. Ecorustics was created to fulfil this need, to disclose the hidden gems of rural Portugal for a global audience with the active involvement of locals. We want to facilitate the wider exposure of the online profile of local independent tourism agents, aggregating and enhancing collaboration. Independent local agents have limited time and know-how about effectively promoting their businesses and experiences for wider markets. We want to facilitate their access to a wider audience, getting to know more sites, villages and regions of Portugal and creating connections with like-minded people that have similar aims for reinvigorating the Portuguese interior. This led us to meeting Raquel and Daniel. Together, with one step at a time we can make the long trip to reinvigorate the countryside in Portugal.

Rustic house situated in a very secluded village in the center of an incredible and peaceful getaway surrounded by pristine nature. Your hosts make living from subsistence farming. They don't speak English but they can make anyone feel very welcome. This is the perfect place to let yourself dive in the Portuguese language, traditions and gastronomy.

Check out Casa Estêvão

Sergio Costa and Vasco Zeferina have been developing the Ecorustics project. It is about Rural tourism and ecotourism in Portugal, disclosing rural places and hidden gems in Portugal. Connecting the local agents in remote Portuguese areas with potential eco-tourists from around the world.

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