Why does the Azores' location — farther from Lisbon than Madeira— work to its advantage? How exactly has the Azores cracked the sustainability code when other destinations like Madeira and the Canary Islands have stayed behind?
Here is a detailed analysis of the advantages and benefits of adding the Azores to your travel and investment plans for the future.
Advantage Azores—Sustainable Development
The Azores was one of the first tourist destinations to proactively focus on sustainable development and preserving its pristine ecology and environment.
In 2019, the Azores was the first archipelago in the world to be certified as a Sustainable Tourist Destination by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) under its EarthCheck Sustainable Destination program.
In contrast, Madeira qualified for this certificate only in February 2023. And this delay in focusing on sustainability has already led to adverse developments. Studies have found that algae are replacing Madeira's previously dominant marine forests.
The Azores has gone beyond lofty rhetoric and focused on actionable steps to ensure sustainable island development. Only 5% of the islands are built-up urbanized areas, and the authorities intend to focus on avoiding excessive land development and converting natural habitats into urban centers.
Areas of focus for preservation include the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the islands, 12 caldera lakes, geothermal springs and pools, mountain ranges, reefs, and other natural heritage sites.
More than 40 private and public companies in the Azores have pledged to report all the steps they have taken to fulfill the sustainability charter initiated by the government.
Numerous Azorean companies have signed the Cartilha da Sustentabilidade, pledging to replace at least three practices annually with sustainable alternatives. These measures encompass utilizing renewable geothermal energy instead of fossil fuels and implementing visitor and hiker restrictions on Mount Pico of Pico Island.
Apart from protecting the environment, these measures will help the Azores maintain its status as a premium tourist destination for a long time. Furthermore, these measures make the Azores the obvious choice for ESG-oriented investment funds and businesses where sustainability is a key performance metric.
Portugal’s Golden Visa is perhaps the best example of the adverse consequences of unsustainable practices. Nuno Santos, a Tax Partner at CMS echoed this example in his opinion that the future of such programs will probably have funds to invest in more sustainable issues.
More Islands, More Choices, Better Prospects
With its enchanting archipelago of nine distinct islands, the Azores people often link the islands to a captivating blend of Hawaii, New Zealand, and Iceland. This unique destination presents many options for tourists and potential residents, inviting them to explore its diverse landscapes, immerse themselves in its rich culture, and embark on unforgettable adventures.
You can choose from multiple islands and destinations depending on whether you want to lose yourself in the wilderness and raw nature or prefer a relaxed life surrounded by beautiful landscapes and easy access to modern facilities and amenities.
Temperatures rarely exceed 28° in the summer or fall below 15° in the winter, which means you will be comfortable either way during your stay in the Azores. But the weather can change quickly, and this unpredictability adds to the excitement of visiting or living in the Azores.
From the captivating allure of black sand beaches to the mesmerizing landscapes of volcanoes, lava fields, and invigorating thermal pools, the Azores offers a tapestry of natural wonders bound to ignite your sense of adventure. With an abundance of fresh seafood to tantalize your taste buds, the Azores presents itself as the quintessential holiday destination, catering to the diverse desires of every traveler.
The islands also offer a chance to return to nature with trekking and hiking paths, including one around an extinct volcano or simply strolling in the island’s National Forest.
The islands of the Azores not only captivate tourists and vacationers but also present a remarkable opportunity for astute investors. With many attractions and the inevitable rise in popularity, these islands hold great potential for those seeking profitable investment ventures in the tourism industry.
Attractive Destination for Property Investments
While sharing similarities with Madeira regarding tourist attractions, the Azores stand out with their comparatively lower property prices and impressive annual price increases. This distinct advantage positions the Azores as an appealing investment opportunity, poised to rival the likes of Madeira and the Canary Islands. With its promising potential, the Azores is on track to become the next coveted destination for lucrative investments.
What does this mean? It means the Azores, despite the surge in its popularity as a tourist destination, still offer an excellent investment opportunity for anybody seeking to buy a property or settle in the islands.
In a quick comparison, you can see how property prices in Madeira have risen by close to 110% in eight years, while the Azores saw a growth of 70% during the same period.
Upon closely examining the property rates, intriguing patterns emerge. While property prices in Madeira have indeed doubled, the trajectory of this increase has been anything but linear over the years.
Real estate prices in Madeira rose by just 30% between January 2015 and July 2020. But the surge occurred after that when prices rose by 56% in less than three years.
In contrast, property prices in the Azores rose by just 21% between 2015 and 2021, followed by a 40% surge in prices in 2022. The real estate market in the Azores is a long way from peaking, which means this may still be the best time to invest in properties in the Azores for sustained high returns over the long run.
Location Makes it Advantage Azores
The Azores are farther away from Lisbon as compared to Madeira. However, its location in the Atlantic Ocean will likely work to its advantage, especially in attracting visitors and settlers from the USA.
Flying from New York to Madeira would take around seven hours to cover 3,150 miles. On the other hand, the Azores is much closer at about 2,500 miles. To put this into perspective, the flying time from New York to San Francisco, which is 5.5 hours, is more than the time it takes to fly from New York to the Azores — around five hours!
So if Americans seek to settle abroad, they will likely prefer the Azores over Madeira. Besides, given the various concerns, such as lax gun laws, frequent shooting attacks, security risks, cost of living, and strict tax rules in the US, wealthy Americans are increasingly considering settling abroad.
You can fly directly to the Azores from New York, Boston, Toronto, and London annually. Other destinations like Frankfurt and Amsterdam have direct flights during the holiday season, although this may improve as the Azores attracts more tourists and residents.
The Azores have three international and domestic airports or airfields in all nine islands. The islands have much better connectivity within and with other countries than Madeira.
An Option Worth Considering
The Azores offer a little something for everyone. Adventurous tourists can begin their day with an invigorating hike to Portugal's tallest peak and unwind with a soothing dip in a naturally heated pool in the Atlantic Ocean. Retirees can find solace in a secure community filled with warm and helpful individuals. Meanwhile, investors can delve into sustainable investment opportunities within the archipelago.
While the property investment route to the Golden Visa will probably be closed soon, Portugal promises to retain investment-based visa options for those investing in support of the recovery of the maintenance of cultural heritage.
With the Azores offering excellent prospects for such investments, investing in the islands may be a win-win setup for sustainable returns and fast-track permanent residency in Portugal.