Case Study

Active Senior Tourism

Contact name

Steffi Burger

Institution name

EUROPARC Federation

Region & country

Extremadura, South West Spain & Alentejo, Portugal


The project is about active ageing and linking health and rural development networks. It began in Extremadura (South West Spain) and Alentejo (Portugal). Its aim is to train the tourism sector, and the sectors that indirectly work with it, in the creation of services and products aimed specifically at travellers over the age of 55. The project’s focus is on people looking for destinations with a high quality environment for developing activities in nature, either individually or as volunteers, and at the same time enjoying services of the highest quality. As a result a network of facilities and professionals that offer quality services and products based on health, nature, and recreation was created. Beyond, a new Iberian working group for healthy territories has been set up to promote and research the effect of nature on health and well-being: “CARE LAND”.

Background of the project

Project efforts started in Extremadura (Spain) and Alentejo (Portugal) which are two border areas with high biodiversity and great natural beauty. They are pollution-free, away from traditional “sun and beach” destinations, but having the health infrastructure as well as the people with the social skills necessary for senior travellers.

Research which considered

  • interviews with tourism entrepreneurs and environmental NGOs
  • producing a study on tourism in natural areas
  • designing spaces for health
  • trends in the travel industry
  • active ageing initiatives worldwide
  • participation in active ageing networks

made clear that there is huge potential in Spain for senior tourists but at the same time, there is a recognition of the lack of knowledge on how to use nature as a source of health and wellness for this group.

Past so-called senior tourism programmes have not always involved a real adaptation of destinations to the needs of this type of tourist.

Furthermore creating a friendly environment is all too often exclusively about technological design or its accessibility with minor awareness of the inhabitants.

  • The use of nature and tourism in natural areas as a tool for active ageing is an opportunity for the social and economic development of large areas in Europe, placing value on environmental conservation to protect it also as a source of health and wellness.
  • People over 55 are well-informed expert travellers, looking to enjoy restful activities while at the same time developing their interests and actively participating in the development of the places they visit.
  • Creating friendly environments needs to consider the people who live in these spaces more appropriately.
  • Empowering networks and training for sharing the knowledge and skills required to use all the beneficial resources of nature for health and well-being need to be fostered.

Solution and actions taken

Nature can be the best of therapies, if the knowledge and skills for tapping its beneficial potentials are available to practitioners. Hence, ActivSeniors was created as a new concept for Active Senior Tourism which aims to prepare tourist destinations for the new reality of an older population. This new concept integrates tourism in natural areas with the specific care and attention for people over 55 years, discovering the therapeutic potential of each territory and each resource.

Active Seniors seeks to network hotels, restaurants, rural farms, spas and nature conservation organizations, health professionals, and general tourism professionals with knowledge to meet senior tourists’ needs, and make a complete tourist product.
Senior tourism will give a new impetus to the tourism industry and the territories that implement it. It will also enhance the knowledge of the general public about the new senior tourist profile and the challenges of an ageing European population.

In March 2014, the project started in a development phase for the different products that are part of this strategy: training, provision of advice, marketing, and development of activities specifically designed for tourists over the age of 55.

Other institutions or parties involved

ActivSeniors has been working in collaboration with Catalina Hoffmann Holding Group, promoters of the Hoffmann method, which has revolutionized the care and treatment of the elderly in Spain and which is expanding internationally. The Hoffmann Method, which is recognised by the Spanish government, is a rehabilitative and preventive treatment, with physical, cognitive, psychological and social benefits, aimed at elderly people. It was registered as a scientific work in intellectual property, created by Catherine Hoffmann in 2004.

Combining the experience and knowledge of both companies, the new concept of Active Senior Tourism (ActivSeniors) was then first created.

Scientific basis of the project was provided by the Environmental consultancy and member of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing “Ambienta 45”, which promotes the enhancement of tourism in areas of high environmental value as an active ageing strategy. The consultancy conducted intense research into the tourism sector in Extremadura (Spain) and Alentejo (Portugal).


  • Therapies and activities based on specific resources in different territories were developed.
  • Care-training focused on caring for senior travellers in nature areas was conducted.
  • Evidence of the conditions required to enhance wellness through health, leisure and culture in nature was produced.
  • ActiveSeniors contributed to sustainable rural development.
  • Agreements between different local actors in the tourism sector, conservation, health and other related services were reached: A network of facilities and professionals that offer quality services and products based on health, nature, and recreation was established.



Lessons learned

  • We consider as innovative elements the integration of health, nature and leisure in tourism destinations for active older people, focusing on training, the environment, and services that are offered to tourists.
  • The measure of success is the creation of a network of professionals able to host such tourist activities throughout the year: The project is based on the coordination of therapeutic activities of active tourism, leisure and culture.

The consideration of active tourism and contact with nature as a strategy for improving the quality of life and as therapy for specific age-related ailments, is a new way of understanding tourism. It thus involves the creation of new development opportunities for professionals in geriatrics, for tourism professionals and for the local communities.

Contact name

Steffi Burger

Institution name

EUROPARC Federation


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