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Tourism in Madeira island has more than five centuries

Updated on December 30, 2011

In 2011, Portugal marked the "Centenary of tourism in Portugal." Events were created for the occasion, but the celebration may mislead those who are not very close to the reality of tourism. Why, you ask? Very simple: because, even on the Portuguese mainland, there has been tourism for over 100 years. And, on the Madeira island, officially, exists more than two centuries.
A recent presentation of the Regional Secretary for Culture, Tourism and Transport was similar to a paper I've done and published in 2001. She explained that tourism is on the island since the discovery and settlement, which was immediate in the first quarter of the fifteenth century.

"The Madeira and tourism"

A book published in 1985 entitled “The Madeira and tourism”, says in the opening text: “Going through the history of the island from its discovery to the present day, we found that the phenomenon of tourism, in terms of duration, is not of recent origin. It was born in the fifteenth century, introducing a structural determination for centuries later, passing necessarily by cyclical movements that have shaped its vocation early.”
For this reason, I decided to update my information and demonstrate, again, that tourism in Madeira has existed since the fifteenth century.
First fact: Tourism in Madeira begins as early as 1419 with the discovery of Madeira by the Portuguese navigators. It is evident that the concept of tourism as we know it today was far from being applied. What sailors did in that distant year was adventure tourism in the light of current reality.
Then began the rapid colonization of the island, and soon the first economic activity, the grain crop, wheat. Initially for domestic consumption, but then sent for the Portuguese mainland.
However, it is already starting to plant vines.

The trade intensifies. Tourism and business alike. Of course, few people would. But just one is sufficient to apply the concept of tourism.
This becomes more evident years after the introduction of cane sugar in Madeira. It came from Italian, from the island of Sicily. From there come the clogs and technical expertise in this culture.
This process was very fast. At the end of the fifteenth century the island was the world's largest exporter of sugar. Therefore, the Madeira island becomes famous for trade routes between the capital, Funchal,to the rest of Europe that integrates.
Understandably, the movement of people, tourists, more business than pleasure, intensified.
However, the sugar that brought so much wealth, began to lose brilliance. This is because in other places such as Brazil, began producing in larger quantities for greater land availability.
So at the end of the seventeenth century, Madeira sugar is declining.
But in this century intensifies another culture that continues today: the vines, though the production of wine dates back almost to the time of the discovery of the island, with the first varieties to be introduced at the behest of Prince Henry, the great master of the Portuguese Discoveries.
The story goes that were imported from Candia, the capital of Crete, Greece.
Were later introduced other varieties such as Tinta Negra Mole, the Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and Malvasia.

Since the 1st quarter of the XV century

It is for these reasons that I say that tourism in the Madeira Islands dates back to the fifteenth century. Specifically the first quarter, so the island was discovered by the Portuguese.
To support this reading, in addition to the arguments I've written in previous paragraphs, we dive into the actual meaning of the word tourism. Tourist is a visitor who stays at least one night in collective or private accommodation in the place visited.
Clearly, at that time there were no collective accommodation, but the truth is that those who also had not slept in the open. Once was in a private accommodation. Nor was the morning and returning at night as it is now possible to do with the plane. So it was at least one night at the destination.
However, we are in tune when we say that tourism has gained more consistency on the Madeira island in the late eighteenth century, when the hotels are the first on the island.

What the historian says

As explained by Madeira historian Alberto Vieira in his book “Discovering the Atlantic in centuries
Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries”, the presence of travelers and the sick on the island led to the creation of infrastructure support.
It states that if a first case, rely upon the hospitality of the island, in seconds, with the emergence of more and more outsiders to treatment, the interest in mounting a support structure hotel.
At that time, in addition to promoting “word of mouth” - considered by many as the most faithful and effective - appears much travel literature and guides. Guides that were “provided the information necessary for installation in Funchal and trip to the interior of the island, accompanied by brief notes on the history, customs, flora and fauna.”
One of the oldest known guides has an unknown author. It's called “A Guide to Wood containing a short account of Funchal.” This book was published in London in 1801.
Alberto Vieira points out that in his work with visitors to the island from other times deserve special attention three distinct groups: the sick, travelers and scientists. Though the historian does not classify them all as tourists are actually. All are based on the common denominator which is the night spent away from home.
He explains that while the first, patients, fleeing the European winter and mild temperatures were on the island relief for their ailments, others had been attracted by the taste of adventure.
Also attracted by new emotions, by seeking the picturesque and the knowledge and discovery of the natural world.
That's why tourism Madeira has a reputation that comes from afar.

Madeira: A Garden in the sea

Madeira old promotion

Old Madeira


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    • rai2722 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very beautiful place. It would be nice to visit it someday. Thanks for sharing such interesting venue.


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