The world's biggest wave attracts events to Nazaré

International projection came at high tide, with the giant waves spreading throughout the world the name of the city and country.

A land of fishermen, Nazaré has the anchor of its daily life in the sea, be it in fishing and drying the fish, in the beach that stretches for miles or in the surf and bodyboard, which now attract national and international surfers.

The 2011 wave surfed by the American extreme waterman Garrett McNamara spread what had, so far, remained almost a secret: the 'Cannon' of Nazaré. It is a submarine gorge, of tectonic origin, that produces big waves, that defy the most daring ones, and that has caused the tourism sector to increase in the municipality. The giant waves attract people from all over, and in 2017 Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa set the record for the longest wave ever surfed: 24.38 metres high, 61 centimetres higher than the previous maximum, of 23.77 metres, also surfed in Nazaré, which belonged to McNamara.

"Nazaré has been positioning itself as a privileged stage of national and world events, which has given it a great international media exposure and caused changes in the economic level. From an almost exclusively fishing village, Nazaré started to grow in tourism, business and investment in several areas of activity, namely by both multinational and national companies from various sectors," Walter Chicharro, president of Nazaré City Hall, said to Event Point.

For the mayor, "the direct impact of the giant waves in Nazaré's economy appears in the years 2014 and 2015 with proposals to approve hotel projects and new businesses." The municipality takes advantage of the waves of opportunities and registers the upward trend in demand for what Nazaré has to offer.

The figures indicate that the influx of visitors to São Miguel Arcanjo Fort, with a view to the cannon, went from 80 thousand visitors in 2015 to 174 thousand in 2017 and that in the local elevator the turnout increased from 630 thousand passengers in 2013 to almost 950 thousand in 2017. "It is the most sought after cable transportation in Portugal, surpassing the Santa Justa lift in Lisbon, for example," Walter Chicharro adds.

An inviting destination all year round

Legend has it that the name of the town is due to an image of the Virgin from Nazareth, in Palestine, which a Greek monk took to the Monastery of Kauliniana in the fourth century and was later taken to Nazaré by Friar Romano, who hid it in a cave. The image, which remained there for four centuries, was later discovered by shepherds, who then came to venerate it, such as D. Fuas Roupinho, chief parson of the Castle of Porto de Mós, who is at the beginning of another story.

The legend says that D. Fuas Roupinho had a habit of hunting in the region and that one day he also discovered the image and worshipped it. Then, on a misty morning in 1182, he pursued a deer, which disappeared on the cliff. Frightened, he asked Our Lady for help, and his horse stopped in time, leaving its mark on the rock. In gratitude, D. Fuas Roupinho ordered the construction of Ermida da Memória (Memory Chapel) and the Virgin named the place, Sítio de Nossa Senhora de Nazareth, place of its devotees pilgrimage.

And because there are traditions that still remain, it still happens. If the giant waves attract visitors throughout the winter, this Site, the viewpoint and its beach call them through the summer, making Nazaré an attractive year-round destination. "Before, with an economic activity based on three months a year (summer, plus the peaks by Easter season and New Year's Eve), Nazaré today has between 10 to 11 months per year of activity, which translates in economic benefits for the county," commented Walter Chicharro, adding that "occupancy rates in hotels also became very significant in winter months."

Growth has been significant in several areas. "Our growth is also noticeable in urban planning licenses (the City Hall charged licenses in the order of 150 thousand euros), licenses for hotel projects (a new five-star unit is expected to start its construction in 2018) and the number of private residences (especially for foreigners). The increase of the municipal tax and the billing of 300 thousand euros by the municipal company Nazaré Qualifica (2017: Fort tickets and merchandising of the brand) are other indicators that confirm this growth", explained the mayor.

A destination with great value

From the business tourism perspective, Nazaré has a sea of potential: its natural and landscape qualities, its positioning in the centre of the country and accessibility, its resources (human and equipment) efficiency, "to give answer to what we consider to be economic enablers: events", are some of the great advantages of Nazaré to stand out in the events and incentives sectors. "We believe that the future will still include sea and beach sports events (such as European and world bodyboard tournaments, surfing / big wave championships, football and beach handball, whose return has been quite significant), but also for cultural and artistic events, not forgetting to win over industry for the AAE [Área de Acolhimento Empresarial - Business Reception Area] of Valado dos Frades", which already has 70% of the business area sold, an "achievement met over the last three years", Walter Chicharro told us.

In addition, the municipality continues to qualify public areas and its accessibility to make the destination increasingly attractive at various levels. Nazaré intends to stay afloat in the country's tourist and business scenario, surfing all the opportunity waves.

Text: Maria João Leite

Photo: Marcus

Tags: Nazaré, Events, Surf