Saint James Way: “Overcoming, helping each other, resilience, discovery”


# tags: Tourism , Tourism Activities

It is a 12-century tradition that every day leads people from all over the world to the tomb of the Apostle James.

Driven by faith or the inner discovery, attracted by the challenge or by the beauty of the landscapes, many follow this path, which is, after all, made by several trails, all with a single destination: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The Portuguese roads that lead to Santiago have been discovered by pilgrims from various countries. This discovery also benefits national tourism and, consequently, the places that the path crosses. 2021 is the year of Xacobeo. Something that happens when the day of St. James (July 25) coincides with a Sunday. And this Xacobeo is even more historic. Due to the pandemic, the Xacobeo Year will also extend into 2022.

Corporate program

There are some companies working the Saint James Way in Portugal in the corporate area. The most common is to make programs tailored to requests. But couldn’t the Way be an interesting team building action? Or a side activity of a congress? Or an unforgettable incentive on one of the most famous walking routes in the world?

Depending on the “company’s goals and the quality of the leader”, the Camino de Santiago can be an interesting team building action, says Paulo Lopes, from Portugal Green Walks, a tourism company that has been offering a series of activities around the Way for many years. “Overcoming, helping each other, resilience, discovery” are some of the values that the Way can bring to a team action.

Sónia Matos and Luís Guilherme Negrita, from Passa‑Montanhas, a company that guides pilgrims on Saint James Way, also believe in the Way’s attributes. “The Saint James Way is a multi-day pedestrian activity that requires relative physical and mental effort, which allows the development of focus, resilience and overcoming tools in each element. In collective terms, tolerance, sharing and mutual help, communication and empathy for others are intrinsic values to an activity like this, which also ‘compels’ assertiveness in communication between everyone”, they emphasise. And if the Way has a religious and spiritual essence, it is also very physical and mental. “Each element, when integrated into a group/team/company, ceases to see only their personal path and starts to have responsibility for the entire group. In this way, it develops, in small things, sharing, encouragement, empathy, tolerance, the spirit of belonging and also that of sacrifice, among others. Everyone starts and ends at the same time and, while respecting the rhythms of each one, the objective is to collectively arrive at Obradoiro square (in front of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral), which provides a unique feeling of collective overcoming, in a true spirit team”, they refer.

Paulo Cavaleiro and Catherine de Freitas, from Try Portugal, explain how it makes sense to establish the link between team building and Saint James Way. “Team building actions are usually focused on improving the organisational climate, deepening internal relationships and team spirit, or even creating dynamics that enhance performance, transformation or organisational changes, with an impact on strengthening the ‘ culture’ of a company”, something that goes well with the Way that, “as a cultural and spiritual itinerary in nature, involves ‘soft’ unstructured challenges and provides opportunities that promote the improvement of self-knowledge, which is essential for positioning and individual progress within any organisation”. And they recall that, “although it does not integrate complex and formal collective activities, the Saint James Way motivates travellers to meet, reflect and interact, with practical results similar to those of any conventional team building action and, perhaps, with less investment…”

As an incentive, those responsible for Try Portugal underline the mystique of the Way that “was progressively migrating from the religious myth to the level of personal experience, both spiritual and physical and sensory, encompassing integration in nature, knowledge of the territory, culture and of the traditions of the communities”. And for that reason, in the opinion of Paulo Cavaleiro and Catherine de Freitas, “it is clearly ‘a product’ that suits the structuring of incentive programs, valued from the outset by the media projection that the Saint James Way has benefited from, now added for the period of celebration of the Jubilee Year of Santiago, which runs until December 31st 2022”. And they also remember how the pandemic and confinement can boost the bet on the Paths, because they had “the ability to raise awareness among employees of social, environmental and cultural values that are evident in the territories of the interior of Portugal throughout most of the of the Paths itineraries, thus making them even more attractive for incentive programs created by specialists in this area.”

Is there a product?

Portugal Green Walks does not have an offer put together for the corporate segment, “as all the activities developed for this segment are customised according to the client’s requirements”, says Paulo Lopes. For Paulo, this can also be an interesting parallel activity for a congress, “because it is a different way of publicising a product with worldwide notoriety.” The leaders of Passa-Mounanhas detail a program they made for an IT multinational. The company’s consultancy included acquisition of material, organisation of the backpack, physical sessions for prior preparation, accommodation, food, transport, insurance, among other items. “This program also included the extra support of a motivational coach and a physiotherapist, both available during the entire activity upon request from interested parties”, they explain. The pandemic prevented the project from being put into practice.

Mabília Ferreira, from Osiris, explains that they provide incentives and extensions to Santiago de Compostela. She points out, however, that the accommodations on the itineraries are small and usually based in hostels, which makes it difficult for the corporate public. But even so, they make incentives using the Way, adding to the walking routes, receptions, cocktails, small events. They recently carried out a technical inspection in Porto and the CEO wanted to offer directors a few extra days on the Camino de Santiago, which is a clear example of the receptivity that can exist on the client’s side.

Try Portugal has a program developed in the Saint James Way from Alentejo and Ribatejo, having already carried out an international press trip in September 2020. And the program could very well be a parallel activity to another event, “although not in its full extension, as it can become too physically demanding without adequate preparation. A roadbook will normally be drawn up and/or accompanied by a guide will be available, so that this activity, on a land stretch of about 10 km, provides the experience, discovery (social, environmental, cultural and spiritual) and conviviality that they are required, in order to value the action and not to be confused with a mere walk along a pedestrian path”, highlight Paulo Cavaleiro and Catherine Freitas.

The search for the Path is still “insignificant” at the corporate level. “As a basic ‘product’ for MICE and DMC companies, the Saint James Way in Portugal is only now starting to have structured programs available through some specialised agencies, such as Try Portugal, as the structuring of the main itineraries along the way was only recently concluded throughout the national territory, now in the certification phase”, say those responsible.

However, it is an opportunity. “This is an extraordinarily versatile product with a global reach, in which Portugal has been acquiring competitive factors in relation to Spain, which is why, for MICE companies and for DMCs in general, it presents itself as an opportunity for innovation in complementary offer and in the events organisation, also taking advantage of the promotional investment that all regional and national tourist entities have been dedicating to it”. Those responsible also recall the opportunities for cross-border initiatives. The Saint James Way is, for Paulo Lopes, “the adventure of a lifetime”, a “journey of introspection and transformation”. And as a group “it creates a union and complicity between the elements that will last in time”, refer Sónia Matos and Luís Guilherme Negrita. “’Special’ is not the Way, but what the Way does to us”, conclude Paulo Cavaleiro and Catherine de Freitas.

© Cláudia Coutinho de Sousa Newsroom