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Territorial dynamics and increased tourist flow in two islands

Ilha Grande (RJ- Brazil) and île d'Oleron - France
Dinâmicas territoriais e aumento do fluxo turístico na Ilha Grande – RJ e na Île d’Oléron – França
Dynamique territoriale et augmentation des flux touristiques à Ilha Grande-RJ et à l'Île d’Oléron
Dinámica territorial y aumento del flujo turístico en Ilha Grande-RJ e Île d’Oléron - Francia
Debora Mury Alves Chueiri, Rafael Angelo Fortunato e Thierry Sauzeau


O turismo é uma das principais atividades dos espaços insulares, e uma importante fonte de receitas. Contudo, é também gerador de grandes desequilíbrios socioambientais, sobretudo quando ocorre de forma espontânea e com baixa regulamentação. O objetivo deste trabalho é comparar a Ilha Grande e a Île d´Oléron sob a perspectiva dos impactos ambientais, econômicos e sociais do turismo de massa. Para tanto, foram realizadas entrevistas semiestruturadas com moradores antigos das ilhas e uma revisão bibliográfica sistemática qualitativa. É possível afirmar que o aumento do fluxo de turistas alterou o território e a paisagem de ambas as ilhas. Além disso, identificou-se a importância de avaliar os períodos históricos anteriores à economia turística, promovendo uma visão geral sobre as mudanças da paisagem.

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To the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior Brasil [scholarship 8888.363821, 2019], for financial support, in Brazil and France; To the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment of the State University of Rio de Janeiro- Brazil, for the financial support related to field daily activities in Brazil; The Department of Environment of the State of Rio de Janeiro - INEA, located in Ilha Grande, for institutional information, including interviews and materials.
The University of Poitiers (FR) and the Criham reaserch centre, for financial support in the field exits for Île d’Oléron.


1Tourism is one of the main economic activities of the planet, being responsible for millions of direct and indirect jobs. Many localities seek to develop this sector to generate income and improve the life quality of residents. However, tourism also causes numerous problems when it occurs spontaneously and with little regulation.

2In view of this scenario, the present article seeks to understand the transformations in the territory associated with the increase of tourist flow in Ilha Grande (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Île d’Oléron (Charente-Maritime, France). For this, semi-structured interviews were used with former residents of the islands, starting from the following northern questions: What it is your relationship with the island? What was this beach like before tourism arrived? What modifications have you observed in the beach structure and in your work routine?

3To organize the material produced about the territorial dynamics of the two islands, a systematized bibliographic review of qualitative character was carried out. This review also contributed to improve the discussion about the different historical periods of occupation, since the focus of this article is the analysis of the tourist flow increase.

4By understanding that the territorial dynamics of these islands is important to follow the tourism development process, the disputes of interest and conflicts present in the territories. Through this approach, it is intended to highlight the obstacles and potentialities of tourist activities and propose guidelines to think of tourism as a complex social phenomenon full of contradictions.

5As preliminary results, it was found that the increase in tourist flow altered the territorial dynamics of both islands and, to improve the data interpretation, the aspects that were part of these transformations were identified. In the case of Ilha Grande, the aspects were: indigenous peoples, the construction of a prison, the creation of environmental protection areas and the increase in tourist flow. While for the Île d’Oléron, the following aspects stand out: the first inhabitants of the region, the economy of salt pans and wineries, the production of oysters and the fishing industry.

Territorial dynamics and increased tourist flow

6The different economic activities present in the spaces and techniques used in production developed new landscapes and human groups, that conducted the territorial planning policies. However, this process does not occur linearly and without contradictions.

7According to Milton Santos (1994) the system of objects, economic productive relations condition the formation of the territory. Territorial dynamics are also strongly influenced by the individuals’ identities. Thus, the territory presents itself as a mixture composed of economic activities, cultural identities and regulatory policies determined by the "dominant groups". These groups are, for the most part, the owners of the production means and groups directly associated with them.

8The powers present in the territories are strongly related to the role of regulation and investment of the public authorities. Thus, there are municipal, state and federal political forces operating in the territories. In addition to these forces, which determine the direction of the territories, there are also the forces that are organized in civil society associations, formalized or not. This set of political forces will also determine territorial dynamics and, together, these actions will interfere with landscapes.

9Tourism as a socioeconomic activity directly influences the dynamics of the territories, both by public actions, organized groups and entrepreneurs who seek to use it as a means of social reproduction. According to (Cruz, 2002:17):

The tourist landscapes are not characterized by a system of objects that is specific to it. The tourist landscapes derive from the cultural appreciation of certain landscapes aspects, in general, and, in this sense, the whole landscape can be touristy.

10For the landscapes to be minimally maintained and consistent with tourist practices, it is necessary to think about regulations involving the planning of these activities, so that the increase in tourist flow does not cause territorial changes to the point that the activity becomes unfeasible or that it excludes/prevents the social reproduction of older residents, causing a process of gentrification.

11Gentrification is a social, economic, and spatial process "that goes beyond the connotation of the departure of residents caused by the forces of the capital, or even the reform of physical spaces in the city" (Ribeiro, 2018:1335). In addition to the economic relationship between capital and urban space, gentrification implies a new social division of labor and its socioeconomic consequences (Hamnett, 1991).

12In addition to gentrification, the increase in tourist flow has brought several types of problems to island environments, such as the dumping of oil by tourist vessels, introduction of invasive species, use of antifouling vessels, garbage dumps, increased and lack of treatment of domestic sewage causing pollution of bathing water, salinization of groundwater making water unsuitable for human consumption, CO2 emission, air pollution, noise pollution, collision of vessels with marine mammals, among others (Allen, 1992; Burak, Doưan, Gazioưlu, 2004; Luiz Jr., 2009; Waerebeek et al., 2007; Wunder, 2006). These impacts have effects on rocky shores, changes in the food chain and reduction of marine biodiversity (Alho et al., 2002).

13According to Coriolano (2001) some tourism segmentations are intrinsically linked to the environment, in these cases, the more "native" and "natural" the landscape is, the greater is the attractiveness. Clean water, marine resources such as the abundance of fish, reefs and corals, are fundamental for the development of tourism in coastal areas. In this sense, it is necessary and recommended that studies of support capacity in island environments be developed and applied in partnership with government agencies in the tourism area and the environmental area, to minimize the negative impacts of these activities. The support capacity, also known as load capacity, is defined by Wagar (1964) as the degree of use that a space can support without affecting its quality. According to Beni (2019) and Boo (1990), in addition to having to stipulate a maximum number of individuals per area, it is necessary to promote high levels of satisfaction for visitors.

14Bursztyn (2012) points out that once the concept of support capacity is understood, it is possible to define limits of use, from the creation of protected areas, elaboration of ecological zoning, among other models of environmental management in coastal areas. The definition of the support capacity of a given territory is, therefore, essential for territorial planning and for there to be a certain capacity to control in relation to the increase in tourist flow and territorial dynamics arising through this process.

15For a better understanding of territorial dynamics related to the increase of tourism flow in Ilha Grande and the Île d’Oléron, a periodization was used to analyze in what moments the landscape transformations, disputes of interest and conflicts present in these territories occurred.

The historical phases of Ilha Grande and Île d’Oléron

16Ilha Grande is located on the southern coast of the State of Rio de Janeiro, in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, and is inserted in the Atlantic Forest biome. Access is made only by marine vessels (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Location of Ilha Grande

Figure 1: Location of Ilha Grande

Source: Instituto Estadual do Ambiente (INEA, 2021)

17Île d’Oléron is in the Southwest of France, in the department of Charente-Maritime, Region of Nova Aquitânia. Its territory is divided into eight municipalities, called Communauté de Communes. The island has been connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1966, being the car the main transport mean (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Location of Île d’Oléron

Figure 2: Location of Île d’Oléron

Source: DIVA-GIS France (2021)

18Ilha Grande and Île d’Oléron have diverse natural beauties and environmental protection areas. Both are national and international destinations that receive an expressive influx of tourists in high season.

  • 1 L. Pacaud. [comunicação pessoal]. Document Booster d'activité – 2019. Île d'Oleron, 16 de junho de (...)

19Ilha Grande has 134 km² and 9,426 inhabitants and 113 beaches (State Institute of the Environment [INEA], 2011) and, in 2018, received approximately 1,442,608 tourists (TurisAngra, 2019). While Île d’Oléron has 175 km² with 22.324 inhabitants and received around 3,000,000 visitors in 20191.

20The history of Ilha Grande can be divided into at least four periods. The first begins with the first vestiges of human presence on the island, the Sambaquis, known as groups of hunter-gatherer fishermen, identified as "axe makers of Ilha Grande" (Tenório, 2006:33). The second moment is based on the construction of two prisons, one located in Vila do Abraão, Colônia Penal Cândido Mendes, which began operations between 1940 and 1942 and ended its activities in 1959, and the other located on the beach of Dois Rios, initially known as Presídio de Dois Rios, began in 1894 and was decommissioned in 1994 (INEA, 2011).

21The demolition of the Colônia Penal Cândido Mendes was progressive and carried out by the prisoners themselves. Many records and documents were thrown overboard by the prisoners, celebrating the end of the prison. The prison of Dois Rios was inaugurated in 1894, and in 1963 was denominated Instituto Penal Cândido Mendes, year when it was converted into a maximum-security prison for high-risk prisoners, having housed political prisoners during the military dictatorship. The prison was imploded in 1994 under Leonel Brizola, and some ex-convicts ended up setting up residence in the Vila Dois Rios. In the same period there was a sardine industry started by Japanese and Greeks and Caiçara culture, in the Vila do Abraão (INEA, 2011).

22The third historical period occurred after the demolition of the Candido Mendes Penal Colony, in the Vila do Abraão, and was characterized by environmental conservation. In 1971, the Ilha Grande State Park was created, administered by the State Government, designated for scientific, cultural, educational, spiritual, recreational purposes. The park occupies approximately 62% of the Ilha Grande area and its main objective is the preservation of natural ecosystem, being forbidden any change (INEA, 2011).

23In 1981, the State Biological Reserve of Praia do Sul was created, an extremely restrictive protection unit, where entry is only allowed for scientific purposes, with prior authorization from INEA.

  • 2 Caiçara is a traditional inhabitant of the coastline of the Southeast and South regions of Brazil, (...)

24The Environmental Protection Area of Tamoios, (APA Tamoios), where the legislation allowed allows some types of construction, but with certain restrictions on human occupation. This area was created with the objective of ensuring the protection of the natural environment, landscapes, and geo-hydrological systems of the region, as well as Caiçaras2 communities. The Aventureiro Marine State Park, created in 1990, can be visited and used for educational, scientific and recreational activities. Finally, the Aventureiro RDS, which until 2014 was part of the State Biological Reserve of Praia do Sul, was recategorized by Law No. 6,793. The Aventureiro RDS does not yet have a management plan, but it is prohibited construction and commercial fishing in it (INEA, 2011; T. Mendonça, 2011). Figure 3 shows the conservation units of Ilha Grande.

Figure 3: Map with the four conservation units of the Ilha Grande

Figure 3: Map with the four conservation units of the Ilha Grande

Source: Adapted from INEA - Instituto Estadual do Ambiente, Secretaria Estadual de Meio Ambiente do Rio de Janeiro (2021)

25The fourth and final historical moment occurred after the implosion of the second Prison Instituto Penal Cândido Mendes in Praia de Dois Rios, in 1994, and is characterized by the phenomenon of tourism that, although already present on the island before the implosion, was not so significant. This moment persists until now and is marked by the resignification of the identity of the sites, considered as a traditional population, which is reflected in the concern of creating conservation units for sustainable use and not only of integral protection (INEA 2011).

26The situation of the Île d’Oléron presents some similarities and differences in relation to Ilha Grande. The first historical period occurred until the mid-19th century, when native groups were involved in the activities of the salt pans and vineyards and these products were sold to European customers, who came with ships to take these goods. When the salt activity became less profitable, the salt pans gradually became oyster growing areas.

27The second historical period is marked by a change in economic activities. When phylloxera, the insect, attacked the vineyards of France and the whole Europe in the last third of the 19th century, the inhabitants also developed a fishing industry. The third period began with increased tourist activity after World War II, and its popularization in the 1960s. The construction of the bridge in 1966 facilitated transport to the island, significantly increasing tourism and the urbanization process, especially after the abolition of the toll in 1990.

28The island stands out for its large pine forests, located near the dunes and beaches. Part of the territory remains rural due to large wetlands and marshes. These areas are used by farmers (for raising cows and horses), where water is fresh, while saltwater areas are used by oyster farmers. At the end of World War II there were fewer than 12,500 inhabitants on the island (the last French territory to be liberated by the allies on 8 May 1945) but since 1945 the population has not stopped growing. The construction of houses followed the same trend (Table 1), but the size of families decreased, in view of the aging of the population. Currently, the island attracts more and more retirees, due to the lack of fixed employment options.

Table 1: Families and residences of inhabitants of Île d’Oléron (1968-2016)

Table 1: Families and residences of inhabitants of Île d’Oléron (1968-2016)

Source: Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE, 2019)

29The fourth, and last period, is marked by the implementation of environmental protection policies. At first, such policies did not directly aim at containing the process of urbanization and environmental degradation. However, most protected areas (Figure 4) were created during the construction boom from 1990 on, which forced authorities to contain the movement, although demand for second homes increased.

Figure 4: Protection areas in Île d’Oléron (1860-2020)

Figure 4: Protection areas in Île d’Oléron (1860-2020)

Source: Géoportai (2020)

30The oldest protected areas of the Île d’Oléron are the national forests: Saint-Trojan, Boyardville e Chaucre, established by the state at the end of the 19th century. (Figure 4.4). New areas were only defined at the end of the 20th century. In 1992, European protection policy became global with Natura 2000 (Figure 4.2), which included human activities, with a view to controlling them within reserves. Finally, the French government has chosen to strengthen these protections around some specific areas (Figure 4.1): the Réserve Naturelle de Moëze-Oléron: the swamps bought by the Conservatoire National du Littoral. Within these areas, prohibitions are very strict and only some traditional activities are allowed.

31These European and national rules were added to municipal zoning to compel municipalities to restrict construction without control. In 2000, national law Solidarité et Rénovation Urbaine (França, 2000) was adopted and obliges each municipality of the island to define its Local Plan of Urbanism. In this official document, each communal territory must outline the Natural and Agricultural areas, which cannot be built, reducing the number of new constructions.

32Until the 1960s, the economy of Île d’Oléron was organized from its topography. Since the Middle Ages, in the highest lands of the northern zone, the vineyards dominate the landscape. In the salt pans, which cover the lower areas of the territory in the southeastern part of the island, oyster farming has developed since the end of the 18th century. Since the 1860s, the fishing port of La Cotinière concentrates the activity. Agricultural production was distributed throughout almost the entire Island and most residents lived off the production of wine, oyster, salt, agriculture and fishing (Sauzeau, 2016).

33According to the report of a resident and researcher, in the early 20th century, during the summer season the residents began to rent their residences to tourists, while living temporarily in makeshift dwellings, which generated an additional income. After the construction of the bridge, the inhabitants began selling their land of lower value to tourists, who wanted to build second homes (Sauzeau, 2016).

34Thenceforth, according to the report of the same resident and researcher, agricultural activity decreased rapidly, which caused the number of wastelands to increase. As they got rich, some residents also built vacation rental properties offered for monthly rent. From 2000, due to changes in the habits of the tourists, the rent began to be organized per week. The period 1960-2000 was very good for the construction and public works sector. Currently there is a decrease in the construction trend, but the economy of the camp remains important. Most campsites have been improved with leisure activities (water park) and rent/sell prefabricated houses. As a result, new villages of plastic and wood trailers emerge. When compared to Brazil, the campsites would correspond to the resorts, but destined to a public with less purchasing power.

35Currently the territory has about 25,000 types of lodging, including 12,000 in campsites, 5,000 in furnished rents and nearly 8,000 in individual camps. Road traffic for hikers can reach 50,000 cars a day, whose passengers go to the beach in the high summer season (Office De Turisme Île d’Oléron Marennes, 2020). Therefore, the landscapes have changed due to the mass tourist economy that continues to grow.

36Table 2 shows the bibliographic bases raised during the research for those who want to delve into some of the different historical phases that involve the territorial dynamics of the two islands. In this article the focus is on the territorial dynamics caused by the increased flow of tourists.

Table 2: Systematized bibliography on the territorial dynamics of Ilha Grande and Île d’Oléron

Table 2: Systematized bibliography on the territorial dynamics of Ilha Grande and Île d’Oléron

Source: The author (2020)

37With this systematized reference it was possible to identify a historical period in Ilha Grande, which is not analyzed in depth in the literature consulted: the economy of the sardine factory. It deserves to be highlighted even if there are doubts about its beginning, between 1920 and 1990. This period configures another historical period related to another type of economy that directly influences the change of landscape in Ilha Grande territory.

38Île d’Oléron it is known within the literature of tourism, but there are few studies on its history. The researcher is required to read global studies aimed at the French coast, to collect some information about the island. The only book dedicated specifically to the history of the Île d’Oléron was written by Sauzeau (2016), that gathers all scattered information in one publication.

39With the survey of historical periods, it was possible to realize that in Ilha Grande the environmental protection areas were created before the increase of the tourist flow. The expansion of tourism occurs from 1994, due to the prison implosion. In île d' Oléron, the reverse occurred, first there was the development of tourism and, later, the creation of environmental protection areas. These areas were created in 1990, in the same period that the massification of tourism occurs after the abolition of the bridge toll, facilitating the access of the population and accelerating the urbanization process of the Island.

The increase in tourist flow: barriers and potentialities

40With the increase of tourist flow in Ilha Grande since 1994, it was possible to see a series of changes in landscapes, reflecting a certain uncontrol in the planning of the territory by the public authorities, which led to the urbanization with new constructions of housing and infrastructure to meet tourism. The same occurred in the Île d’Oléron, from the construction of the bridge in 1960.

41To present this scenario of Ilha Grande, specifically in the Vila do Abraão, Figures 5 and 6.

Figure 5: Vila do Abraão, 1970

Figure 5: Vila do Abraão, 1970

Source: Luciano Guerra (comunicação pessoal)

Figure 6: Vila do Abraão, 2020

Figure 6: Vila do Abraão, 2020

Source: Google Earth (2020)

42The observed urban growth, intrinsically linked to the tourism economy, can be attributed to different factors, at different scales, such as: the construction of the Rio-Santos highway (BR101), in the 1970s, which favored access and urbanization; the Turis Project (Tourism Improvement Plan) of the Brazilian Institute of Tourism - EMBRATUR, between 1960 and 90 and the end of prison activities (INEA, 2011).

43In the Île d’Oléron it was also possible to see changes in the landscape, coming from mass tourism, which intensified after 1966, with the construction of the bridge. Here are three examples:

44The first refers to the first landscapes transformed by tourism: the dunes. Before the bridge made the entire island accessible by car, the great dunes remained preserved. With the increasing influx of tourists, the government invested in the opening of roads and streets and, consequently, secondary houses were built on land where the soil is unproductive, near the dunes (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Landscape transformation by dune tourism in the municipality of Saint-Denis d'Oléron, between 1957 and 2016

Figure 7: Landscape transformation by dune tourism in the municipality of Saint-Denis d'Oléron, between 1957 and 2016

Source: Institut National de L'information géographique et Forestiére (IGN, 2019)

45Figure 7 shows how the municipality of Saint-Denis d'Oléron was an example of this situation, and a new neighborhood, Les Huttes, emerged in the area where, in 1957, there were only vineyards, fields and pastures.

46Another example refers to the second landscapes transformed by tourism: traditional villages. To meet the need for second homes, the municipalities allowed the construction of new buildings around the old villages. Some villages that were separated by fields gradually became one, as in the case of La Brée and Les Boulassiers (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Transformation of the landscape in Les Boulassier (La Brée) from 1957 and 2016

Figure 8: Transformation of the landscape in Les Boulassier (La Brée) from 1957 and 2016

Source: IGN (2019)

47The last landscapes transformed by tourism were agricultural areas. as in La Jousselinière (Figure 9), where large areas of fields and vineyards have been converted into huge camping areas.

Figure 9: Transformation of the landscape in La Jousselinière from 1957 and 2016

Figure 9: Transformation of the landscape in La Jousselinière from 1957 and 2016

Source: IGN (2019)

48Currently, the campsites offer prefabricated houses for rent and new villages appear, with palm trees and tropical plants, some very close to the traditional domains, degrading the quality of the landscape.

49In addition to the difficulties in maintaining the landscapes minimally attractive for the sustainability of the tourist activity, one can also observe a gentrification process associated with changes in landscapes on the two islands.

50In the Île d’Oléron, gentrification begins when the inhabitants begin to adopt the urban way of life brought by tourists. In an interview, one of the residents reported what the Island was like before the advent of the tourism economy: "the island was very poor, but at the same time each house cultivated its vegetable garden, had its pigs, cows, rabbits and chickens, the people fished in their écluses à poisson, traditional fishing mode, cultivated their oysters, fished in the rocks. It was a very good life and some people said it was a pays de cocagne, which means a 'land of plenty'".

51Before the construction of the bridge, residents did not use to go to "France", as they called the continent. According to the report of another resident, soon after the war, many people received tourists who rented a room at home and they interacted with the local culture, participating in routine activities such as fishing, oyster cultivation, among others. He adds: "they were friendly and most tourists who came in the 1950s chose to buy a little house or land to build".

52According to another interview, during the 1970s the reception of tourists became less friendly and more commercial. For a part of the population that abandoned traditional activities, tourism became the main occupation: shops, restaurants and campsites were opened. For others, the rent per season has become a kind of financial investment. As another resident tells us: "over time, the residents and tourists changed their behavior and after the 1990s, instead of staying 3 or 4 weeks, tourists were staying only a week". This shows that the tourism economy has become increasingly professional. Tourists were considered less as friends and more as customers to satisfy.

53Exchanges between locals and tourists are still frequent, mainly because some tourists intend to retire and stay on the Island, participating in local life. The resident also says: "The change was huge, a lot of infrastructure, a lot of people gathering just to meet tourists during the season".

54In the 1960s, the island did not yet have a Local Plan of Urbanism. Some people realized that, in the long run, the expansion of tourism could cause major problems, because the loss of agricultural land and transformation of the landscape were already occurring, in favor of the construction of houses to serve the tourism sector. All over the island began to emerge small villages between the fields.

55From these reports, it is possible to affirm that the expansion of tourism has had two consequences for the local economy: seasonal jobs have developed, but they do not provide income security for workers and, on the other hand, the cost of housing has increased alarmingly and does not allow young families to become owners. Most of the population on the island is of elderly people, which has been worsening due to the economic obstacles imposed by the tourism economy to the financial stability of young people. The cost of housing is also responsible for the emergence of a new upper class in society. Their way of life creates, according to one resident, some frustrations in the local population.

56In the case of Ilha Grande, the advent of the so-called "tourism industry" has altered local territorial dynamics. New agents and social groups began to act "obeying" a mercantilist logic, causing transformations of local values and a change in decision-making power and its priorities. One of the island's residents points out that some people "sold their land and now want to go back", another points out that "with tourism, the farm is over", while another resident says that the tourism economy is good only for those who have money to invest and says that tourism is not good for him that they are poor.

57The process of gentrification caused by the tourist activity in Ilha Grande is emphasized by one resident: "people are getting greedy because of tourism money" and to point out that territorial dynamics are being increasingly influenced by mercantilist logic, another resident says that with the increase in tourist flow, "the beach has been divided" and that "there is no more union".

58It is noteworthy that these statements do not represent the entire Ilha Grande, but reflect certain trends observed from the increase in tourist flow. Other trends related to the gentrification process and the scant regulation of tourism are expressed in the increase in violence and drug trafficking.

59During the phase of environmental protection, a new social division of labor emerges on the island, with the implementation of conservation units and the prohibition of some traditional activities, such as farming, hunting, logging, among others. With the arrival of tourism there was also another transformation in the social division of labor. Fishermen began to dedicate themselves to tourism, which generates higher incomes with less working time, compared to the activities performed previously. Women, in turn, began adding new responsibilities to homework as they began working with tourism in high season.

60The loss of the cultural identity of the island's residents’ results from a process of transformation in territorial dynamics caused by environmental restrictions and capital forces. However, in contrast, tourism brought to the remaining native population a better infrastructure, markets and, mainly, the health station. According to a resident, her family moved from Camiranga Beach to Abraão and then to the mainland of Angra dos Reis, for reasons of transportation, health and work: "we moved because it was far and had no doctor, my mother lived very sick and we came to live here (Abraão" and then bought a house in Angra "because it was easier to go to a doctor there, my mother was always sick." With the arrival of tourism, the interviewee returned to the island to invest in her restaurant and currently pays rent.

61From direct observations and informal conversations, it is possible to notice that Ilha Grande has many investors and outside workers. With the beginning of the economic phase of tourism there was an increase in the cost of living on the island, which makes it difficult for former residents to return.

62It occurs for this "the replacement of the traditional population by residents with greater purchasing power" (Ribeiro, 2018: 1338).

63Considering the different historical phases presented, Ilha Grande presented a sudden change in the landscape, mainly associated with the expansion of tourism, as can be seen in Figures 6 and 7. This has also caused some environmental problems, especially in relation to the quality of water resources. Currently, the main beach of the Island, the beach of Abraão, is unfit for bathing. According to data from INEA 2008-2009 (INEA, 2019), a high concentration of fecal coliforms is observed in water, resulting from the inefficiency of the sewage treatment system, since part of the effluents are released directly into rivers and into the sea. According to the report of the park manager, INEA has already declared the state several times, but the problem persists, due to lack of funds for the work. It also states that not all houses are connected to the sewer system.

64Another environmental problem found in Ilha Grande is the large number of vessels circulating around the Island, which alter the quality of water, due to oil spills and the use of antifouling paints, (Fernandez et al., 2007; C. Mendonça Jr., 2017).

65The degradation and lack of environmental awareness point to the importance of developing studies of support capacity, involving government agencies and the population, ensuring their financial viability and the supervision of goals.

66There are at least two institutional studies on support capacity already developed for Ilha Grande: the Nautical Planning work of TurisAngra, since 2014, and the Evaluation of Support Capacity in Ilha Grande, since December 2012, carried out by INEA. However, despite the existence of these studies, residents report frequent interruptions of electricity and episodes of lack of water during, especially at the turn of the new year. As for the limitation of the number of people on the island, the problem in the Adventurer's RDS stands out, where, according to the agreement signed between the city of Angra dos Reis and FEEMA (now INEA), only 560 people per day are allowed to enter. However, in 2019, in the New Year’s Eve, about 3.000 people were registered.

67In relation to the number of vessels, despite the planning carried out by the city of Angra dos Reis, the number of vessels that dock on the island is still significant. According to one resident, when there was the release for the approach of cruises, which are only allowed to stay one day on the Island, there was a large investment in small and fast boats to meet tourists with the realization of small tours. However, nowadays, even with daily arrivals of cruises in high season it is possible to notice that many boats are still, moored.

68On the Island is intense the flow of boats, with emphasis on the segment of nautical tourism. More than 10,000 vessels are registered at the Angra do Reis Ports Police Station. With this, TurisAngra promulgated Decree No. 10,048 of February 15, 2016, which instituted the nautical tourism planning program, developed in partnership with Sebrae and the Technical Chamber of Nautical Tourism. According to the decree, vessels carrying out tourist activities must be register with the secretariat (TurisAngra 2014).

69Due to the poor maritime accessibility of the Île d’Oléron, the same negative impacts of Ilha Grande are not observed there. However, the flow of tourists is also massive and, every day, tens of thousands of tourists are attracted by the beaches, accessing the island by car, generating a big traffic. According to Duvat (2010), the main problems identified in the beaches of the Île d’Oléron are: the emergence of conflicts of use, due to the diversification of leisure and sports and tourist activities, allied to the expressive number of beach goers; lack of respect for environmental laws on the part of beach users; degradation of the dunes because of the number of visitors, as well as the intense car traffic. Aiming at reducing trafficking and generating CO2, free bus trips are planned during the high season, June and August, and the construction of 160 km of bicycle paths (Office de Turisme Ilê d’Oléron Marennes, 2020).

70In relation to mass tourism in the Île d’Oléron, according to an interview with the head of the tourism department, events are promoted, and advertising materials are produced that encourage tourists to visit the island outside the high season. Also, in the Île d’Oléron one notices the importance of developing studies of support capacity. However, to date, no institutional studies have been found.

71Both islands receive mass tourism, which causes pressures on ecosystems. According to Cohen (1978), the environmental impact of tourism is possibly greater in developing countries, given that "these countries do not yet have the power to regulate or combat aggressive tourism promoters, engaged in major tourism projects and rapid returns of the massive tourist market", as is the case of Ilha Grande (Cohen, 1978: 233)

Final considerations

72Although the systematic literature review demonstrates that there is a great deal of information and knowledge production about Ilha Grande, including the increase in tourist flow, it is noted that this economy is still out of control. In the interviews, the residents point out that the planning of tourist activities is almost non-existent and that the support capacity is not respected.

73It is possible to verify, through this research, that Ilha Grande is on the verge of a social and environmental collapse, with the loss of cultural values, increased inequality, poverty, violence and environmental degradation. The landscape is being drastically altered with the irregular occupation of the hills, following the trend of the continental part of the municipality of Angra dos Reis.

74On the other hand, the risk of collapse occurred in the Île d’Oléron around the 1990s. At that time, there was no regulation to control the growth of the construction of secondary homes, reduce the production of garbage and prevent the gradual disappearance of local culture. At the same time, the European Union, the French state and local power were reorganized by the creation of the communauté de communes. Around the year 2000, with the creation of some natural reserves and the strengthening of those that already existed, the landscape was protected and the problems of garbage and pollution were solved. The Île d’Oléron is currently in a balanced situation. Maintaining it requires close vigilance by local elected representatives, along with the French and European institutions, to preserve natural and cultural heritage without hindering economic development.

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1 L. Pacaud. [comunicação pessoal]. Document Booster d'activité – 2019. Île d'Oleron, 16 de junho de 2019.

2 Caiçara is a traditional inhabitant of the coastline of the Southeast and South regions of Brazil, formed from the miscegenation between indigenous, white and black people.

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Índice das ilustrações

Título Figure 1: Location of Ilha Grande
Créditos Source: Instituto Estadual do Ambiente (INEA, 2021)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 55k
Título Figure 2: Location of Île d’Oléron
Créditos Source: DIVA-GIS France (2021)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 47k
Título Figure 3: Map with the four conservation units of the Ilha Grande
Créditos Source: Adapted from INEA - Instituto Estadual do Ambiente, Secretaria Estadual de Meio Ambiente do Rio de Janeiro (2021)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 71k
Título Table 1: Families and residences of inhabitants of Île d’Oléron (1968-2016)
Créditos Source: Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (INSEE, 2019)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 94k
Título Figure 4: Protection areas in Île d’Oléron (1860-2020)
Créditos Source: Géoportai (2020)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 101k
Título Table 2: Systematized bibliography on the territorial dynamics of Ilha Grande and Île d’Oléron
Créditos Source: The author (2020)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 233k
Título Figure 5: Vila do Abraão, 1970
Créditos Source: Luciano Guerra (comunicação pessoal)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 69k
Título Figure 6: Vila do Abraão, 2020
Créditos Source: Google Earth (2020)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 47k
Título Figure 7: Landscape transformation by dune tourism in the municipality of Saint-Denis d'Oléron, between 1957 and 2016
Créditos Source: Institut National de L'information géographique et Forestiére (IGN, 2019)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 194k
Título Figure 8: Transformation of the landscape in Les Boulassier (La Brée) from 1957 and 2016
Créditos Source: IGN (2019)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 218k
Título Figure 9: Transformation of the landscape in La Jousselinière from 1957 and 2016
Créditos Source: IGN (2019)
Ficheiros image/jpeg, 234k
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Referência eletrónica

Debora Mury Alves Chueiri, Rafael Angelo Fortunato e Thierry Sauzeau, «Territorial dynamics and increased tourist flow in two islands»Terra Brasilis [Online], 16 | 2021, posto online no dia 01 novembro 2022, consultado o 29 janeiro 2023. URL:; DOI:

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Debora Mury Alves Chueiri

Departamento de Pós-Graduação em Meio Ambiente, Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Rua São Francisco Xavier, nº 524, sala 12.005, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Autora principal:

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Rafael Angelo Fortunato

Instituto de Geografia e Secretaria de Turismo, Rua São Francisco Xavier, nº 524, sala 12.005, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

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Thierry Sauzeau

Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires en Histoire, Arts et Musicologie, Groupement d'Intérêt Scientifique Histoire et Sciences de la Mer, Universidade de Poitiers, 8 rue René Descartes, Poitiers, 86 073 FR.

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