With its provocative name and maverick spirit, We Hate Tourism Tours (WHTT) has attracted plenty of consumer press and travel blog attention since it started facilitating authentic experiences in Lisbon, Portugal eight years ago. In this “GT” Insight, WHTT’s “philosopher-in-chief” Ricardo Oliveira considers WHTT’s unorthodox approach in the context of tourism’s “new reality”.
We Hate Tourism Tours was created in 2009, and—like the brave navigators some centuries ago—necessity was what moved this group forward. The crisis of 2008, the will to create and do something that we would be proud of in the future, the random events that put us all together, and the persistence and the strength not to run away and turn our backs on our country, made everything possible. Today, almost a decade later, we can only be proud of what we have already achieved.
Nowadays many speak about what is the role of tourism and its “agents” in this new reality. We like to believe that, back then, it was already one of the most important things for us. It made no sense to create another company that would take people to the same places, give them the same speech that everyone else gave them, and be part of that “monopoly game”.
We were determined to do something different; to give people visiting Lisboa a true vision of what living in our city and country was like. So we started something that would change the life of many people over the next years. We don’t believe we were the first wanting to do this, but we were for sure one of the first in Portugal to actually achieve it.
Growth “in a sustainable way”
Something that since day one was considered mandatory for us was to grow in a sustainable way instead of the “normal way” around here. And that’s exactly what we did. We started with one van and one jeep. From two guys driving at the start, we soon added a third. Eight years later we now have a small fleet of six vans and two jeeps that we own 100%. And we have a team of 13 people working—and growing—with us.
We also created a micro-credit facility that works in a really simple and fair way. Our workers\friends let us know their project and, if we believe we can help and that it’s going to be something that brings happiness to someone, we’ll help at the start; not only with capital but also with everything we can for our small community to create new and different projects. Pedro Dias Costa, Classic Ride, Unofficial Ambassadors, and Lisbon Sustainable Tourism are some good examples; many more things that we are proud of and that we believe make a difference.
Tourism “probably the biggest industry of our time”
Back in 2009, tourism in Lisboa was still something new. We remember having friends asking us what tourists we would take with us as it was not normal to find them in the streets of our neighborhoods. All the places we went to with our friends were empty, all the small shops and “tascos” were empty; only “locals” would be there. It was easy for everyone to work, and everyone was happy, because we could do what we love. Travellers would get unique and “off-the-beaten-track” experiences. And it was still possible for a common Portuguese to live in the centre of the city and enjoy their lunch outside. But you know how human beings behave, and how greed is always present in our lives. One way or another it is up to us to deal with it.
Today, Venice and Barcelona are being spoken about everywhere. What’s happening is a reflex of human nature; greed is a bitch. And it is happening in Lisboa as well, from the franchised “local” cool cafes spreading in every corner but owned by few, to the monstrous real estate machine that has taken over our city. The interests of people are being put aside in order for business to expand; and it will, as long as there is one person, or many, making profit out of it.
Tourism is probably the biggest industry of our time, and still so many people ignore this. Tourism is still seen as something secondary; it brings a couple of bucks and makes people smile but no more than that. It’s incredible the amount of money that spins around this industry, and it’s even more incredible to see the power that this industry has in the world generally, and in cities and places more particularly.
“Leave them kids alone”, but not totally
Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” says it all about our opinion on whether governments and authorities should be involved. Usually when these two arrive, creativity is replaced by castration and the will to do something genuinely good for people is replaced by economics and numbers. Believe us, we know it well.
We all agree that rules have to exist in order for things to work, and especially in tourism. In a city like Lisboa or Barcelona, it’s mandatory that they exist and there are agents that control and supervise it. But putting in charge governments that only see euros in front of them, and local authorities enforcing what they think is right—so many times without even considering the needs of the people that elected them—is not the way to go and we are sure of that. Following this road will lead to cities that are nothing more than “theme parks”; where nobody really lives; and which are used only in the interests of some: Those who can afford to live the “traveller lifestyle”, which will get more and more expensive; and the greedy ones who want to exploit this new reality as much as they can.
In our opinion, the solution is obvious, limits have to be put in the percentage of houses used only for short-term rentals, and everyone working in tourism should be forced to give something back to the city and community that it uses for work and profit.
How we are different
One could ask how or why is We Hate Tourism Tours different?
One possible answer is: Well, we could have 60 vans, not six. We could use our jeeps every day instead of only two days a week and not care about pollution. We could be paying lousy wages to the persons working with us. And we could keep the profits all to ourselves.
Since we don’t do these things, we believe that here lies the big difference. If more and more people start believing that it’s possible and desirable to have a rich life, instead of being rich for its own sake, things will be much better for everyone.
Featured image: Adapted from an image on the WHTT website.
About the author
According to We Hate Tourism Tours founder Bruno Gomes, Ricardo Oliveira is the “philosopher-in-chief” of the outfit: “Ricardo, is the father of a beautiful little girl and a book lover. As a kid he used to play piano, read his books, and spend his free days helping his father fix cars in his garage, carrying his oil-greased books everywhere. He’s one of the co-owners of WHTT, and spends his days telling everyone what to do with amazing long emails that are full of prose and poems, and teaching his little girl how to drive. And walk.”