High Unemployment in Portugal Gives Rise to a New Breed of Entrepreneurs

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Tired of looking for work, a group of young Portuguese entrepreneurs decided to get together and sell their country's most valuable resource. The scenery and themselves. Their company, "We Hate Tourism Tours" in Lisbon, Portugal offers visitors a unique way of seeing the Portuguese capital and it´s surroundings, and they just might be changing the idea of work in the country while doing so.

"Many tour companies focus on the places that people want to visit and ignore its most important aspect, it´s people," says Bruno Gomes, Founder, We Hate Tourism Tours

What do a graphic designer, a mechanic with a degree in Portuguese literature, a mom who once drove electric trolleys, and a construction worker who loves to surf have in common? They were all, until recently, unemployed. With Portugal's unemployment rate rising to 10.6%, jobs and opportunities for young Portuguese are grim. This group decided the best way to find work was to stop looking altogether.

Bruno Gomes, founder of We Hate Tourism Tours, decided that it was time to take advantage of his country´s most valuable resource. Its beautiful scenery, sense of irony and its people. "Many tour companies focus on the places that people want to visit and ignore its most important aspect, its people," says Bruno.

A faltering economy, ongoing corruption scandals, and an environment seemingly spinning out of control have pushed travellers to search out something different in their travels. Visitors, now more than ever are after the real story of a country told by real people who live in it. Bruno and his fellow partners believe it is important for people to see "the beautiful places" of a country, but also believe it is equally important to see and hear about the parts that are not so beautiful to have a better understanding of the culture. Shunning trends in luxury tours, a philosophy chosen more out of necessity than design, this young Portuguese outfit keep their tours low key. Their vans, while restored and adorned with Portuguese sayings and attitude are 15-20 years old. Their uniforms are furnished by their individual tastes and closet options. And their Internet they "borrow" from a friendly neighbor in their office complex.    "We wanted to keep the focus on the reality, and the reality is that if you had a Portuguese friend showing you around, the chances that he would be showing you in a brand new Mercedes Vito are slim, the chances that he would be wearing a suit are even slimmer and the chances that he wouldn't relate some of his frustration about his country while proudly showing off Portugal's beauty are zero," offers Bruno.

"We may not be able to compete with the big tour operators marketing budgets and brand new vehicles, but we definitely have invested heavily in the one resource that costs nothing, our drivers." All of W.H.T.T.'s drivers are local residents and have different individual experiences with the city that they incorporate into their tours, like Sandra a 35 year old mom who was one of the first women in Portugal hired to drive the iconic electric trolleys that traverse the hills of Lisbon. All of the drivers are also owners. Disappointed with many of the working situations Bruno found himself in over the years, this was something he wanted to focus on while starting the company. All employees would have long contracts, social security paid, and ownership in the company. He believes that by giving employees a percentage of the company they will be less worried about paying their rent and work to make the company succeed. While he acknowledges this idea is not new, he also says," that in Portugal this doesn't exist on a big scale." Even trying to get employers to hire on a full time basis is a struggle.        

The tour company came into being almost by accident. One weekend some friends of Bruno's came to visit from London and he decided to take them on a personal tour of Lisbon and its surrounding areas. Mixing history, fantastical stories, his favorite "secret" places and plenty of "petiscos ( Portuguese snacks)" the trip has been an instant success with travellers. From there things began to take off. Bruno attributes the success to the tours flexibility. Each tour is unique and constantly being adapted on the fly based on what the group wants and where they are from. Bruno and his friends also take pains to make sure that they try to help out other Portuguese while making the experience unique, by buying fresh meats, cheeses, vegetables and pastries from local merchants and roadside vendors. The Vans have 8 seats and this small number allows travellers to connect with other travellers and the drivers to get to know each passenger personally. They place an importance on lasting relationships with their customers. "We don't want the tour to end when travellers step out of our vans. We want a conversation to begin. Armed with the spoils of youth, they keep up with guests via Facebook, blogs, twitter and even give out their personal numbers for guests to call for more information or help. "We get lots of calls after our trips asking where the best place to eat grilled chicken is, which beer we think is better, "Super-Bock or Sagres," or where they should visit next in Portugal", says Ricardo a 25 year old Mechanic with a Degree in Portuguese Literature. "It's nice," he says "that our passengers keep in contact with us and that based on our trip they put their trust in us."

All of this adds up to an "unforgettable experience," says Nadjic a former guest. "As soon as you get into the van, you know that you will have a great, great time."
One thing is for sure, this small tour company is looking to change the "tour" business and might be creating a new way to work while doing it.

http://www.wehatetourismtours.com
Lisbon, Portugal
Facebook: we hate tourism tours

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Bruno Gomes
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