It’s been a summer of protest across Europe as municipal governments in major cities from Amsterdam to Barcelona face a growing backlash from local groups, angry that insensitive ‘invaders’ are ruining their neighbourhoods.
Only last month, huge crowds took to the streets of the Catalonian capital with placards reading ‘This isn’t tourism, it’s an invasion’, demanding more sustainable tourism that benefits the entire community.
Messages like ‘Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods’ were painted on tour buses, as Catalonians vented at being priced out of apartments and poor working conditions for those employed in the tourism sector.
It’s a message which echoes across major European capitals including Lisbon, where a small team of locals have turned their love of Portuguese culture into an anti-tourism business.
We Hate Tourism Tours is one in a growing number of ‘urban safari’ companies popping up around the globe, tapping into a millennial desire for off the beaten track experiences.
The message is simple, WHTT wants to educate visitors in how to appreciate the city in a responsible way.
The best way to do that, according to WHTT founder Bruno Gomes is by ‘going and meeting locals, sharing experiences with them, telling them your stories and allowing them tell theirs.’
‘Go local,’ he tells Culture Trip, ‘avoid big companies and businesses that are turning our cities into boring places. Travel to be a better person.’
In other parts of Europe, local governments are taking more drastic action. Dubrovnik’s mayor announced that he wants to limit the number of tourists in the city’s old town to just 4,000 people per day.
‘The situation is, in the truest sense of the word, unsustainable,’ wrote Mato Franković. ‘I am not here to make people happy, but to make the quality of life better.’
It’s a sentiment echoed by Gomes. ‘Tourism as an industry needs to stop, look at itself as travellers, businesspeople, and politicians and agree to be less greedy.’
Gomes reportedly turned down a deal to turn WHTT into a franchise, deciding instead to keep the concept local.
‘If we inspire other people to start similar projects in their cities, we will be happy to help for free,’ he says.
Gomes’s altruism is about trying to fix the problem of unsustainable tourism from within, while creating the best possible experience for tourists. His message to anyone thinking of visiting Portugal? ‘Travel responsible or stay home.’
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