We Love Lisbon and Lisbon Will Love You
Are we conscious travelers?
When I first came to Lisbon last summer, I fell in love. The colorful streets, the endless number of hidden alleyways to explore, the amazing weather with the ever shining sun and beaches as beautiful as in the movies simply amazed me. And apart from the beauty- a whole new city, country, culture and people to learn about. Everything seemed new, fresh and crisp.
Spending a longer time there than just a normal holiday, I had the chance to dig a bit deeper and become more familiar with my surroundings.
I found accomodation in one of the most touristy areas, Alfama. Quite quickly I started feeling a resentment from some of the locals. Asking for directions or for a lighter was never answered with a smile, but rather with a slightly hostile attitude.
When you wander around Alfama, the old and probably most popular part of Lisbon for foreigners, it is hard not to stumble on tags written on the walls by angry and frustrated locals with statements such as “Save Lisbon and its people from mass tourism.” Sometimes the only way people know how to express themselves is with dissatisfaction. Like the above example, expressing your frustration in a very immediate and unorganised way is of course an option. Another option is to gather and protest and try to make yourself be heard aiming at a legislative level of power. But those options are not meeting the visitors who will keep on putting their foot prints on destinations worldwide. But there are other ways and this project especially caught my attention in light of the tense issue.
In Lisbon a group of people chose a different way. They faced the problem and started a non-profit project as a way of articulating how they, on behalf of Lisbon, want travelers, visitors and tourist to behave and treat their city. Instead of expressing their grievances in anger, they created Lisbon Sustainable Tourism to educate the visitors of their city in a constructive and welcoming way. Their payoff is named The Sustainable Tourism Cycle, stating “You will love Lisbon and Lisbon will love you,” graphically designed as a wheel, with the two ends meeting in an ongoing cycle. They are giving away a message of love and care-explaining how visitors are more than welcome in their beloved city as long as they treat it kindly, respectfully and responsibly. They don’t make money off of their activities, instead they are driven by their purpose, so the support they receive from local organisations goes straight back into benefitting the project.
Their main product is the L-I-S-B-O-A Map and Responsible Guide, a map which you will find in a lot of shops all over town,so feel free to bring it with you. As well as being an actual map, it gives tips for good behaviour and lists local shops and restaurant that are not only aiming for tourists. This gives you, as a visitor, the opportunity to experience a more authentic Lisbon and spend your money where locals will benefit. Besides the free map, they promote other projects that has a similar focus or agenda. Visit their website, lisbon sustainable tourism.com, and you will find:
- A travelling agency which can help you find eco-hotels and eco-friendly tours
- A tuk tuk tour company with vehicles not running on gas. but on electricity
- A gallery exhibiting and selling the works of young and upcoming local artist
- Impact trips with activities that support the local community
- A tour project, Hills of Hope, giving former homeless people the opportunity to empower themselves in a professional way by becoming tour guides
- Green walking tours
- Community projects
We Hate Tourism Tours
Another project taking part in this constructive counter movement is an untraditional tour company called We Hate Tourism Tours- a tour company that offers personal perspectives of Lisbon. As its name, funny enough, this project was started out of coincidence.
The founder, Bruno, was eager to tell stories about his beloved Lisbon to share his knowledge and to get people to understand the city, not only from its immediate bright and charming sides, but also as a society. A friend who saw his talents suggested that he make a business out of it, but Bruno refused and immediately responded: “I’m not a tourist guide man, I hate tourism tours!” but in the following of time, he reconsidered the unfiltered sentence he threw out there- was this an opportunity to change the traditional guided tour? And so, he created the company We Hate Tourism Tours. Besides offering tours, they give back to the local communities by using company vehicles to give children from low income neighbourhoods the possibility to visit their own capitol. Furthermore, they also take local elders on trips to get a breath of fresh air, with Lisbon being the city of seven hills . An endless amount of stairs is a real struggle to grow old in, as many of these citizens barely leave their homes, especially during winter.
With local inhabitants being pushed out due to rising rent prices, the neighborhood also may go with them. Therefore the need for financial injection from tourism, even for a city not built to handle such an enormous amount of activity, is important, and more so if done so in a mindful way. For visitors will still keep coming as long as the sun is still shining, so why not make it an enjoyable experience for everybody?