Sunday, August 31, 2014

Meet Portugal’s libertarian secretary of tourism

Adolfo Mesquita Nunes: Portugal’s Libertarian Tourism Ambassador | Rising Stars | OZY - Laura Secorun Paley,

August 26, 2014 - "'A free spirit.' That’s what people call Adolfo Mesquita Nunes.... Mesquita is the country’s eccentric secretary of state for tourism, and his unique style and apparent success are making him a political darling among the right-wing ranks of the People’s Party (CDS-PP), part of Portugal’s ruling coalition. He’s also an enfant terrible: a supporter of not just economic liberty, but social liberty, including gay rights and abortion rights.

"'Freedom is the most important political value for me. It comes before anything else,' he says. 'So when somebody comes to me, my first question is never, "How can I help?" but "What can I do to let the market do what it wants?"'

"Since Mesquita got the job nearly two years ago, Portugal’s tourism industry has taken off, though it’s hard to say how much is his doing. Last year, tourist arrivals hit a record — over 14 million, more than Portugal’s 10 million people — and the first half of 2014 is up 12 percent over 2013. In this economically depressed country with 15.2 percent unemployment, tourism generated 20 percent of new jobs last year....

"He dropped almost all traditional tourism campaigns, such as expensive institutional ads on public transport, sponsored sports events and TV commercials. Instead, he’s gone for online advertisements, social media presence and intense media PR campaigns that helped land Portugal on the cover of National Geographic’s Traveler magazine....

"He’s also cut red tape, reduced taxes and made it easier to set up businesses such as walking tours and food stands. Before, these companies needed to have several types of insurance and costly licenses. Now operating fees are down by 80 percent and the process requires just a single form sent to the Tourism Office for a registry number. Tour guides no longer need certification.

"'Often, whatever you let the state rule, the state will ruin,' says Mesquita, 'so instead of doing a plan to "promote" those businesses, we got out of their way and now there are twice as many as there were a couple years ago'....

"Mesquita traces his 'love of freedom' back 20 years to his grandfather’s library.... Browsing through the shelves at age 14, a title caught his eye: Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman, in which the couple argue that capitalism and the free market are the solution to all economic problems. 'I got it. It all made so much sense to me after reading it,' he recalls. 'Ever since, I’ve been wanting to fight for my freedom to do what I want and let others to do the same.'"

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