Portugal needs to be part of the global tourism discussion

Rudi Giuliani in Portugal
Rudi Giuliani in Portugal
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PORTUGAL (eTN) – Rudolf Giuliani has urged Portugal tourism chiefs and industry professionals to promote their country more vigorously as a major world destination.

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PORTUGAL (eTN) – Rudolf Giuliani has urged Portugal tourism chiefs and industry professionals to promote their country more vigorously as a major world destination.

The former New York City mayor made the recommendation during a keynote address at the 2011 Portugal Tourism Conference held at the Estoril Congress Centre near Lisbon in January.

The theme of the one-day symposium, organized by the Portuguese Tourism Confederation was “Cities – Centres of Economic Growth and Tourism in the 21st Century” and featured several guest speakers drawn from the banking, tourism, economics, and marketing sectors. Giuliani presented his topic under the banner “Leadership: Facing Change and Crisis.”

While praising the southern European nation for its welcoming population, outstanding beauty, and fascinating history, Giuliani believed more effort was required advertising these attributes to a global audience.

“You do not market Portugal effectively,” he told the assembled delegates, “That is the problem. But it is also the solution.”

Famously presiding over New York City during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 – “the worst day in the history of the city, perhaps even the country” – the former mayor used the tragedy of 9/11 as an example of how a city can rebuild itself emotionally and physically against seemingly insurmountable odds.

“We knew we had to get people back into the city,” he recalled. Within days of the atrocity, an advertising campaign had been launched featuring high-profile personalities such as broadcast journalist and author Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger, a former US Secretary of State.

“The [publicity] helped restore our economy, helped restore our spirit. The message was clear: that terrorism can’t stop us.”

In the days and months following 9/11, Giuliani’s handling of the crisis was hailed around the world as a model of outstanding leadership.

Giuliani later penned a book, Leadership, published in 2002, where he recounted his immediate reaction to the attacks. The book also drew on his experiences as a corporate lawyer and US attorney and then as mayor. And it’s within these chapters that he championed his so-called leadership principals, the list of which he imparted to his audience at Estoril.

“There are six principals of leadership that you can apply to everything you do,” he said. These characteristics – belief, optimism, courage, planning, teamwork, and communication – help define the successful business leader.

“Leaders need a set of beliefs, they need vision,” he elaborated. “They also need to be optimists. They have to look at a problem and see it as an opportunity. That takes courage.”

Meeting challenges involves risk he added, and planning ahead means reducing this risk as much as possible. And a leader must appreciate the value of teamwork; leadership is also about teaching, motivating, and learning from others.

But the most important tenet, he stressed, was communication.

“You have to communicate effectively. We are all connected globally and the better you’re connected the quicker you’ll succeed. You can’t afford to isolate yourself.”

The former mayor acknowledged Portugal’s current economic woes but again urged business leaders to adopt a more visionary attitude.

“First of all you have to make it more desirable to do business in Portugal,” he continued. “The country has a lot going for it, but it has to offer a better economic deal.”

But this will not happen without the help of government employment initiatives, he conceded.

“The government has to work as an inspiration for business to expand. It has to kick start the economy to create more jobs.”

Again, though, he emphasized the importance of his most fundamental leadership principal. “When I was mayor, I would talk with business leaders and ask what I could do to generate more business opportunities in the city. We created a dialogue.”

Giuliani served two terms as Mayor of New York City between 1994 and 2001 and is credited with reducing tax burdens and cracking down on organized crime, among other initiatives. According to the former mayor, at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York was welcoming around 28 million visitors a year. A decade on and the Big Apple is playing host to nearly 44 million tourists annually, and is the single biggest city destination in the USA.

“There are a lot of international companies with a major presence in Portugal, and Lisbon is a great place to headquarter a company,” he continued. “But you have to advertise this fact more effectively. You need to tell [visitors to] Portugal about the business opportunities here.”

“You also have to remain competitive,” he warned. “You must be careful not to price yourself out of the market. You need to figure out how to be less expensive than Paris or Madrid or Rome.”

And the world has to know more about Portugal in general, he stressed.

“You’ve got all the things that make a great tourist destination – great beaches, great food, great weather, and no significant issue of crime or terrorism.

“But when anyone talks about a world destination you need you make sure you’re part of that discussion.” Draw up a detailed plan to promote the country further, then measure your progress, he suggested.

“A key component of leadership is being able to develop a strategy, and then being able to evaluate success or failure,” he concluded. “You should see it as a challenge to your intelligence and your creativity, because you have a great country to sell.”

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.