AMAL, the Algarve’s mayors’ group unanimously approved the introduction of a tourist tax for visitors staying in the region’s hotels and local lodging establishments. All municipalities in the region have committed to participating in the new charge. While the tax has yet to be set, it is expected that the final fee will follow the example of Lisbon where visitors pay €1 per night per person. Airbnb, the online reservation platform, helps to collect much of the tax and delivers millions of Euros to the city each year. Alternatively, the Algarve councils may follow the model of Oporto that has recently introduced a €2 per night per person levy. The region’s hoteliers’ association along with local lodging owners are expected to oppose the measure.
Each council plans to retain the money raised in their respective townships to be used “in favour of the development of the Algarve municipalities.” The stated purpose is to use the funds for “culture, combating seasonality and promoting the quality of the Algarve.”
The experience gained from Local Lodging over the years needs to be applied to the Tourist Tax concept. The shift from local statutes to national unity has lead to massive compliance, quadrupling the number of registered “AL” businesses over the past four years. Total registrations now surpass 60,000. Hopefully, the tourist tax concept will eventually embrace country-wide implementation rather than different rules and practices in each of Portugal’s 308 town councils. A comprehensive plan would eliminate local deviations which only create confusion and a sense of unfairness amongst visitors.
If a tourist tax were applied as occurs with “IMI” (Municipal Property Tax), where all municipalities reap the benefits proportionally, leaving tax collection from agents in the hands of the “AT” (Tax Authority), the outcome would increase local revenues while strengthening equity and harmony.
The Secretary of State for Tourism, Ana Mendes Godinho, announced that currently there are 59,000 Local Lodging registrations whereas of December 2015 the total was 28,000. She attributed the increase in large part to the legal obligation of digital platforms to display formal enrolments.
The number of beds offered in 2017 under Local Lodging in Portugal accounted for 56% of the total. Hotels made up the remaining 44%, according to an analysis by the Association of Hospitality of Portugal (AHP).
There are establishments designated as Local Lodging with standard residential housing permits but which are in reality “genuine hotels”. According to Urbanism Councilman Manuel Salgado, “giving residential housing and Local Lodging the same licensing status is detrimental to the city.” “Real Local Lodging is when the owner lives at home, sharing with holidaymakers. This form of tourist accommodation deserves protection”, stated the Lisbon alderman.
Representatives from eight cities protested against the rules applicable to holiday letting platforms, advocating more transparent regulation. The municipalities of the cities of Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Krakow, Vienna, Reykjavik and Amsterdam subscribed to the declaration sent to the EU Commission. City officials stated that online tourist letting platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com should be obliged to share data with regulators. Currently, these internet booking services permit the anonymity of listing owners of properties as well as of the holidaymakers who let them, exacerbating pressures that the recent invasion of mass tourism places on the infrastructure of these municipalities.
The Socialist Party (“PS”) concedes dropping the controversial measure that would give condominium assemblies the power to veto the use of apartments for Local Lodging. On the table is an alternative solution that would safeguard the interests of all parties and minimize impact on the economy: revoking Local Lodging permits if there are “repeated and consistent” complaints of excessive noise or other behaviour that jeopardise the rights of other occupants.
With tourism reaching peaks of demand from the all four corners of the world, it is not surprising that Portugal is well classified in the ranking of countries that best know English as a second language. According to the English Proficiency Index prepared by Education First, Portugal comes in first place in Southern Europe and 18th worldwide, set at the “High” level of knowledge of the English language.
According to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE), holidaymakers spent more than €23 billion in Portugal in 2016. Over 28 million visitors entered the country. The number of overnight stays exceeded 144 million. Tourism is growing four times faster than the rest of the Portuguese economy and represents 7% of the gross domestic product.
Porto city council approved today a tourist tax of two euros per night for all guests over the age of 13 beginning 01 March 2018. In announcing the new levy, Mayor Rui Moreira said that, in order to ensure Porto’s place as a sustainable tourist destination, holidaymakers must participate in the running costs of the municipality, given the wear and tear inherent in the tourist footprint.
Lisbon was the fifth most popular destination for European holidaymakers in 2017, registering a 17% jump when compared to the year before. Porto came in ninth place, 12% above 2016. Registering a 24% increase, London was the first choice for European tourists, followed by Barcelona, Mallorca and Paris.