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60% of the buildings currently used in Local Lodging were previously uninhabited according to a recent study issued by the Portuguese Hotel Association (AHRESP). Only a minority served as long-term leases to locals. The report also concluded that 56% of the “AL” buildings in Northern Portugal were formerly unoccupied. In the centre, the percentage of empty dwellings was 47% and in the Alentejo, 55%. The Algarve, Madeira and the Azores are still under analysis.
Five million households have two months ending 31 May to submit their “IRS” income tax return for 2017. The reporting period began on 01 April with more than 260,000 taxpayers presenting their online declaration on day one. (Keep in mind that paper forms are no longer available and that all reporting must be done online via the “AT” portal).
Last year, 152,000 homes were sold in Portugal, an increment of 25%. French and Brazilian are the foreigners who are buying more properties. The jump in demand also led to a substantial increase in prices: Lisbon up 37%, Oporto 29%, Madeira 24% and the Algarve 18%.
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.