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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.
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.
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.
Prices for Local Lodging (“AL”) rose in the historic centres of Lisbon and Oporto during the first half of 2016 according to the “Confidencial Imobiliário Index”. The average cost of “AL” accommodations increased by 4.6% in the historic districts of Lisbon and 0.3% in the centre of Porto.
Airbnb announced that, since 01 May 2016, it has already delivered almost five million euros to the City de Lisbon from the collection of levies on holidaymakers. To date in 2017, the amount collected has been €3,100,000. Airbnb is the only internet hosting platform to collect the Tourist Tax (one euro per night per person) on behalf of the Lisbon City Council.
The number of overnight stays in tourist establishments has grown in all regions of the country between 2013 and 2016. Overall demand increased in the North and Alentejo, rural tourism in the Central Portugal and Local Lodging in Lisbon, according to the National Statistics Institute.
Lisbon has experienced the greatest decline in the number of young adults within Portugal in recent years. One factor contributing to the drop is the difficulty in finding affordable housing. In 2012, the median rent in Lisbon was €268, according to INE (“Instituto Nacional de Estatística”). In 2016, the average climbed to €830.
But high rent is only part of the problem. The ageing of the population is at the root of the decrease. In 1991, Lisbon had 138 seniors for every 100 young people (from 0 to 14 years old). By 2016, the number of elderly rose to 182, a proportional increase of 24%, making Lisbon the oldest council in the nation. Provisional population estimates advanced by INE indicate that the number of young people aged between 20 and 34 living in Lisbon went down from 95,830 in 2011 to 67,916 in 2016, a net loss of 29%.
The Portuguese brand, Lifecooler, announced that it is transforming university residences into Local Lodging during the peak summer months. A pilot project began this August in Lisbon. Designated as “Rooms & Experiences”, the initiative started with a residence with 48 rooms and 68 beds located in the Lumiar district.
The aggregate tourism turnover rose 17% last year to 3,075 million euros. The number of holiday makers jumped to 19 million, an increase of 10%. By geographical distribution, the greatest concentration of tourist beds continues to be the Algarve, with one-third of the total. Lisbon accounted for almost 20%.
The average cost of Local Lodging increased 4.6% in the centre of Lisbon and 0.3% in the historical neighbourhoods of Oporto in the first half of 2017 as compared to the previous six months period according to a recent study.