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Innovation in the regulation of local lodging has made Portugal a case study. Short term holiday letting is an integral part of the current Portuguese tourism boom. Dilapidated heritage districts in Lisbon and Oporto have a new lease on life with private investment driving much needed restoration. As with any phenomenon of rapid and disorderly growth, distortions have emerged. But this should not be a pretext to kill the chicken that lays the golden egg.
With all political parties submitting their own proposals, the parliamentary calendar will only consider changes to the law governing of local lodging next year. The ruling Socialist Party wants to make permission dependent on the approval of neighbors in condominiums.
Private student residence letting is a burgeoning business that reconciles some of the vagaries of short term lets common in local lodging with the stability of medium term rentals while avoiding the ongoing commitments endemic in long-term leases. In university cities like Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, the average price for a student room currently runs around €350 per month.
In an interview with the “Jornal de Negócios” and “Antena 1“, the president of the Pestana group, José Theotónio, declared that: “Airbnb, Local Lodging and hostels are all welcome. They represent competition but are necessary to build Portugal as a cosmopolitan and sustainable tourist destination.” This statement signals a significant turn-around in the tradition hostility voiced by the hotel industry towards peer-to-peer holiday lettings.
As of 01 July, online letting platforms such as AirBnB and Booking can only list properties duly licensed in the National Tourist Registry. The obligation to enroll is part of a simplex initiative known as “Simpler Tourist Licenses”. With the new regulation, the Government intends to avoid unfair competition between property owners and tour operators as well as strengthen compliance.
Lisbon and Porto saw the number of properties registered in the local housing increase by 3,400 and 1,300 respectively in 2016. In a new trend, the largest growth took place outside of the historical neighborhoods, where the supply doubled. Lisbon closed 2016 with 6,800 registrations, twice as many as it had in 2015. Of the 13,000 new registrations nationwide, many were due to legalization of irregular situations that already existed rather than brand-new offerings.
In almost two-thirds of cases, Local Lodging (“Alojamento Local”) is the main economic activity for Lisbon homeowners who choose to let holiday accommodations to tourists. This is one of the conclusions of the study on “AL” offerings in the Portuguese capital that was developed by the Higher Institute of Labour and Business Sciences (ISCTE). According to the same study, almost 86% of “AL” offerings are in apartments.
According to latest estimates (February 2017), there are now over 33,700 Local Lodging establishments in Portugal. Of these, the overwhelming majority – more than 77% – are concentrated in the Algarve, according to “Confidencial Imobiliário”.
The assembly of a Lisbon condominium prohibited local lodging activity in its building. The fraction in question was intended for residential housing but was being used for commercial purposes. Numerous problems gave rise to complaints. Loss of privacy in common areas, excessive noise at night and poor use of the pool were some of the problems. The decision was upheld by the Lisbon Court of Appeals.
The number of listings available for local lodging grew by 385% since the new law came into effect in November 2014, according to a report by AHP (the Hotel Association of Portugal). At that time, just 6,000 properties were registered for short-term stays. Today, that figure has multiplied to 29,000.