Almost three out of four hotels and tourist developments in the Algarve plan to suspend their hospitality activities during the low season due to the crisis caused by the pandemic. Before the arrival of Covid-19, about 50% of hotels and tourist developments were already planning to close during the off-season. This number may continue to rise and leave even fewer establishments and developments open for business during the coming winter months.
4 out of 5 Local Lodging establishments in Portugal saw reservations cancelled in the 6 months between March and August. Due to quarantines and more restrictive measures in force to mobility, Madeira and the Azores suffered the highest number of cancellations.
The hotels in the Algarve recorded a global average occupancy rate per room of 1% in April. According to the largest hotel association in the region, the Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises of the Algarve (AHETA), the impact of the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus began to affect tourism in March.
The Algarve and the Lisbon Metropolitan Area were among the regions with the most significant increase in employment in the EU in 2017. Eurostat recently released data confirming that 253 EU regions, representing 90% of the total, registered a rise. In 26 other districts, employment decreased and in two others, remained unchanged.
Following the general approval by the Algarve Mayors’ group, AMAL, the Council of Lagos is moving forward with a €1.5-a-night Tourist Tax. Mayor Maria Joaquina Matos justified the measure, declaring that the tax will help pay for local projects, cover a lack of investment by central government and contribute to making the region more competitive.
From March to October, tourists will be charged €1.50 per day, up to a maximum of seven consecutive days. Lisbon has also been negotiating to double its Tourist Tax to €2. The Algarve Tourist Tax is expected to yield 20 million euros per year to Algarve municipalities. These revenues are to be used in inter-municipal projects in the areas of tourism promotion, heritage rehabilitation and cultural interventions.
Local Lodging “has not been a problem for the Algarve. It’s being very positive for the economy and urban regeneration,” according to Faro mayor, Rogério Bacalhau. The Algarve’s municipalities have no plans to create quotas or “containment zones” for Local Lodging, a possibility opened by recent legislative reforms. The Algarve concentrates the majority of “AL” accommodations in Portugal, far outweighing Lisbon and Porto combined.
In June of 2018, 68,310 Local Lodging registrations exist as compared to 23,136 in 2015, an increase of almost 300% in three years. Over the same period, tax revenues have more than doubled. 73% of “AL” accommodations are outside Lisbon and Porto, with over a third in the Algarve.
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.
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%.
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%.