During this month of August, at least half of the number of flights registered at Lisbon Airport has resumed according to the data from ANA – Airports. Air traffic has begun to show signs of recovery after the 93.8% drop in the second quarter as compared to the same period in 2019. Due to the pandemic and consequent movement restrictions, the number of passengers fell by 97%. Airports expect to only recover their usual volume of passengers by 2024.
The impact of the Covid19 pandemic on the Local Lodging Accommodation (“AL”) market is devastating. In May, average occupancy rates reached only 5% in Lisbon and 3% in Porto, worsening the already low levels observed in April when Lisbon registered an average occupancy rate of 10% and Porto 11%. Despite the dramatic drop in demand, average monthly rates remained at usual levels, reaching €93 in Lisbon and €70 in Porto.
After months of delay, Lisbon Council is to sublet 1000 flats currently available only under Local Lodging (“AL”). With a budget of €15 million to be spent over five years, the City expects to sublet one thousand apartments currently let short-term as Local Lodging to be made available at affordable prices to Lisbon residents. Given the historic drop in “AL” bookings in the new Coronavirus era, the programme would appear to have an uphill battle to achieve its goals.
The Government wants to end the granting of Golden Visas for third-country nationals purchasing real estate in the greater metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Oporto. In the seven years since its inception, the plan has barely touched the interior districts of the country. Historically, the concession of Golden Visas has accounted for just 3% of applications to the programme.
Local Lodging is on the decline across the country with new registrations dropping by 43% when compared to the same period last year. According to data from the Local Lodging National Register, the sharpest drop occurred in Lisbon, which fell by 73%. Porto also saw the opening of new AL establishments down by almost 50%. ALEP, the Local Lodging Association of Portugal, attributes this accentuated contraction with the overall shift from a “niche activity” to a “mature enterprise”. Local Lodging represents 40% of the total overnight tourist stays in Portugal.
As compared to hotels, “AL” already has twice the capacity to receive tourists in Lisbon. In the nation’s capital which has 500,000 inhabitants, Local Lodging can accommodate 102,000 holidaymakers. In March 2019, there were 18,000 “AL” units in the municipality of Lisbon, an increase of around 80% from 2008, maintaining the trend of accelerated growth of previous years. Of the 18,000 accommodations, 90% are short-term holiday let apartments (notably commercialised through Airbnb), with 9% being hostels, while hotels can accommodate less than 50,000 travellers. Since 2001, the data reveals that Lisbon has been losing inhabitants while tourist demand has been steadily increasing. In 2011, the city received 2.9 million guests. By 2017, demand almost doubled to 5.2 million (+ 83%), which represents a nearly quarter of the total holidaymaker demand received nationwide.
Since the Local Lodging boom began in 2008, small property owners are returning in increasing numbers to traditional long-term rentals. Numerous factors are pushing this trend. “AL” offerings have reached glut conditions in some central urban areas. Excessive offerings and limited demand push down prices. Over the last ten years, Local Lodging enrolments in Lisbon have soared from less than 3,000 to almost 50,000. In addition, Local Lodging can prove to be demanding work. Outsourcing tasks such as cleaning, marketing and maintenance can eat into profits. In contrast, long-term rentals require only a minimum involvement on the part of landlords.
In the neighbourhoods most pressured by tourism, it will be possible to open new Local Lodging Establishments (“AL”). However, according to the rules that the capital’s municipal council wants to see approved, new registrations will be dependent on a special authorisation. “AL” licences will be valid for five years, after which they will have to be renewed. Currently, seven historical areas face restrictions.
The new regulatory restrictions implemented since October of last year have failed to slow demand for central Lisbon properties. While new Local Lodging applications dropped by 60%, foreign investors continue to seek out and buy property in historical districts as real estate sales soared by 38% over the period. While the “AL” sector is still significant, there are clearly other factors driving the market as well.