There is much discussion about mass tourism and golden permits but in Portugal one is inclined to say: ‘don’t kill the chicken with the golden eggs.’ Let’s take a closer look at the expanding tourism industry.
Few destinations have witnessed a boom in tourism like Portugal. According to UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) the country welcomed nearly 7 million international arrivals in 2010. By 2016 that figure had tripled.
Since then tourism revenue has increased by 17%, year-on-year.
The 10 million visitors to the capital – almost as many as the entire Portuguese population –generated last year almost 14 billion euros and more than 180.000 jobs in the greater Lisbon area. The majority of these tourists – 90% arrived by plane and 75% for a short city break – came from Brazil, France, Spain, the US, and the UK. They spent on average 160 euros per day and usually stayed 2-3 nights.
But is overtourism not turning Lisbon into a second Venice, a place saturated with tourists to the point of becoming unsustainable to live in? The increasing number of cruise ships are generating more air pollution than revenues for the local economy and residents in the capital report growing anti-tourist sentiment because of progressive noise and trash nuisance.
More than one-third of the houses in the historical neighbourhoods – Alfama, Baixa, Castelo, Chiado, and Mouraria– are rented out to tourists.
The Baixa Pombalina – one of the first rehabilitated quarters downtown – is filled with hotels and tourist apartments. 20% of the 22,000 hotel beds in Lisbon are situated here and expected to increase even further.
The number of short term rentals –in Portugal registered as alojamento local (AL) – has even overtaken Barcelona, that is 3 times bigger than Lisbon. It is not surprising that the City Council urgently wishes new legislation to restrict permits and maximise percentages for AL.
Foreigners – especially French and Englishmen, followed by Brazilian and Chinese – bought in 2017 almost 12 % of the real estate in the country, in particular in booming Lisbon. Not only the poor but increasingly also the middle class is forced to buy a house in the outskirts of the capital. The city centre is becoming more and more a place for the well-off.
Bom fim de semana Have a nice weekend (pic Público/Sapo)