Airbnb, hotels duke it out for Portuguese travelers

Meininger Lisbon, Portugal rendering Image: Meininger Hotels (Meininger Hotels, a subsidiary of Cox & Kings, has signed an agreement with project developer Nelson Canal Portugal to develop a new Meininger hotel in Lisbon's Santos quarter. )

Staycations in Portugal are on the rise, driving both traditional hotel operators and Airbnb hosts to increase their stock.

According to data from Lodging Econometrics, for second-quarter 2018, Portugal had the fourth-largest pipeline in Europe, with 83 projects and 8,531 rooms, its highest levels since 2007 in either the first or second quarter.

Statistics Portugal reported hotels registered 2.2 million guests and 6.7 million overnight stays in July 2018, down 2.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Overnight stays from residents increased 1.6 percent while those from non-residents decreased by 4.5 percent. Occupancy was down by 2.3 percentage points to 65.4 percent, while revenue growth fell by two percentage points to 6 percent growth, reaching €455.9 million.

The results came after a strong year. In 2017, the number of arrivals in Portugal of non-resident tourists was estimated at 21.2 million, 16.6 percent up over the previous year. The group said tourism demand in 2017 by residents of Portugal was up 5 percent in 2017, with leisure, recreation or holidays accounting for 45.2 percent of the total trips, ahead of trips to visit relatives and friends, at 44 percent.

While the visitor numbers might be off last year’s peak, competition for guests has been growing. Earlier this year, Airbnb said hosts in the two largest cities in Portugal—Porto and Lisbon—had contributed more than €3.5 million in tourist tax in the first half of 2018. This year was the first in which the sharing platform had a tax agreement with Porto, having signed one with Lisbon in 2016. Airbnb’s most recent data identified more than 53,000 listings in the country. 

“Airbnb spreads benefits beyond hotels to local families and communities. It also makes it easy for hosts to pay their fair share of taxes and contribute financially to their city. Proposed new rules are a step in the wrong direction, as they will hurt local families and boost red tape for everyone. We want to make it easier, not harder, to follow the law and will continue working with policymakers on common sense rules,” said Arnaldo Muñoz, Airbnb marketing services, country manager for Spain and Portugal.

Hotels Fight Back

Traditional hotels are not taking this growth sitting down. Marriott International, for example, recently announced it was extending its homesharing pilot from London to include Lisbon. The company was offering the rooms in collaboration with Hostmaker, a London-based home-rental sharing management company, with guests able to earn Marriott loyalty points.

“We are always innovating to meet the evolving needs of travelers, and expanding into homesharing is an opportunity to deepen relationships with our most loyal guests by delivering new experiences designed to reflect how they travel,” said Adam Malamut, chief customer experience officer, Marriott International.

Meliá Hotels International has signed an agreement to open a new hotel under the Meliá Hotels & Resorts brand in Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal. Meliá said the new hotel would take its total in Portugal to 14, with four in the pipeline, giving it a total portfolio of 2,600. The new Meliá Porto will open in 2021 and would, the company said, further reinforce its commitment to Portugal, its third-largest European market by number of hotels, behind only Spain and Germany.