Mr António lies comfortably on his windowsill in Alfama, one of the most authentic and typical neighbourhoods of Lisbon, happily greeting people who pass by.
The picturesque landscape takes you back to the past, with its Moorish, Jewish, and medieval influences, attracting thousands of tourists every day, who are now almost more numerous than locals, and bringing with them new social dynamics, businesses and gentrification.
“Initially, we received a note saying that someone was interested in buying the house. A year later, we received an eviction note, saying that our rental contract would not be renovated and that the renovation work would soon start.”
Lisbon, a small capital city with around half a million inhabitants, welcomed around 5.6 million tourists in 2016 alone, a 7.6% increase compared to the previous year, and recent numbers by the Statistics Portugal Institute show that 2017 is seeing a similar increase.
The tourism industry generated a national record of €12,68 billion in 2016, according to the Bank of Portugal, and played a crucial role in saving the Portuguese economy, which was severely hit by the 2008 economic crisis.
Despite this financial boost, tourism has been under criticism, particularly due to the negative social impact it has created amongst local populations in Lisbon and Oporto’s city centres, contributing to gentrification, a well-known phenomenon in other European capitals such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and London.
The problem has a name: “terramotourism” or tourism earthquake .
According to António Machado, president of the Rental Association in Lisbon, the 2012 Lease Law implemented by the previous centre-right government coalition is to blame for the current housing issues.
‘We have seen a transformation of housing from residences for families to short-term rentals…private houses rented out for tourism that, in some areas, caused rent price to rise by 30-40 % over the last few years, which is practically unbearable for local Portuguese people.’
Airbnb rentals have been on the rise, seeing a hike of 67% rental growth in the last year.