Short-term Rental (STR) has assumed, throughout Europe, but with particular emphasis in Portugal, a very relevant role in the reconstruction and recovery of the historic centres of cities, contributing substantially to their hotel capacity. In short, it was an important driving force for towns and the tourism sector.
It also contributed, and we cannot deny it, to mass tourism in some destinations. However, the positive effects far outweighed the negative ones. It is now up to the regulatory authorities to find solutions allowing the correct flow of tourists to less sought-after areas. The housing problem exists throughout the EU and is critical in Portugal, but it cannot be solved at the expense of a sector that has made specific urban centres more appealing.
Choosing to condition a service or changing market rules do not protect the single market or free competition. In the case of the Portuguese Government, which is trying to solve the problem of the shortage of supply with the intense conditioning of STR, the problem is serious because it jeopardizes past investments, including by individual entrepreneurs and families, and dramatically conditions the future of this activity. On the other hand, it greatly harms one sector to the detriment of others, which is serious for competitiveness.
In response to a question that I subscribed together to other Portuguese MEPs from the EPP, Commissioner Thierry Breton was attentive and concerned about this matter, reaffirming that Member States are free to adopt measures to protect the public interest, provided that they comply with EU law. Restrictions, if applicable, must be adequate and proportionate, and Member States must notify the European Commission of the measures to be adopted.
The European Commission is clear when it states that measures that affect the Single Market can only be adopted if they unequivocally solve a problem of public interest and, even so, are not disproportionate.
Once again, priority is given to the easiest and purely administrative solution, to the detriment of intelligent and technologically innovative solutions. Given the creative and resilient character of Tourism agents, with the availability of funding from the Recovery and Resilience Plan allocated to the digital transition, it was to be assumed that the Portuguese Executive would be bold and innovative, but this did not happen. It will be the STR and the Tourism ecosystem as a whole that will suffer the consequences— another missed opportunity.