According to an exclusive report by ECO, tourism has recovered strongly since the pandemic and in 2023 all records in the sector were broken. And the mirror of this is that, in the next three years, around 150 hotels will be created in Portugal, this being “the biggest three-year pipeline ever”, Neoturis, a consultancy specializing in Tourism.

This number results from the 186 construction projects already signalled to open their doors by the end of 2026, bringing an additional 18,446 rooms to the market. But, with “delays in licensing, changes to the project, delays in the work, technical difficulties and financing”, there will be “changes in the scheduled opening dates”, predicts ECO Luís Pedro Costa, partner at Neoturis, who therefore points out that the number of openings is around 150.

Given this scenario, Portugal already has more hotel rooms per square kilometre than Spain or France, the consultant also highlights. Based on data from the World Tourism Organization's (WTO) World Tourism Barometer, in Portugal, in 2021, even during the pandemic phase, there were 182,789 hotel rooms on the market, which resulted in a ratio of 1.9837 rooms per square kilometre.

In Spain, in the same year and based on the same barometer, there were 941,030 rooms, which resulted in a ratio of 1.8878 rooms per square kilometre (below Portugal).

France, in both ratios, is well below Portugal. In this country, 652,953 rooms were flagged, resulting in a ratio of 1.2004 per square kilometre.

“We are aware that, like Spain and France, we have several well-developed tourist regions. A regional analysis with more indicators, such as hotel rooms per number of dwellings, could be interesting to understand where the opening of new hotels should be encouraged and where the renovation of existing hotels should be more encouraged”, highlights Luís Pedro Costa.

But, despite these numbers, Neoturis understands that “when the sector's performance is robust and sustainable” economically, “there is always room for new hotel units”, stressing that the More Housing package, “which is already causing the closure of Local Accommodation”, ending up “withdrawing this offer from the market”, ends up giving space for the opening of more hotels, benefiting “the national hotel industry”.

However, the consultant does not fail to point out some concerns about the growth of the hotel industry. There are, “naturally, the negative externalities that new hotels always bring, no matter how big the commitment to sustainability is, and it is; there is the essential issue of water, or lack thereof,” as well as the risk of saturation of the “carrying capacity of beaches and historic centers.”

Also “the lack of human resources in this area is a concern”, despite the fact that in recent years there have been “significant increases in salaries and thus the greater dignification of professions in the sector”, highlights Luís Pedro Costa to ECO, also remembering that there is “always the opportunity of attracting labour from other countries, which has a positive impact on the birth rate and the sustainability of Social Security”, but “this workforce must be trained in the Portuguese art of hospitality, otherwise there will be a mischaracterisation of the hotel offer”.

Largest hotel chains

The growing demand for tourists in Portugal, especially among Americans and Canadians, who were the guests that increased the most in 2023, is increasingly putting the country on the route of the biggest developers and largest hotel chains in the world. “Any of the 50 largest international companies is either already in Portugal, or is planning a hotel in Portugal, or has already analysed an opportunity in Portugal”, says Luís Pedro Costa to ECO.

Among the developers, this is the case of the Canadian group Mercan, which has been reinforcing its investment in the country, having planned to build eight more hotels with an investment of 450 million euros. But also the Americans from Highgate, who last year opened a company in Portugal to manage the 18 hotels they bought from banks through the Crow portfolio.

In addition, there were also the British from the Arrow Group who settled in Portugal to make heavy investments in hotels. This is the case of the purchase of six Dom Pedro hotels and five golf courses for 250 million euros, the deal for the luxury resort Palmares Ocean Living & Golf, in Lagos, with an investment of 400 million, or the revolution in Vilamoura with a total investment of around one billion euros, with several tourist apartment condominiums and a hotel.

Therefore, the consultant predicts, “it is expected” that “new hotel brands” will emerge in Portugal to manage the new units, with chains such as Hilton or Marriott “being able to expand their portfolio through their various sub-brands”.

Among the various areas of the country, of the 186 projects underway to end in 2024, 2025 or 2026, the largest share is located in the Porto and North region with 68 new hotels with 6,381 rooms. Of this total, there are 35 located in the city of Porto.

Next comes the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, where 54 new hotel projects with 4,813 rooms are underway, of which 43 are located in the city of Lisbon. For the Algarve, 22 new hotels with another 3,649 rooms are in the pipeline, in the Center another 12 and in Alentejo, there are 16. On the islands, Madeira could have another six hotels by the end of 2026 and in the Azores there are eight new projects.