This summer, Georgia State Law faculty led a workshop in Lisbon, Portugal that examined the effects of the sharing economy and over-tourism on cities. The Study Space workshop is organized by the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth to provide a forum for scholars and practitioners to share experiences and strategize solutions.
In a city with a population of half a million people, Lisbon now hosts 4.5 million visitors a year. This tourism boom played a major role in lifting Lisbon out of the 2008 global financial crisis, however, over-tourism is now a problem and its effects are exacerbated by the emergence of the sharing economy. Many locals now work in the sharing economy, and neighborhoods are overrun with tourists staying in Airbnbs and other home sharing platforms. This, combined with an end to rent freezes and a popular golden visa program, has reduced the amount of available, affordable housing.
“Over-tourism creates a host of planning, housing, city service and environmental issues for cities, and it has become a global problem,” said Karen Johnston, associate director for the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth. “Simultaneously, and partially in response to tourism demand, the sharing economy is revolutionizing every aspect of daily life, creating new job sectors and generating opportunities, but also placing further strain on cities.”
Julian Juergensmeyer, Ben F. Johnson Jr. Chair in Law and director of the Center, has participated in Study Space since the program started in 2007. He says that the problems created by tourism are not new problems.
“We were talking about the environmental impact of tourism in the late 1970s when Fred Bosselman wrote In the Wake of the Tourist [which examined the environmental impact of tourism],” said Juergensmeyer. “Smart regulations that balance new opportunities created by the sharing economy with preservation of communities and our planet are needed.”
This year’s workshop included meetings with Portugal’s housing secretary, sessions on tourism-led gentrification, a guided tour of Lisbon’s historical neighborhoods, public housing and more. After learning on the Study Space Program and sharing ideas, participants write scholarly articles for the center’s Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy, which features the foremost research on urban development, growth management, conservation, governance and a variety of other topics.
“Study Space Lisbon was the most memorable scholarly gathering in my 35 years as an academic,” said Chris Nelson, a professor of Planning & Real Estate Development at the University of Arizona. “Not only was the topic relevant to my research on housing, but the speakers were all first rate. One of my colleagues was so intrigued by my emailed review of selected sessions that he has decided to spend a few days of his sabbatical visiting several of the Study Space speakers in Lisbon next October.”
The Study Space workshop began with a program in Panama, studying the city’s growth. A diverse group of scholars and professionals—ranging from lawyers to city planners to architects– participate in the program every year. This year, 25 people representing 10 countries participated in Study Space.