Since the 26 of August, 2020, in Barcelona in the north-east of Spain, there is a ban, according to which Barcelona citizens cannot offer tourists accommodation in their apartments. The same day polish newspaper claimed that “Tourists in Barcelona will not be able to rent an apartment”, but this interpretation isn’t completely true.
On August 26th, the Autonomous Government of Catalonia passed a law stating that it will not
be possible to rent out apartments to tourists in Barcelona. However, this is not a very restrictive document, since no institution has been designated to inspect the apartments that have been used to house visitors. Interestingly, in Barcelona alone there are about 3000 (out of 9000) apartments that could illegally host tourists. Furthermore, the new law has introduced a ban on the conversion of residential buildings into lodgings.
Why do regional authorities do this? Well, according to Eurostat, in 2017, more than 42% of Spanish households spent 40% of their income on rent (17 percentage points above the EU average). The problem was found to be especially severe in areas with increased tourist activity. This includes Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife.
The biggest increase in the number of apartments rented to tourists is undoubtedly due to the use of Internet platforms such as Airbnb, which are often subject to sanctions and fines (for example in Barcelona). Although the portal claims that its goal has become to expand its activities in peripheral areas, in fact, the largest concentrations of apartments rented through Airbnb are located in the very center of large cities. The consequence of this may be the relocation of permanent residents outside the central districts, leading to a complete substitution of residential life by tourism.
Gentrification in Spain has gained pace with constantly rising rents and extensive use of apartments in historical districts by tourists. It is estimated that between 2009 and 2016 Airbnb made a 4% contribution to the increase of rentals in Barcelona, although similar phenomena were also observed in cities such as Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and Valencia. Of the 8124 Spanish municipalities, 4882 (60.1%) has at least one offer on Airbnb, but most of the municipalities have only a few. The largest number of Airbnb sites can be found in large cities, as well as on the Mediterranean coast and on the Canary and Balearic Islands.
Portals such as Airbnb do not pose a significant threat to hotels or other resorts, since they usually have different target groups. Earlier studies on a local scale confirm: even if Airbnb’s lodging is located in the same areas as hotels, their offer may be addressed to different clients. In fact, Airbnb seems to compete mainly with lower class hotels or lodging services, but not with luxury hotels.
To sum up, tourists will be able to rent an apartment for a short period of time, but as a result of the new regulations, such facilities will be located on the outskirts of Spanish cities to provide decent living conditions for permanent residents without radically increasing the rent prices.
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Tags: tourism, Airbnb, renting, apartments, Spain, Barcelona