Anti-tourism protests in some popular Spanish resorts and cities over the summer have focused attention on the private holiday rentals sector.
Tourism is the lifeblood of Spain’s Balearic Islands, with more than 3.5 million visitors from the UK alone to Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera in 2016.
But this rising level of demand has sparked isolated protests and discontent among locals. They complain they are being priced out of the housing market, fuelled by the explosion in number of apartments used as private holiday rentals.
In an effort to appease residents, authorities on the islands recently announced a cap of 623,624 on the number of beds that can be used for tourists, a figure they anticipate could be reduced by a further 120,000 in subsequent years.
Significantly, the controversial new rules require home owners to obtain a special licence before they rent out their apartments using websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. Fines of up to 400,000 euros could be imposed for those who breach the new regulations.
Airbnb hit back at the move, arguing it played into the hands of the big hotel chains who will be able to increase prices as a result. It said it wanted to help spread tourism benefits to the many, ”not keep them in the hands of a few.”
Travel association Abta said the situation in Spain and rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy presented issues for the wider travel industry, particularly in terms of understanding tourism numbers and capacity.
Licensed and regulated
Historically, hotels and other accommodation providers have been licensed and regulated, which helps local authorities to monitor the volume and nature of visitors coming into their cities.
Abta said this was not so easy to do in the current market: “We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry.
“Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors, and peer to peer accommodation users.”