Skift Take

Many destinations in seeking to regulate short-term rentals try to balance the needs of locals with the benefits of tourism. Barcelona has had enough.

Airbnb’s head of policy Jay Carney said recently that New York City Local Law 18 is an example of how not to regulate short-term rentals. But Barcelona officials don’t agree – and think regulations can go further.

Barcelona’s mayor announced Friday that there would be a total ban on short-term rentals in the popular tourism city as of 2029, according to Bloomberg.

The plan calls to cease renewing existing short-term rental licenses and to stop issuing new ones so none will be permitted as of 2029.

Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni’s zero tolerance for short-term rentals policy goes way beyond New York City’s Local Law 18. That law requires hosts to be registered but only for stays in their own homes when they are present. The maximum number of guests is two, and these stays can only last for fewer than 30 days.

Barcelona currently has around 10,000 legal rentals in the city, according to the Bloomberg story.

Middle Class Housing Shortage

The mayor complained of rising rents and a housing shortage in the city; he said the situation was so acute that many middle class workers can’t afford to live in the city.

“More supply of housing is needed, and the measures we’re presenting today are to provide more supply so that the working middle class does not have to leave the city because they can’t afford housing,” Collboni was quoted as saying at the press conference. “This measure will not change the situation from one day to the next. These problems take time. But with this measure we are marking a turning point.”

Anna Monreal, a food sector executive who lives in Barcelona and previously worked in tourism, said she supports the mayor’s efforts because house prices and rentals have increased rapidly in the last two years, in particular, making it hard for locals to actually live locally.

She said the ban could lead to an increase in quality tourism, something the city needs to focus on due to large crowds and low spending.

Henrik Kjellberg, Group CEO at property manager Awaze Group, headquartered in the UK, said the announcement took him by surprise.

“I agree it is important to focus on sustainable tourism,” Kjellberg told Skift. “But this is likely an overreaction. However, I believe all vacation rental companies need to work with not just the legislators but also with local constituents to explain how we add value. At Awaze, we have long realized one way to add value is to get people to less frequented places. This is why we focus on rural not urban destinations.”

Airbnb declined to comment on the Barcelona ban.

A Booking.com spokesperson would only say that the company “will work to comply” with the law.

Short-term rentals, including Airbnbs, have been a flash point in Barcelona. The city has seen many protests against short-term rentals and unfettered tourism.

The number of short-term rentals in Barcelona may actually be much higher than the 10,000 registered rentals that Bloomberg cited.

The number of short-term rentals on Airbnb alone in March was around 15,600 properties with 54,000 rooms, according to tourism data analytics firm Mabrian.

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Tags: airbnb, awaze, barcelona, online travel newsletter, overtourism, regulation, short-term rentals

Photo credit: A man passes by a tourist shop in Barcelona. Skift

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