Offensive by hoteliers to curb tourist rentals

The war between hoteliers and owners of tourist apartments intensifies. The main Spanish tourism employer, Exceltur, announced last month the preparation of a report together with the city councils of Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Seville, Malaga, San Sebastián and Valencia to motivate the Administration to regulate housing for use intended for tourism in the framework of the housing law that the Government approved in February and that continues in the process of negotiating amendments in Congress. A declaration of intent that now adds reinforcements. The request for intervention from the 'lobby' chaired by the CEO of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer, has been joined by that of the national hotel and tourist accommodation association, Cehat, which raises the tone at a European level and calls for legislation that addresses the short-term leases at the community level.

A demand that is precisely driven by the main European accommodation representative, Hotrec. The great continental employers have prepared a report that highlights the need to level the playing field between accommodation companies and short-term rentals that continue to grow exponentially, only with the pandemic subsection. "Updating the rules in line with the needs of stakeholders, destinations and residents is the first step in ensuring a fair, transparent, competitive and sustainable environment," Hotrec CEO Marie Audren.

The European 'lobby' has ratified in the new document the risks that it predicted in 2014 (with the rise of online booking platforms) when it prepared the first study on the growth of short-term rentals. He then identified a number of risks such as unfair competition, consumer exposure to security risks, unreported tax revenue and increasing pressure on local residents' access to long-term rental.

"It is not acceptable that the so-called regulated offer, which includes 'camping', hotels, rural houses, aparthotels, hostels, etc., is hyper-regulated and coexists with other methods of tourist accommodation that, in many places, are still unregulated", points out the president of the Hotrec working group and also the general secretary of Cehat, Ramón Estalella. The director assures this newspaper that currently a hotel room has a tax burden four times higher than that of a tourist home and that these accommodations are not forced to comply with regulations such as traveler identification. "Either you remove legislation from regulated activity or add it to them," he says.

But from the Spanish Federation of Tourist Housing and Apartment Associations (Fevitur) they deny these accusations and point out that hoteliers "seek to be the only actors in the sector." «We pay taxes, we are not a nest of black work and much less are we responsible for the increases in residential rents, because the total weight of tourist homes on the total remains ridiculous. They are only looking for justifications to eliminate us," Fevitur's treasurer, Miguel Ángel Sotillos, told this newspaper. The association assures that it will resort to a possible regulation of short-term rentals if it ends up entering the housing law.

exponential rise

The truth is that the number of users who choose this accommodation option has skyrocketed in recent years in the large Spanish capitals. Comparing the latest INE tourist apartment occupancy data for June, cities like Madrid already far exceed the number of travelers who chose this option for their trips in the same month of 2019. If we compare it with the figures from a decade ago, these shoot up 50% despite the regulation promoted by the Government of Manuela Carmena in force since 2019 and which the Almeida consistory continues to maintain.

In other capitals the growth is much more noticeable. In Valencia the number of guests has doubled in recent years and in Seville it has multiplied by 10. An evolution that Escarrer recently estimated this newspaper as "huge". "In the last six years another tourist Spain has been created and some places are not being able to digest it," added the director of the largest Spanish hotel company.

The INE itself has also carried out experimental monitoring to calculate the number of tourist apartments in Spain. In February 2022, the number of tourist homes nationwide reached 285,000, representing 1.13% of the total number of inhabited houses throughout the country. Two figures that have fallen since the outbreak of Covid-19 when tourism plummeted to zero due to health restrictions and thousands of owners and companies decided to transfer their properties to the residential rental market. In the first sampling of August 2020, the number of homes for this purpose reached 321,496 with a weight of 1.28% of the total.

But hoteliers point out that this market is experiencing another boom with the return of tourist movements. «The offer of tourist rentals is 15% above what was at the time when there was more offer during the pandemic. They have all the flexibility in the world to enter and exit the market”, adds Estalella.

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