Hotels Suffer from the First Decrease in Overnight Stays since 2012

24 January 2019 – Expansión

The record number of tourists registered in 2018 has not removed the bitter taste from the mouths of Spanish hoteliers, who are starting to suffer from symptoms that the sector is worn out. In 2018, Spanish hotels recorded the first decrease in the number of overnight stays in six years. A moderate decrease, of –0.1%, according to data from INE, but one that has not been seen since 2012, when Spain was in the midst of the financial crisis.

Spain is receiving more tourists than ever, and they are increasing their spending year on year, but they are also gradually reducing their average stay, and some of the demand is opting for alternative destinations, such as Turkey, which are competing on price, which is eroding the margins of many hotels at home (…).

According to data from Exceltur, Spain lost 21 million overnight stays in 2018, due to a decrease in the average stay. The boom in low-cost airlines, amongst other factors in the sector, has favoured the democratisation of tourism. Increasingly more people are travelling, but they are doing so for shorter periods. Whilst in 2008, the average stay was 9.4 days, it is now 7.4 days.

That change can be observed most easily amongst overseas tourists, who account for 65.8% of overnight stays and who decreased the number of nights spent in Spain by -0.4%, whereas domestic tourists increased their overnight stays by +0.4%.

The change in trend is being observed primarily in the traditional beach and sun markets, and in the most important months for the sector, in the height of the summer. In the Canary Islands, the primary destination for international tourists, accounting for almost one third of all overnight stays, visits by foreigners decreased by 3.6%(…).

According to explanations provided recently by the Head of Research at Exceltur, Óscar Perelli, these decreases reflect “the recovery of competitor countries”. Hotels, especially those on the beach, are being affected by competition in terms of prices from countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. Those markets have recovered around 12 million tourists in recent years and they are still 20% below the levels they reached before their own crises (…).

Travellers from the United Kingdom and Germany account for 46% of all of the overnight stays made by non-resident visitors, and yet, there was a -0.9% decrease last year in the case of British tourists.

As a result, many hotels are trying to compete through promotional packages and cost reduction policies, and so prices barely increased in 2018. The Index of Hotel Prices from INE reflects a 1.5% increase in hotel tariffs, barely three decimal points above inflation for the year, making it the lowest rise in prices since 2013.

In terms of tourists who increased their hotel stays by the most, those who have to travel long distances, including visitors from the US (6.1%) are also the travellers who spend the most (€113 per tourist per day, compared with €98/tourist/day for those visiting from traditional markets), and so representatives in the sector recommend focusing promotional strategies to attract tourists from those countries.

Original story: Expansión (by Inma Benedito)

Translation: Carmel Drake

ST: Rental Yields Soar in Sevilla, Valencia & Tenerife in Q1

2 April 2018 – Expansión

The three cities recorded increases of more than 16% during the first quarter, whilst the national average improved by 7.6%. Barcelona offers returns of 8.7% and Madrid 7.5%.

Buying a home to let it out has become one of the most attractive investment options of recent times. The returns offered by renting a home, in an environment of low interest rates and moderate inflation, are greater than other options, such as those generated by debt and deposits. In this way, during the first quarter of 2018, the average rental yield in Spain amounted to 8.2%, according to the Real Estate Sector Trends Report for 2018, compiled by Sociedad de Tasación. Although Barcelona is the province that offers the highest return (8.7%), the overheating of prices there is reducing margins, making it a safer location but with less potential. In that context, Sevilla, Valencia and Sant Cruz de Tenerife are emerging as interesting targets.

The evolution of residential yields in Spain, which soared by 7.6% during the first quarter of this year, suggests a sustained trend over the coming months, favoured by an increase in demand, the strong performance of the economy and the growth in house prices, which rose by 4.3% in April.

The increase in prices is still more pronounced in Spain’s provincial capitals. In Barcelona, for example, prices rose by 10.2% in 2017. In that province, rental housing generated a return of 8.1%, representing an asset with “very limited risk”, according to analysis from Sociedad de Tasación. It was followed by Lérida, also in Cataluña, where rental housing offered a return of 8.45%.

Although prices are high in Barcelona, they have not had an impact on rental yields, something that has happened in other areas, such as the Balearic Islands. The return offered by a rental home in the islands fell by 3.2% during the first quarter. That reduction could be due to the increase in house prices in recent years due to the tourist rental boom, which has reduced the scope for further increases. In Palma de Mallorca, for example, the number of beds from unregulated tourist rental platforms now exceeds the supply of hotel beds by 100%, according to data from Exceltur, which may, in turn, have an impact on prices. In fact, the Balearic Islands is the autonomous region where the most effort is required to buy a home in all of Spain.

An average citizen would need to allocate his entire salary for 14.9 years to be able to buy an average home in the Balearic Islands, twice the national average (7.5 years). That conclusion can be deduced from Sociedad de Tasación’s real estate effort index, which shows that, despite the increase in incomes, buying a home in many cities in Spain is still prohibitive for many.

In this context, markets such as the one in Valencia are interesting. Not only is it the province with the third highest rental yield (8.11%) in the country, it also ranks highly, in second place, in the increases in returns: an increase of 16.7% that more than doubles the evolution of the most profitable province, Barcelona, which saw its yields rise by 5.2% during the first quarter.

In terms of Madrid, although the average rental home in the province offers a yield of 7.46%, which is below the Spanish average, that is due to the differences between the rental market in the capital and other cities in the province.

Sevilla is the province that leads the yield increases. During the first quarter, yields there soared by 17.7%, well above the rises in Madrid (6.2%). In third place was Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where letting a home is now 16.2% more lucrative than it was a year ago.

Original story: Expansión (by I. Benedito)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Treasury Requires Tourist Rental Platforms to Submit Quarterly Informative Returns

1 March 2018 – Expansión

The Government wants to put a stop to the fraud that is happening in the emerging market for tourist apartments. To this end, it is going to intensify the inspection of companies dedicated to the transfer of use of flats, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, HouseTrip, MyTwinPlace, Only-apartments, IntercambioCasas and Rentalia. For that, it is going to require them all to provide much more information and it will conduct a quarterly control of all of their activities. Through this, it wants to improve the “prevention of tax fraud for people and entities, in particular, the so-called collaborative platforms that mediate the transfer of use of homes for tourist purposes”, according to the draft ministerial order designed to put a stop to these kinds of irregularities, to which Expansión has had access. The text approves the so-called “model 179 informative declaration”, together with the conditions and procedures for presenting the required information before the Treasury.

The measure forms part of the strictest control that the Treasury wants to exercise over intermediaries in a rising sector, such as the tourist rental market, which has experienced a genuine boom in recent years and which now has 513,820 beds, 30% more than the sum of Spain’s hotels, hostels and B&Bs (393,838), according to data from Exceltur.

Until now, some of the main initiatives have been directed at users themselves, such as the warning issued last year by the Tax Authorities to more than 21,500 people that had leased their homes through these platforms, advising them that they must declare the money received in their tax returns.

The Treasury wants to close the door on the lack of transparency surrounding certain tourist rentals, behind which are sometimes even hotel chains, which lease homes through the platforms, and are in turn disguised as private users.

As a result, the ministerial order that the Department of Tax Management at the Tax Authority has prepared, emphasises certain concepts that may seem obvious, such as the importance of identifying the owner of the home or of the right “by virtue of which use of the dwelling is transferred”, if that is different from the rightful owner of the home. Moreover, all of the features of a property must be identified. Together with the general registry information, the specific details of each one of the operations that are carried out must be reported: the number of days during which a client leases the home and the price paid to the owner in exchange for its use.

This new order from the Treasury comes in addition to local legislation from many Town Halls such as those of Barcelona, Madrid and the Balearic Islands, which have proposed “ceilings” to stop the overheating of rental prices that has resulted from the boom of Airbnb and similar platforms. In fact, according to calculations from Urban Data Analytics for this newspaper, the upwards trend from the collaborative economy has caused rental prices to rise by an additional 6% in the Eixample district of Barcelona and by an additional 4% in the Centro district of Madrid in one year. That happens because the properties in question generate double the returns of a long-term rental property “A 40 m2 one-bedroom home in the Puerta del Sol area of Madrid generates €1,513 per month on Airbnb and a traditional rent of €700”, says the company by way of example.

Grace period

(…) This ministerial order (…) will apply to all transfers of homes for tourist purposes that take place on or after 1 January 2018.

The frequency of these returns to the Treasury will be quarterly (they must be submitted during the calendar month following the end of each quarter). But this year, in order to facilitate the process, those corresponding to the first two quarters of 2018 may be submitted up until 31 December 2018. Those corresponding to the third and fourth quarter will have to be submitted before 31 October 2018 and 31 January 2019, respectively (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Spain Overtakes US to Become 2nd Most-Visited Country in the World

12 January 2018 – El País

Spain’s tourism sector is on a roll, and it looks like the good times will continue into 2018.

Last year, industry activity grew by 4.4% on the back of historic highs, both in terms of international visitors and tourist spending. This year, the business lobby Alliance for Excellence in Tourism (Exceltur) is expecting a further rise of 3.3%.

This industry leader has also estimated the impact of the Catalan crisis on tourism to be in the range of €319 million. If the crisis were to persist, the growth forecast for 2018 would shrink to 2.8%

Even though the secessionist bid shaved three-tenths of a percentage point from tourism activity in 2017, it was still a record year for Spain: over 82 million international visitors, an 8.9% leap from 2016, and a 1.5% increase in average spending per tourist, according to tourism ministry estimates released this week.

This makes Spain the world’s second-most popular tourist destination, behind France and ahead of the United States.

The tourism industry’s share of GDP has increased to 11.5%, representing €134 billion. And industry growth resulted in 77,501 new jobs in 2017, said Exceltur.

Political instability in the last quarter of the year, following the illegal independence referendum of October 1, negatively affected international tourism, particularly in geographically close markets like France, where visitor numbers were down 19.7% year on year in the October–November period. German visitor numbers fell 14% and the UK’s retreated 8%. Asian markets sent fewer visitors as well. However, tourists from the Americas grew notably in number, particularly those from Argentina (a 74% rise) and the United States (18.2%).

Slower growth in 2018

Exceltur said that 2018 “will be another excellent year” and predicted 3.3% growth for the tourism sector, higher than the forecast for the Spanish economy as a whole but lower than in the last two years – and that is without factoring in the potential effects of a protracted crisis in Cataluña.

The lower growth figure can be partially explained by a gradual recovery of alternative destinations that compete directly with Spain, such as Turkey, where terrorist attacks have driven tourism down.

“The challenge for the tourism industry now is to ensure sustainable growth with a view to the future,” said José Luis Zoreda, executive vice-president of Exceltur, at a news conference.

Despite the optimistic forecast, Exceltur is warning about a drop in revenues in early 2018: 10% for hotels, 6.8% for car rental companies, and 3.5% for transportation firms. The business association said “there will be staff adjustments” to make up for these losses.

Original story: El País (by Nahiara S. Alonso)

Edited by: Carmel Drake

There Are 17,000 Illegal Tourist Apartments In Madrid

26 April 2017 – Expansión

In just a year, the number of tourist apartments has increased by 100% in the Spanish capital. Of the 20,000 that currently exist in the Community of Madrid, only 3,000 have been registered. Hoteliers are asking for an urgent decree to be passed. 

“For a year and a half, we have been hearing that the Community of Madrid is going to publish a new decree to regulate the supply of tourist accommodation, but nothing. To open a hotel, one needs to comply with 400 rules, we have counted them; meanwhile, tourist apartments are not subject to any legislation. Unfair competition is harming every hotel in Madrid”. That is according to Madrid’s Association of Hotel Businesses, which is alarmed by the boom of tourist accommodation in the city.

According to the latest report from Exceltur, the alliance for tourist excellence, the supply of this type of tourist home has risen from 10,000 (37,000 beds) in 2015 to 20,000 (74,000 beds) in 2016, which represents an increase of 100%. Of the 20,000 beds, only 3,000 are actually registered, according to the Community of Madrid’s decree dated 2014, which governs tourist activity. (…).

To understand the severity of the problem, which has led to a 20% increase in rental prices in the city centre in a short space of time, causing gentrification, the expulsion of residents who have lived there for their entire lives, the Association presents another fact: Madrid’s hotels offer 80,000 beds in total, just 6,000 more than offered by the tourist accommodation establishments.

“We want to participate in the modification of the current decree, we don’t want to receive it a day before it is approved, but rather we want to work with the authorities to make the legislation correct and effective for both hoteliers and residents”, said Mar de Miguel, President of the Association. She added that these accommodation alternatives, besides not complying with the majority of the rules in terms of security or quality, are not subject to the urban development plan and do not pay the corresponding taxes, which is leading to tax fraud of €800 million per year. (…).

The Community of Madrid plans to legalise the market although it is very aware of the handicap that it faces. “The problem is that there is no legal precedent in Europe due to the mixing of jurisdictions and the reality of the fact that the activity is being performed in individuals’ homes, which significantly limits the capacity to exert control over it”, explained Carlos Chaguaceda, the region’s Director of Tourism. Homes let to tourists are therefore not regarded as businesses by law, and so “the Administration is unable to intervene in an agreement reached between two parties to rent a home”, said the Director of Tourism. (…).

The regional government proposes the creation of a register for these tourist apartments, where the owner legally acknowledges his/her activity. “Ideally, we would have the capacity to act against any platforms that advertise these properties online (without the corresponding permissions). For example, if a property does not have a registration number, it may not be advertised on any website”, suggested the Director of Tourism. (…).

Meanwhile, the Town Hall of Madrid considers that the Spanish capital is a long way from the problems that hoteliers are facing in Barcelona and Paris, given that the average number of beds per 1,000 inhabitants is 2.7 in the Spanish capital compared with 8 in the Catalan capital, but even so it wants to minimise the “risks of saturation” that is starting to exist in certain neighbourhoods, such as Cortes. (…).

The Town Hall is also looking to sign “memorandums of understanding containing certain commitments with Homeaway and Airbnb” (…).

Original story: Expansión (by R. Bécares and L. F. Durán)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Málaga Accounts For 53% Of Andalucía’s Holiday Homes

11 December 2015 – La Opinión de Málaga

The province of Málaga may account for more than half of the supply of holiday homes for rent in the autonomous region of Andalucía – specifically, 53% – at least, that is according to the calculations performed by the international firm Homeaway. The company is one of the market leaders in a segment that is causing a lot of controversy at the moment, with hoteliers, through groups such as Exceltur, accusing its participants of unfair competition given that they operate in a legal vacuum and are not subject to tax charges. The spokesman for Homeaway in Spain, Joseba Cortázar, who was speaking at a conference about the collaborative economy held yesterday in the Andalucía Lab de Marbella, said that the region, which has 14,600 properties advertised on its website (7,800 in Málaga) accounts for 16% of its total holiday rental supply in Spain (around 88,000 properties). Homeaway, together with Airbnb and Niumba, is one of the most representative companies in this sector, accounting for almost a quarter of all activity in Spain.

Homeaway, which cites that the Costa del Sol is one of its main markets, says that, at the global level, rented holiday homes have generated an economic impact of €793 million in Andalucía over the last two years, of which €761 million was spent on leisure and food during visitors’ stays, “impacting directly on businesses in the region”. The data is presented in a report compiled for the company by the Marketing Department of the University of Salamanca. In its conclusions, it says that rented holiday homes “are not competition, but are actually complementary to hotels, given that 81% (600,629) of the 740,000 visitors (resident in Spain and aged between 18 and 65) who leased tourist accommodation in Andalucía during the last two years, also stayed in hotels and only 19% (140,088) exclusively leased holiday home accommodation.

Homeaway’s report also says that the people who rented both holiday homes and hotels for leisure and holidays are the ones who take the most trips per year (6.57 times), a higher number than those that have stayed in a holiday home in Andalucía at least once in the last two years, independently of whether they have complemented their stay with nights in a hotel (5.84 times). According to this data, families (47%), couples (28%) and groups of friends (23%) are the main users of holiday homes in the autonomous region, whilst couples (49%) and families (34%) are most prevalent in hotels, with groups of friends taking a smaller share of the market (10%). For Homeaway, the report demonstrates the “complementarity” of the two accommodation types.

Cortázar did acknowledge that holiday homes in Andalucía are still in a “lawless” situation given the lack of specific regulation beyond that afforded by traditional rental guidance. (…).

On the flipside, Exceltur published a study in Málaga a few weeks ago, which showed that holiday homes do not represent a complementary offer, but rather are an invasive, substitute product, which offer no real capacity to attract new or different tourist besides the ones who typically use regulated hotels and apartments. Exceltur indicated that the majority of the visitors opting for that formula do so primarily for price reasons (…). Its report also denies that holiday homes can be defined as part of the collaborative economy: only 7% of homes advertised on digital platforms – the real driver behind the sector – involve free exchange and are offered in return for no payment. The rest, according to Exceltur, represent “a huge business”.

Original story: La Opinión de Málaga (by José Vicente Rodríguez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Tourist Sector Hits Back At Airbnb, HomeAway & Niumba

18 May 2015 – Expansión

The sector is demanding a stronger institutional fight against the intermediaries. The Government says that each region is responsible for its own response.

The main Spanish tourism companies have teamed up in an offensive with the aim of limiting the power of the proliferation of unregulated tourist rental accommodation, which do not pay taxes and do not meet the safety, hygiene and space requirements and other guarantees offered by legal accommodation. The sector wants to curb the platforms (websites such as Airbnb, 9flats, Wimdu, Rentalia, Niumba and HomeAway, amongst others) that make money by acting as intermediaries. And to that end, it has been pressuring the Spanish Government for some time to prohibit them, since they think that the autonomous communities are not fulfilling their regulatory duties.

Over the last few months, the tourism association Exceltur, whose members include prestigious companies such as NH, Melia, Iberia, American Express, Hotusa and Globalia, has been holding conversations with the Secretary of State for Tourism (who reports into the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism). Exceltur thinks that the Executive “could do a lot more” to regulate the operations of these rental companies, which it considers are unfair competition and which threaten its business. The main trade association for Spanish hoteliers, Cehat, estimates that between 2010 and 2013, the number of customers staying at these establishments increased by 300%, and it calculates that the number of foreign tourists who use them represents more than 20% of the total.

To support its position, Exceltur has commission the consultancy firm EY (Ernst & Young) to conduct a study analysing the impact that this illegal rental accommodation is having on the tourism sector as a whole, not just on the hotel segment. To date, EY has prepared a report about the consequences for the Balearic Islands if this rental accommodation continues to grow at its current rate over the next ten years. According to its calculations, the hotel sector would lose between 5,000 and 13,000 jobs and forgo a gross added value of between €211 million and €529 million.

Regional jurisdiction

The Government says that tourism is a regional jurisdiction, and so the Central Administration cannot do much beyond trying to standardise the regional regulations as much as possible. Moreover, the upcoming regional and general elections are likely to scupper any attempt at reform.

To date, the regions that have endeavoured to do the most to regulate tourist rental accommodation are Madrid and Cataluña, although the former received a blow from the National Competition and Markets Commission (CNMC) in March when it ruled that the Madrid law (which only allows accommodation to be rented provided the minimum stay is five days) is a barrier to free competition.

Meanwhile, the Catalan Generalitat requires intermediary websites to ensure that each property offered for rent has a kind of identification number plate to accredit it as accommodation with its license in order. Last summer, Cataluña imposed a fine of €300,000 on the web portal Airbnb for allegedly failing to comply with that standard.

On an international level, cities are taking a variety of decisions. Thus, for example, New York has declared war on tourist rental accommodation, with coordinated teams of tax inspectors, police and lawyers; and the town hall of Amsterdam has just approved an agreement with Airbnb, which requries the platform to coordinate the collection of the tourist tax that is applicable to the activities of its users.

The so-called “collaborative economy” represents a real headache for legislators, both in Spain and across Europe. In Spain, Article 16 of the Law for Information Society Services (2002) states that intermediaries (such as Airbnb, Uber and others) are not liable for the possible unlawfulness of the people they host, unless they have specific knowledge thereof. Meanwhile, the European Commission is drafting a directive that may ease restrictions on the European market and facilitate the activity of these platforms.

Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)

Translation: Carmel Drake