The Balearic Islands Sets a Limit of 623,624 Places for the Tourism Sector


9 August 2017

The Balearic Islands’ government’s new law will enter into force to “put some order” into residential tourist rentals, with fines of up to 400,000 euros for platforms like Airbnb.

The Government of the Balearic Islands announced yesterday the enactment of a new law that limits tourism to a maximum ceiling of 623,624 places among all the islands, including hotel and non-hotel spaces. This “ceiling” comes into force amid controversy over the management of tourism and tourism-phobia, in the face of the latest incidents by radical groups. Of the limited spaces, 435,707 correspond to Mallorca, 109,800 to Ibiza, 60,117 to Menorca and 18,000 to Formentera.

The pioneering law includes fines of up to 400,000 euros to tourist accommodation rental platforms. The objective is to “put order” in the activity and gradually reduce the number of places available.

The Government of Francina Armengol (PSIB-PSOE) modified the PP’s previous law, permitting the councils of each island (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) and the Palma city council to determine whether they will allow tourist rentals in homes, for how long and in what areas. The institutions will have a year to decide on their course of action, though they are expected to stick to the ban.

The rental of apartments to tourists was already prohibited in a law promulgated by the PP party’s government in the previous legislature. Nevertheless, the modality had been allowed through the Law of Urban Leases. According to Tourism Minister and Balearic Vice-President Biel Barceló, the law aims to end “speculation” in housing rentals and to foster “responsible, sustainable and balanced” tourism. However, it will also affect the hotel sector, limiting the number of places.

The rental housing platforms will have 15 days to adapt to the new law, according to a statement that the Balearic Government sent to 30 of these companies. Otherwise, fines will range from 20,000 euros, in the case of owners who rent apartments to tourists, to 400,000 euros, for real estate, tourist intermediaries or digital platforms such as Airbnb or HomeAway.

Of the ceiling of 623,624 places, there are 120,000 that have been granted since 1999 under an exceptional regime which will not be renewed as they expire, to slowly reduce the total supply.

To prosecute illegal home rentals, the Ministry of Tourism will create an electronic platform for citizens to report the owners who rent them. The complaints will not be anonymous and will only serve as an indication of where inspectors should look.

For practical purposes, starting yesterday, home owners who house tourists in their home for less than 30 days, without a rental contact and without the visitor having paid a bond, is acting illegally and could be fined.

Airbnb said in a statement that the new law is “complex and confusing” and called for joint action “to help create sustainable tourism model that share the benefits among many, rather than leaving them in the hands of a few.”

The need for a new management model in the face of the strong increase in tourists – 30 million since 2010 – and the latest incidents against tourism by radical groups such as Arran in Palma de Mallorca have put pressure on the autonomous governments. Barcelona was the first city to announce measures, since tourism has exceeded the city’s capacity, where some neighbourhoods have had a transitory population of tourists greater than the population of regular inhabitants. Last week the San Sebastián City Council also announced a plan for the sustainable management of tourism.

The director general of Tourism of the Balearic Islands, Pilar Carbonell, reported that in spring a campaign was launched in Mallorca to clamp down on the advertising of rental homes to tourists through realtors.

Original Story: Expansión ProOrbyt

Translation: Richard Turner

Colau Closes 256 Tourist Apartments In 1 Month

11 August 2016 – Expansión

One month ago, the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, announced the launch of an emergency plan against unlicensed tourist apartments in operation in the city. Since then, the Town Hall has ordered the closure of 256 flats in total; in 2015, 400 orders were issued during the whole of the year. Nevertheless, for the trade association Apartur, which represents legal suppliers (of tourist accommodation), that figure is insufficient, and so it has called for the municipal government to make more effort.

A month ago, the town hall reinforced the number of agents making on-site inspections or verifying offers advertised on the internet. The sanctioned owners will receive a court order requiring them to cease their activity and they must pay a fine of €30,000. If they reoffend, the amount of the fine will increase.

One of the initiatives that Colau had announced a year ago was that unlicensed homes that joined the program for homes to be used as social housing would not be sanctioned, but for the time being, no property has joined that plan.

The town hall has also continued to process the files that it opened against the platforms Airbnb and Homeaway one year ago for reporting unlicensed flats.

Over the next few weeks, both operators will receive notifications and must pay a fine of €60,000 each. If they reoffend, the sanctions may reach €600,000.

The trade association Apartur celebrated the municipal initiative, but stressed that it is still a long way from eradicating the illegal offer that exists in the city. It also questioned the moratorium underway, which is affecting both the opening of hotels and the granting of new licences for tourist apartments, given that it is making the eradication of this activity more difficult. Its commitment, it said, is to a “responsible”, “sustainable” and civic tourist model.

Web site and letters

The municipal government defended itself against the critics and said that proof that it is giving priority to this issue is the creation of a website that allows neighbours to report illegal tourist apartments. During the course of one month, it has received 375 notifications. It has also started to send 800,000 letters this week, in which it calls on citizens to “collaborate”.

Nevertheless, the discomfort of several neighbourhood organisations against illegal tourist apartments is continuing to grow, and this summer it has extended further beyond the centre to reach neighbourhoods such as Poblenou.

Original story: Expansión (by David Casals)

Translation: Carmel Drake