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STR platforms stay silent while others call out unintended consequences of Barcelona’s new ban


Barcelona’s decision to ban short term rentals has prompted a slew of chatter from industry folk – many of whom are criticizing the decision and calling out potential unintended consequences – while some of the large platforms in the sector have not commented publicly on the Spanish city’s move.

Friday Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni said that by November 2028 apartment rentals for tourists will cease to exist as the city takes steps to transition the existing properties to residential use only.

Barcelona currently has 10,101 properties that are licensed for tourist use – a restricted count in place since 2014. “These 10,000 tourist apartments [will] become residential apartments in November 2028,” said Collboni.

When contacted by PhocusWire, AirbnbVrbo and HomeToGo declined to comment on the new ban, and both Airbnb and Vrbo suggested questions be directed to the European Holiday Home Association (EHHA). Booking.com did not respond to our inquiry.

The sweeping ban comes in an effort to improve Barcelona’s housing market, Collboni wrote in a post on X. “We want to guarantee the right to live in Barcelona and deal effectively with the housing crisis we have been suffering for years.”

Some supported Collboni’s move including Spain Housing Minister Isabel Rodríguez García, who took to X to share her approval: “This is what it is about, making all the necessary efforts to guarantee access to decent and affordable housing,” Rodríguez García wrote.

Unintended consequences?

Not all see the lockdown on STRs as a cure-all to the housing woes Barcelona is currently facing.

Even some on the hotel side – which stands to benefit from a shuttering of STR properties – see the move as detrimental to the city’s future in terms of tourism. Ivar Yuste, partner at PHG Hotels and Resorts said the city is essentially “shooting itself in the foot.”

“The tourism future for Barcelona is not bright,” said Yuste. “They have in place a hotel ban that inflates the asset price of the hotels, inflates rates and is diverting demand to the apartments. If you now ban also the apartments, the whole thing will get out of control… I cannot think of any positive outcome out of this situation.

“The [hotel] supply will be absolutely insufficient to fulfill the demand. … If the city council has the [means to] enforce this ban, I doubt they do, this move will significantly hurt the main source of revenue of the city.”

Yuste predicts hotels’ average daily rates will spiral out of control and that tourists will stop coming to Barcelona. In New York City, where government leaders passed strict restrictions on STRs last fall, hotel average daily rates and occupancy have surged.

Quote

The [hotel] supply will be absolutely insufficient to fulfill the demand.

Ivar Yuste – PHG Hotels and Resorts

AirDNA chief economist and senior vice president of analytics Jamie Lane echoed Yuste’s outlook, but cautioned he’s not an expert on the hotel industry in Barcelona.

Typically, when restrictions like this one are put into place there aren’t enough hotel rooms to accommodate guests in the same way STRs could, Lane said, noting AirDNA has seen that outcome play out in New York and other major cities.

So, there won’t be a number of vacant hotel rooms to match the number of removed units – especially assuming many units are multi-room properties accommodating a number of guests at a time.

“When there’s not enough supply for the amount of demand going in, typically [that] means that prices go up,” said Lane. “And that has a way of reducing overall demand, just people that get priced out of the market … So, you should see fewer people actually traveling to Barcelona as a result of something like this.”

And the EHHA said in a statement that banning STRs not only won’t fix housing concerns, it will in fact hurt the city’s residents who make their living in support of the tourism industry.

“Though we understand and respect the need of local authorities to regulate to address housing concerns, unjustified and ill-informed regulation will only exacerbate the struggles of local communities,” said the EHHA, pointing to rental housing prices in the city that have continued to rise despite the decade-old policy restricting STR licenses to around 10,000.

“This extreme proposal will not have any effect on the housing crisis as less than 1% of homes in Barcelona are short-term rentals. We urge the City Council to engage with the broad STR industry and look for a solution that does not erode a key part of the tourism supply in Barcelona, with very negative side effects for local families, commerces, from bakers to cafés, cleaners and everything in between.”

Vanessa de Souza Lage, co-founder and CEO of STR certification platform Sustonica and a Barcelona resident is also concerned about the impact of the ban.

“STRs are essential for dispersing tourism throughout the city. For instance, my neighborhood, which has no hotels, benefits from STRs bringing in visitors,” she said.

“By supporting STRs, we encourage a more equitable distribution of tourism’s economic benefits and promote a more sustainable and locally integrated model of tourism. This approach not only strengthens the local economy but also enhances the visitor experience by fostering genuine connections with the community. For these reasons, cities, and specifically Barcelona, should not ban STRs.”

What the STR market looks like in Barcelona right now

Last year, nearly 16 million travelers visited Barcelona proper, according to Barcelona Tourism Observatory.

While licensed rental properties don’t account for a large portion of residential properties in the city, experts say the STR market in Barcelona may actually be much more substantial than what’s been licensed officially by the government.

Quote

When there’s not enough supply for the amount of demand going in, typically [that] means that prices go up … So, you should see fewer people actually traveling to Barcelona as a result of something like this.

Jamie Lane – AirDNA

Global travel intelligence platform Mabrian did a deep dive on the Barcelona STR sphere based on Airbnb data in response to the news, finding the market is potentially 63% larger than projected by city officials with 15,800 units listed on Airbnb in the city. That number accounts for around 56,700 beds, which is about two-thirds of the beds provided by hotels in the city, according to the Barcelona Tourism Observatory. And that figure doesn’t include properties listed on platforms other than Airbnb.

“Getting the record straight in terms of dimensioning the market is crucial for policy making, especially considering that, according to our data, approximately one out of four rental units in Barcelona do not count on the mandatory license for tourist rentals,” said Carlos Cendra, partner and chief marketing and communications officer at Mabrian.

Lane said AirDNA’s figures put the total number of listings on Airbnb and Vrbo in Barcelona at about 17,500, although in the case of Airbnb some of those are for private rooms and he said it’s not “100%” clear whether private rooms are exempt from the new ban – or whether other licensing exemptions such as longer-term apartment rentals (30 plus days) would be exempt.

Will rentals really disappear? 

Yuste predicts that some who own and manage short term rentals in Barcelona will continue to do so without a license, for example by using unofficial channels such as social media platforms or by communicating directly with travelers. 

Meanwhile governments and regulators around the globe are grappling with how to manage short-term rentals while also accommodating the needs of local residents. 

In February the European Union announced new rules on how to STR data should be shared and collected, in an effort to create a “transparent and responsible platform economy in the EU.” 

Javier Delgado, managing partner and CEO for EMEA at Mirai, said that while he believes a lack of regulation has in fact contributed to the huge growth in new properties being listed as short-term rentals, he doesn’t think a total ban similar to Barcelona’s is an appropriate response.

“A total ban of STR does not appear to be reasonable as there is a substantial market that needs and expects this kind of lodging,” he said.

An ideal solution would be to have European regulation that ensures fairness and sustainability, Delgado said. “In any case we must acknowledge that this is easy to say and difficult to do.”

Lane believes many major cities are looking for a “middle ground.”

“It’s only a handful of cities, major cities, that we’ve seen these types of regulations,” said Lane. “Primarily because tourism is such a big part of most of the cities … most cities want to find a line between allowing people to continue to accommodate guests and making sure that it’s not really impacting the long term housing market.”



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