• Spain's news in English
 

Under-the-radar rentals hurt Spain's hotels

Published: 29 Jul 2013 17:55 GMT+02:00

Spain welcomed record numbers of tourists in May and June.

In May, the country saw 5.8 million foreign visitors flock to its shores, while in June this number was 6.6 million.

But nearly 4 million of these tourists chose not to stay in the country's traditional hotels and holiday homes.

That's up 560,000 on a year ago, according to Spanish Government tourism agency Frontur.

Instead, people are turning to what Spain's El País newspaper calls "alternative" accommodation providers. The most important of these new-wave tourism providers are internet sites linking guests directly with the owners of private homes and rooms.

This growing sector does involved some risks though, the daily says, with some businesses taking advantage of unclear rules to avoid paying tax, thus creating unfair competition in the holiday rental market. Also, people who rent out private homes rarely have to submit to the complex safety regulations and building restrictions imposed on hoteliers.

Among the best known of these is Airbnb, a site which earns its income by charging a 6 to 12 percent commission on all holiday rental transactions conducted via its site.

Spain is the site's third most important country in absolute terms, says Jeroen Merchiers, Airbnb's manager for Spain.

Barcelona, meanwhile, is its third most visited city after New York, Paris and London.

Airbnb saw 300 percent growth in Spain from June 2012 to June 2013 and now has 40,000 properties on its books for the country.

Asked whether property owners were paying tax on their earnings, Merchiers said: "We operate in 192 counties and can't concern ourselves with 192 different legislative frameworks."

"We recommend that our advertisers to see a tax adviser, but we can't do any more than that," Spain's Airbnb boss added.

But one Barcelona bed and breakfast owner tells it differently.

The owner of a six-bedroom property, the owner says his property was full in 2011. Now, though, he is struggling to find guests.

Indeed, the owner resorted to listing his rooms on Airbnb to boost his visibility.

"They didn't ask me to do anything, and they didn't ask anything about my tax status," the bed and breakfast owner said.

"When I got my official tourist licence, on the other hand, the police came and inspected me. There were (so many) rules, even about the width of the hallways."

This owner doesn't believe sites like Airbnb are illegal, but says they operate in a legal grey area.

The secretary general of Spain's hotels and holiday homes owners' association Ramón Estalella CEHAT is also reluctant to point the finger of blame.

He explains, though, that while his sector also saw an increase of 100,000 overnight visits from June 2012 to June 2013, hotel prices have stagnated.

Estalella points out that while holiday rental sites like Airbnb are just doing their job, "it's not possible that hotels are having problems when Spain is seeing 6 million tourists (per month) for the first time.

In the tax office, there is come concern about the state of the industry.

Around €3 billion from rental income goes undeclared every year in Spain, according José María Mollinedo, the head of the tax officals' union Gestha. 

Check out the latest exchange rates on The Local's currency page.

But he pointed out that the data "is general and it's hard to know what percentage of that fraud is tourism-related".

Spain introduced new rental laws in Spain in June 2013, with holiday rentals being excluded from the federal regime.

Spain's 17 autonomous regions now control rules for private holiday rentals, a situation which has caused a good degree of confusion among renters. 

To make the situation even more difficult, not all autonomous regions have implemented relevant laws.

Previoulsy, short-term renting to tourists, whether for the summer period or on a day-by-day basis, had been a civil right enshrined in Spain’s Urban Rental law (LAU).

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Catalonia prepares ahead of independence vote
Photo: AFP

Catalonia prepares ahead of independence vote

The wealthy Catalonia region is strengthening its tax office and expanding its network of foreign missions in defiance of the central government, as it prepares for possible secession from Spain. READ  

Spain's anti-austerity party opens books
Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Spain's anti-austerity party opens books

Podemos, the new anti-austerity party that is leading Spanish opinion polls, published its accounts Friday in a fresh bid to show that it is not financed by foreign governments. READ  

Prime time TV brought forward - to 10.15pm

Prime time TV brought forward - to 10.15pm

Spanish national broadcaster, RTVE, has announced it is bringing forward its prime time slot to 10.15pm, allowing Spaniards to get to bed earlier. READ  

Podemos gives up EU seats to run at home
Pablo Iglesias at a rally in Madrid on Wednesday. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Podemos gives up EU seats to run at home

Podemos, the new anti-establishment party in Spain, has said it will replace its European members of parliament so that its leaders can run in elections at home. READ  

What's on in Spain: March 2015
"The most dangerous walkway in the world" reopens in March. Photo: caminitodelrey.info

What's on in Spain: March 2015

Whether it is a trip to see the tongue-in-cheek send up of politicans at Las Fallas before a spectacular flaming finale in Valencia or braving the dizzying heights to walk the renovated Caminito del Rey, there is plenty going on across Spain in the run up to Easter. READ  

The strange consular requests of Brits abroad

The strange consular requests of Brits abroad

The British Foreign office has released a list of the strangest requests it receives from Brits abroad, from a chef to make the perfect haggis to advice on how to treat a cat’s infected paw. READ  

Ukraine crisis
Spaniards arrested for fighting for Russia
Pro-Russian separatists ride tanks in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on February 21, 2015. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP

Spaniards arrested for fighting for Russia

Police on Friday arrested eight Spaniards who were "inspired by the International Brigades" and had returned from fighting alongside pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, sources close to the investigation said. READ  

Priests defend secrecy in sex abuse confessions
Photo of a priest: Shutterstock

Priests defend secrecy in sex abuse confessions

Spain's bishops conference on Thursday defended the right of priests to maintain the secrecy of the confessional booth even in cases of serious crimes such as the sexual abuse of children. READ  

Spain blasts ex-PM meeting with Castro
Former Spanish Prime Minsiter Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attends a press conference at the National Hotel in Havana, Cuba. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP

Spain blasts ex-PM meeting with Castro

Spain's conservative government reacted angrily on Thursday to a visit by former Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to Cuba and his meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, calling it disloyal. READ  

The rain in Spain falls mainly...everywhere
Flooding in Villarcayo, Burgos. Photo: Protección Civil Municipal Burgos (@pcivilburgos)

The rain in Spain falls mainly...everywhere

Much of Spain was on high alert on Thursday as parts of the country were battered by high winds, heavy rains and rising rivers. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Brooms up! Quidditch casts its spell over Spain
Society
Ten phrases you'll only hear at work in Spain
International
Spanish crowned world's happiest language
National
Eight cool things the crisis did for Spain
National
There is joy in learning something new yourself'
Travel
Top Ten: Spain's best beaches for 2015
National
Euro property bargains up for grabs in Spain
What's On
Spain's craziest carnivals
National
Spanish town fights 'Fifty Shades' bondage hotel
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
International
Vinnie Jones teaches Spanish in hilarious ad
What's On
Ten golden rules for snagging a Spanish man
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
National
Are these Spain's most romantic couples ever?
Property
House sales up for first year since crisis began
Gallery
The highs and lows of the Spanish property market
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
National
The five strangest things about Spaniards
Society
Bizarre Spanish fashions you shouldn't try at home
What's On
Top Spanish director to open Berlin Film Festival
National
Young and old, rich and poor join left-wing march
What's On
What's on in Spain: February 2015
International
Spain planned to invade Australia in 1790s
National
Spanish jobseekers fail exam with answers
National
Moving to Spain: a guide for beginners
National
Spain's new penal code: key talking points
International
Spain among Europe's cheapest nations: study
Features
Top ten surprising Spanish inventions
National
Court to study paternity suit against ex-king
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
National
Top ten: must-know Spanish superstitions
International
'Change Schengen rules to catch Islamists': Spain
What's On
Ten ways to spice up your Spanish life in 2015
Health
Spain tops world organ donation rankings
National
5 things no one tells you about renting in Spain
National
'No Pants Subway Ride' hits Madrid Metro
National
Spain's satirical mags back Charlie Hebdo
National
Finally: a Spanish PM bothers to visit Andorra
National
Woman fined for being kissed while driving
Travel
Top travel highlights in Spain for 2015
National
Gallery: Hits and misses of Antonio Banderas
National
Spain's top news in 2015: The Local's predictions
National
Spain's public holidays in 2015: Official list
National
Christmas fireball lights up Spanish skies
National
Top ten: Spain's biggest stories of 2014
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

570
jobs available