• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Under-the-radar rentals hurt Spain's hotels

George Mills · 29 Jul 2013, 17:55

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.

Story continues below…

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
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Spain in a Day captures snapshots of everyday life of real people. Photo: RTVE

A documentary film compiled of video contributions from thousands of Spaniards filmed on a single day last year provides a beautiful and poignant snapshot of Spain.

Spain's crisis-hit Socialists set for leadership showdown
Pedro Sanchez is facing pressure to resign. Photo: AFP

Spain's crisis-hit Socialists geared for a key meeting on Saturday that could decide the fate of embattled party leader Pedro Sanchez and help end the country's prolonged political deadlock.

Everyone loves Spain: Tourist numbers break new record
2016 is set to be a record breaking year for tourism. Photo: AFP

More than 10 million tourists visited Spain in August, setting a new record for visitor numbers.

Catalan leader wins backing for independence referendum
Carles Puigdemont won support for a referendum. Photo: AFP

Catalonia's regional president won a confidence vote to hold a Scottish-style referendum on independence next year.

 Spanish police seize over 100 tonnes of contraband tobacco
Over 100 tonnes of tobacco was seized. Photo: AFP

Spanish police have seized a record 100 tonnes of contraband tobacco worth €16 million ($18 million) and arrested 13 people suspected of selling it over the internet.

The Local list
Ten great reasons to discover the real Malaga right now
Malaga's modern port. Photo: Nick Kenrick/Flickr

Autumn is a great time to discover Spain's southern city of Malaga.

Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Photo: AFP

Spain is going through one of the worst political storms in its modern history.

Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Photo; Carlos Olmedillas / Flickr

Filming for Game of Thrones season 7 gets underway in Spain in October. The Local takes a look at the special places chosen for the next episodes in the epic HBO drama.

Catalan leader promises 2017 independence referendum
Photo: AFP

The president of Catalonia vowed to hold a referendum on independence next year, whether Spain allowed it or not.

Spain's stricken Socialist party hit by 'coup' attempt
Pedro Sanchez is under pressure to resign. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialist party was hit by a "coup" attempt on Wednesday with half of its leadership quitting in a bid to oust leader Pedro Sanchez and unblock the country's political deadlock

Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
National
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
International
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
National
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
National
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
International
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
Travel
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
International
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
Technology
Spanish team invents hands-free 'penis bidet'
National
In pics: Devastation caused by Costa Blanca wildfires
Society
Pregnant woman in niqab attacked by two men in Spain
National
Spanish café offers cut-price coffee to those with manners
Travel
What's on in Spain: September 2016
Travel
'We drank from animal troughs to survive'
National
Forest fires threaten Costa Blanca resort of Jávea
National
Loyal dog mounts vigil at hospital doors for sick owner
Politics
Five reasons why Spain's Socialists won't back Rajoy
National
It's a girl! Rare giant panda cub born in Madrid zoo
Culture
La Tomatina: Everything you need to know about epic fiesta
National
Shocking video shows torture of young calf during fiesta
Police launch appeal for Costa Blanca hit and run driver
Politics
What political deadlock? Spain economy forges ahead
3,201
jobs available