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Spain's Balearics struggle to fill job vacancies due to exorbitant rents

The Local Spain
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Spain's Balearics struggle to fill job vacancies due to exorbitant rents
Tourists sit at a restaurant terrace along Palma's Beach in Palma de Mallorca.(Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

Eye-watering rents are hitting staffing levels in hotels and restaurants on the Balearic Islands as the summer season approaches, with some workers having to stay in caravans and tents as their wages don't cover the price of renting a room.

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In 2023, the Balearic Islands welcomed 14.4 million tourists who between them spent €17.2 billion, according to figures from Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE). The Balearics has long been a popular holiday resort for Spaniards and foreigners alike, particularly among Britons and Germans.

Now the summer season, something that in the Balearics has increased in length over the years, is fast approaching. Yet many hotels, bars and restaurants on the islands are left with thousands of vacancies and struggling to fill jobs, despite the overwhelming tourist demand.

All because rents on the Mediterranean islands are too high for low-paid hospitality workers.

READ ALSO: What will happen to rents in Spain in 2024?

Rental prices in Spain in 2023 were on average 9.4 percent more expensive than the year before, according to data from housing website Idealista. In bigger cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga, that figure is creeping closer to the high-teens and twenties.

In certain parts of the Balearics things are even worse, with the cost of renting an apartment increasing by as much as a fifth year-on-year.

During the high season, two-bedroom flats can cost upwards of €1,600 per month. A double room can cost around €750 from April onwards.

As a result, the army of chefs, bartenders, waiters, cleaners and receptionists needed to power the Balearics through the high tourism season are struggling to find accommodation. There are therefore now thousands of unfilled jobs and hundreds of bars, restaurants and hotels left shorthanded for summer.

The lack of staff in recent years has even caused some restaurants in touristy areas to close their doors for up to two days a week, something that had not happened in previous seasons.

"The situation of the last two years has meant that everyone has learned to get their act together earlier. The housing issue is structural and has no solution today, neither in the short nor in the medium-term. It is an issue that depends on the local government," María Frontera, president of the Hotel Federation of Mallorca, told El País

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Larger hotel chains can soften the impact by giving discounted rooms to their staff, but this isn't an option for over half (55 percent) of the island's businesses which have fewer than 100 rooms and can't afford to give them up.

In Ibiza, where rental prices have skyrocketed in recent years, many job adverts come with offers of accommodation because employers know that it is practically impossible to find workers who can afford a room or apartment in the Balearics for seasonal work, the period when prices increase the most.

Joan Pla, general manager of Blau Hotels, believes that the short-term tourist rental sector has altered the market, resulting in thousands of empty properties that are rented out for only a few months a year during the summer and making it difficult to access long-term rentals, which in turn pushes prices up overall.

"We have a very stable staff, with workers who come from the islands, but there are also rotations and retirements,” Pla told El País.

As a result of the rent increases on the islands, hospitality employers are increasingly looking abroad for staff. “When certain vacancies need to be filled and we have to look for employees abroad, we have gone on missions to Portugal, Holland and Belgium," Pla added.

Up to 85 percent of new residents settling in the Balearic Islands are foreigners, according to new data from Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE).

READ ALSO: Nine in ten new residents in Spain's Balearic Islands are foreign

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Local governments on the islands, notably in Palma, have tried to take steps to regulate short-term tourist rentals such as Airbnb. In 2023, the Spanish Supreme Court upheld Palma city council's policy of banning tourist rentals in apartment buildings in the popular Mallorcan capital.

The increase in short-term accommodation, prices, and foreigners settling on the islands mean that many of the staff needed to support the summer tourist season are unable to find accommodation, which in turn means that employers can't find employees to fill vacancies.

Faced with the unaffordable prices and the sheer difficulty in finding longer-term accommodation, some staff are taking extreme measures.

Many waiters, barmen and chefs around the islands have been forced to share rooms in shared flats or, in some cases, even live in tents or caravans during the high season.

Some people in Ibiza have even tried to capitalise on the situation by renting out tents for as much as €26 a night

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