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Inside Spain: Madrid’s mango-scented tarmac and the €1M-a-year Airbnb host

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Inside Spain: Madrid’s mango-scented tarmac and the €1M-a-year Airbnb host
A normal-looking Airbnb "superhost" with a portfolio of 300 homes has been making headlines in Spain this week, especially because he doesn't own of the properties. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

In this week’s Inside Spain, we find out why Madrid residents are kicking up a stink over mango-smelling tarmac and how not everything is what it seems with normal-looking Airbnb hosts in Spain.

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Residents in some streets of Spain’s capital woke up this week to the scent of tropical fruit, as the city hall rolled out new mango-scented tarmac as a bizarre means of improving foul-smelling odours outdoors, as well as apparently hiding the scent of freshly poured asphalt itself. 

“Those of us who have an especially large pituitary, as is my case, will appreciate it even more,” said Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida. 

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“I’m getting dizzy from the strong smell of mango, I live on the first floor and I had to close all the windows for it not to smell indoors,” one less appreciative resident told local TV channel TeleMadrid. 

This mango aroma addition is a trial that’s part of Madrid’s “Operation Asphalt” (a plan to improve city roads), but it’s somewhat backfired on social media among disgruntled madrileños who claim it would’ve been much better to plant fruit trees if that's a suitable way of improving street smells.

Unfortunately, Madrid authorities have been doing the opposite of that, having chopped down almost 9,000 trees over the past two years.

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 Almeida has responded to critics by arguing that more than 5,000 trees have been planted during that time, although their distribution is far less even than it used to be, with the districts of Fuencarral- El Pardo and Hortaleza on the northern outskirts of the city housing 90 percent of these new trees. 

Nowhere exemplifies this better than Madrid’s main square Puerta del Sol as its revamp in 2022 included plenty of new cement but no trees.

It’s a concern for many Madrid residents dreading the dangerously high heat of the summer months, and who are aware that trees not only provide shade but help to keep neighbourhood temperatures down. 

Another story that’s been doing the rounds in Spain this week is that of Fran and Marta, an apparently normal couple with a young daughter who are Airbnb hosts, only that they have a portfolio of 336 properties in Madrid and rake in over €1 million a year. If anyone is a so-called ‘superhost’, it’s them. 

They don’t really own all those homes, they just manage them for the real owners through a company that uses endearing family photos and first names on their Airbnb profiles rather than a more distant and corporate company logo. 

Spanish newspaper El Confidencial lifted the lid on Fran, who is a real person, but sometimes goes by Diego, Rodrigo or Raúl, all with roughly 100 Airbnb listings each. Most of these properties don't have a tourist property licence. 

Interviewed on Spanish daytime talk show TardeAR, whose host Ana Rosa praised him for the “enormously successful marketing operation” of pretending to be a normal small property holder to Airbnb users, Fran said he only had a mortgage for a small flat in the capital and that “you don’t earn that much”. 

“There are a lot of fake rich people when it comes to holiday lets,” he stated. 

What there are more of than we realise is fake landlords on Airbnb, at a time when the question of short-term holiday lets and their impact on local property and rental markets in Spain has never been greater. 

READ MORE: Who really owns all the Airbnb-style lets in Spain?

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