Spain's Balearic Islands limit guestrooms

Image of Menorca: ©iStock / rownike. (Menorca)

Good news for Spain’s hospitality sector: The number of tourists using rental accommodation in Spain grew 23 percent year-over-year in July, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics. The Institute reported that Spain received 10.5 million international tourists in July, 10.1 percent more than in the same month of 2016. Of those staying in paid-for accommodation, the number of tourists staying in hotels grew by 4.1 percent, and rented properties by 23.2 percent.

The good news came as the Balearic Islands voted to put a cap on the number of tourist guestrooms available on the islands of Mallorca and Ibiza—and promised heavy fines for those illegally renting apartments.

In the Balearic Islands, concerns over excess tourism and residents being priced out of the rental market have led to action by the local authorities. Biel Barceló, tourism minister for the Balearic Islands, announced that the rate of tourist tax would double next year, ranging from €1 per day for hostels to €4 at the top end of the market, with holiday apartment rentals included.

The tax was first introduced in July.  “It will help us to enhance the balance between the impact of tourism on locals and the contribution made by the people who visit us,” Barceló said. “It will be a tool to help us build solidarity between visitors and residents.”

The tax was expected to raise around €120 million next year. No statement has been made yet in regards to last year's 50-percent discount on tourism taxes for the Islands' low season between November and April.

Barceló also announced a cap on the number of tourism beds in the islands, at 623,624, with plans to cut that by 120,000 over the next few years. In addition, the four islands have been given one year to decide whether they want tourist rentals to continue. “We want balanced and sustainable tourism so that it can keep being our lead economic activity for many years to come,” Barceló said.

Those offering their apartments for short rentals without a license will face fines of between €20,000 and €40,000.

Airbnb criticized the rules as confusing and said that it was ready to work with the local authorities. “By working together, we can help build sustainable tourism models that spread benefits to many—not keep them in the hands of a few,” the company said in a statement.

The Balearic Islands join Barcelona and, allegedly, Madrid, in restricting the growth of tourist accommodation and limiting the sharing platforms.

The news came as the UNWTO reported “particularly strong growth” in the first half of the year, with Southern and Mediterranean Europe seeing a 12-percent rise in overnight visitors.

“It’s how we manage it that counts: International travel creates jobs, economic growth and development opportunities for many communities around the world,” said UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai. “But this source of prosperity needs to be managed efficiently, for the good of visitors and host communities alike.”

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at Hotel Analyst, the U.K.-based news analysis service for hotel investors.