Capital of Mallorca strongly curbs home-sharing

Palma de Mallorca with the Santa María cathedral in the background. Photo credit: Olarty//Getty Images

Palma, the resort city and capital of the Spanish island of Mallorca, has passed a law banning short-term rentals in the city as part of efforts to protect its housing market.

The move is part of a larger trend in Europe that has seen cities like Barcelona, Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin strongly regulate the home-sharing business, limiting the amount of days owners can rent out properties. 

In Palma, it's a flat out ban, but with some provisions. The new regulation will no longer permit home-sharing in blocks of flats, although detached homes would still be available as long as they were not on protected land, within a region around the airport, or buildings not designated for residential use. 

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Bel Busquets, Balearic minister for tourism, called for a longer tourism season, commenting: "Saturation is an issue. It’s all about finding the right balance and sometimes, such as in the case with holiday rentals, it can be difficult. There is so much more to the Balearics that can be enjoyed in Spring and the Autumn."

"The owners of apartments in multi-family buildings in Palma will not be able to rent them to tourists," said Xavier Batlle, senior consultant, Christie & Co. "Nevertheless, this same proposal will allow the rental of single-family houses throughout the municipality. The purpose of this measure is to preserve the right of access to housing for residents and workers facing the pressure of demand for tourist use. The proposal came from the Federation of Neighbourhood Associations and 15 other entities have intervened to support the proposal, including the environmental association."

Added Inmaculada Ranera, managing director, Spain & Portugal, Christie & Co: "The main purpose of the new law was to protect the citizens from the increase of the housing rentals, which is also helping to protect the ‘soul’ of the city, in the sense that it does not become potentially just a theme park with no local residents within the city centre. That said, it is also benefiting the hotel industry, as it takes out competition as only private owners of single family houses will be capable to rent those. Considering the whole city of Palma as ‘one zone’ erases some potential differentiations that could have been established depending on location. As usual, new technologies go faster than administrations and, being a global concern in big tourist cities, maybe a bit more of coordination amongst them in order to set up similar regulations would have been good.”

Last month Airbnb sought to address the issue of over tourism with the launch of the Office of Healthy Tourism to manage increasing numbers of visitors local economies are expected to welcome, and the organization initially will be tasked with driving tourism to rural destinations, refocusing attention from destinations facing concerns of overcrowding and onto areas in need of tourism spending.. 

"With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefiting, and right now not all tourism is created equal," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications. "To democratize the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to the mass travel that has plagued cities for decades.

"Airbnb supports tourism that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable. Through the meaningful income earned by the mosaic that is our global community of hosts; our ability to promote tourism to places that need it the most; and the inherent sustainable benefits of hosting, Airbnb is providing the type of travel that is best for destinations, residents, and travellers alike."

Since the launch, Amsterdam has sought to limit the impact of the sharing economy, halving the time accommodation can be rented out, from 60 to 30 days. The city's Housing Alderman Laurens Ivens said: "I recognize that reducing the length of time is not the solution to city congestion but it will reduce the problems caused by tourists in some areas and will make it less inviting to use your home as a way to earn money."

With the now-annual anti-tourism protests already scheduled for the peak season, other cities are watching with interest. Where next? "Hopefully Ibiza, where there are the same issues with residents," said Batlle. "San Sebastián is also on the radar.”

Airbnb and its ilk must now prove that sharing really can be caring.  

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

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