Today Airbnb was fined €30,000 by Catalonia’s local government the Generalitat “for illegally commercializing short-stay apartment rentals that are not listed on the Catalan Tourism Register.” They have been asked to remove listings that have no license and may even “initiate proceedings to prevent online access to the site from the entire Catalan territory.” While the story has grabbed the headlines, the fight has been ongoing quite some time.
Tourists on the streets of Barcelona. / CARLES RIBAS
The conflict between the Generalitiat and Airbnb can mostly notable be seen in the cases they have opened against hosts who were caught to be illegally letting, with fines of up to €90,000 being available to local law courts.
A key group in this dispute is Anfitriones en Accion (Hosts in Action), a recently formed campaign group who are attempting to raise awareness of the benefits of Airbnb for Barcelona and pressure the local government to amend the current law. Last Thursday, Anfitriones en Accion gathered some 600 people in Plaça de Sant Jaume to deliver 3,000 postcards to the city’s mayor Xavier Trias, all of which were signed by local businesses supporting Airbnb.
Airbnb who has seen positive legislation passed in other cities, such as Amsterdam, Hamburg and Paris has had more troublesome receptions in various American cities, most notably New York. Attempting to get on the front foot and perhaps pre-empt today’s fine, Airbnb conducted and published research on Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain a whole in February of this year.
This research makes more interesting reading. According to the study 75% of all Airbnb hosts in Barcelona use the money they earn to help pay their bills and stay in their homes. 75% also had incomes at or below the national Spanish average. The study estimates there are currently around 4,000 hosts that have welcomed approximately 170,000 guests to Catalonia’s capital. Barcelona is currently Airbnb’s fourth most popular destination with guests. The city is experiencing a boom from tourism: 8 million tourists are estimated to visit the city this year (something reported on in this blog previously), a statistic that goes hand-in-hand with the rise in Airbnb’s popularity. Tourists that visit using Airbnb also tend to stay in the less visited areas of the city; a fact Airbnb has suggested is dispersing tourists Euros around the city in a more equitable manner. Airbnb also estimate there has been a total of €175 million Euros of activity in the Catalan capital, a fact that might be caused by Airbnb guests staying 2.4 times longer and spending 2.3 times more money compared to typical tourists.
While today’s focus has been on Barcelona, Airbnb does have a significant national presence too. Again, according to the website, 1 million guests have visited the Spain using the site. 28% of these hosts nationwide are said to be entrepreneurs running a small business. 74% of these entrepreneurs have apparently used their Airbnb income to help finance their business with nearly 20% calling the income “vital”.
The Generalitat’s opposition to Airbnb is reminiscent of New York’s intolerance of the site. Airbnb eventually compromised with authorities there and handed over data on all their hosts, however anonymising it: the New York authorities were deprived the opportunity to individually prosecute, as Airbnb withheld key personal data.
Another city, another battle for Airbnb. Today’s ruling only highlights the growing conflict between Barcelona and Airbnb, and with the inclusion of a campaign group of concerned hosts, it doesn’t look like its anywhere closer to ending.