Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Airbnb in Barcelona

Por: | 07 de julio de 2014

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.


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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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