You might have heard in the news already that the Island of Palma de Mallorca has taken the unprecedented decision to ban the letting of private holiday apartments on Airbnb.
It is said that many people in Spain generally oppose the letting of homes for short let holidays, saying that this is driving up rental prices in suburban areas.
The controlling council on Palma – who are a left-wing, socialist party – are expected to vote in the propositions very soon.
This throws up all sorts of questions over the use of Airbnb for us travellers. Have we been using a system that is bad for local people? Is Airbnb ethical? Should we continue to use it? Or is this an overreaction from the Spanish island government.
Is Airbnb Ethical?
I’d always taken the view that Airbnb was a good way to approach accommodation and that it was only expensive hotels who were losing out on business. Perhaps this is a simplistic view and we should consider things in greater detail, before we book.
It can be argued that private landlords are less inclined to rent their properties out to locals, if they can make more by letting out to holiday makers, through sites like Airbnb.
The reduction in properties available for local people to live in, is causing rents to rise in places like Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, San Sebastian and throughout Spain.
That said, renting a spare room on Airbnb may not necessarily directly affect this and you may consider that a more ethical option?
Read more: We wrote a guide to using Airbnb for the first time, to help you get the best out of it.
There have been many anti-tourism protests across Spain in the last year. The intensity levels are expected to rise with even more protests in 2018.
Whilst I personally do want to stand up for the rights of Spanish people to affordable housing, I do not support the unwelcoming atmosphere this is creating. I wonder how much of their concerns are misplaced.
Here in Scotland, the majority of people support European freedom of movement. I have Spanish friends who have moved to Scotland to visit, live and work and I welcome them. I also support anyones right to travel, visit or live anywhere.
We should feel for the Spanish people. Their economy has not been good over the last ten years. Unemployment is around 17% – double France’s, four times higher than the UK and six times higher than Germany.
Coming from the UK, I have seen this kind of anti-foreign mentality with Brexit.
The Spanish situation is related but also different in many ways, to the right-wing UK Brexit mentality, against foreigners coming to live and work in the UK.
This Spanish sentiment is a left-wing political version, concerned by temporary visitors effecting the living conditions of residents and their hometowns. Perhaps bearing that in mind, it is most similar to the Lexit (Left-Brexit) movement in the UK.
Both the Spanish and Brexiteers are people concerned by globalisation but it could be argued that neither are addressing the route causes of their worry.
The Spanish Sentiment
It could be argued that Spain’s economy has been damaged by being tied to the Euro currency and that if they were not a member of the Euro, they could introduce financial measures to stimulate their economy, create more affordable housing and lower unemployment.
The responsibility lies with governments to ensure that Spain is both a livable place for locals and a welcoming place for visitors. How many people would suffer from less work, if the tourism industry did not contribute to their economy as much?
Striking the right balance is the responsibility of the Spanish government but also the European Union too.
Greece recently suffered under the EU monitory system and experienced a complete economic collapse, due to limited support from Brussels.
Will Anti-Tourism Spread?
There are many cities around Europe that are experiencing similar issues to Spanish ones. Will this kind of protest spread?
In London, Edinburgh and Bath in the UK, rents have been increasing much quicker than the wages of average workers. In these tourist heavy areas, locals often have an uneasy relationship with visitor.
There has been a ‘housing crisis’ declared in the UK, with many family priced out of their traditional hometowns. I know for my time living in east London, there are virtually no ‘cockney’ families left in the city now, for example. Edinburgh’s Old Town is almost exclusively tourist shops selling souvenirs, with many service businesses for local people like hairdressers and post offices, priced out of the area.
Whilst Airbnb is only a small contributing factor to these issues, it is fair to say local people are moving out of their homes as they turn into tourist traps and resent the fact they have to.
This is a difficult consideration for us travellers, as we think about how we are effecting the lives of locals who see us as privileged people, ruining their hometowns.
How to Book an Ethical Apartment When Visiting Spain
I am due to visit Spain this summer, with my girlfriend and her mother, who is of Spanish heritage. Using an Airbnb is no longer the attractive option it once was in this region.
For our trip, we have decided to book through a holiday apartment specialist company – Spain-Holidays. To ensure, we were meeting our ethical obligations, we have booked what is a permanent holiday apartment and is registered, with a specific tourism licence from the Spanish government.
This way, we know that our apartment is not available to be rented to locals and is not reducing the housing stock. We also have the confidence that some of our rental payment will be collected in tax, to help fund local infrastructure.
We’ve decided to avoid the protest hot-spots and visit Valencia in September.
What are your thoughts on the Spanish situation and the use of Airbnb? Should there be blackout regions, where it is a problem for local people? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.