Catalonia has approved a tourism decree to legally recognize short term rentals in the region. Catalonia’s capital is Barcelona which is a hugely popular tourist destination. This is a significant win for Airbnb as the company has been battling short term rental bans from a growing number of European cities.

The decree, which was approved this week, expands the types of accommodations that can be used for short term rentals. Barcelona had the second largest number of vacation rentals with 22,199 properties in 2019, according to data analytics company Transparent. Barcelona with stricter short term rental regulations fell behind Madrid which had 22,463 vacation rentals in 2019.

This is a reversal for Catalonia. It reportedly had taken one of the hardest lines in Spain with regards to Airbnb and home-sharing. In December 2019, the government won a 5-year court case against Airbnb to remove 12,000 listings from the platform. These listings failed to comply with local tourism regulations of either not having a valid tourist rental number (5,343) or had incorrect numbers (6,478).

In a statement, Airbnb said:

As we move forward, we want to continue to be good partners to everyone in Catalonia and work together to ensure everyone benefits from home sharing on Airbnb, based on our experience of working with more than 500 governments and organisations across the world. 

Since 2018 we have worked together on measures to help hosts follow the rules and display registration numbers, where required, and to identify and remove bad actors. We will continue to work with authorities across the region in the coming months to help hosts follow the rules and develop sustainable tourism solutions that help everyone in Catalonia move forward.  

This comes at a time when the heavily tourist-dependent Spanish economy is struggling from pandemic travel restrictions and lockdowns. Airbnb and hosts have always said that home sharing provides extra income for families and boost the local economy. According to Airbnb, the platform added 5 million euros per day to the Catalan economy last year.

Local governments in Europe and the U.S. often have to balance competing interests — housing advocates who want more affordable long-term housing, groups of homeowners who desire supplemental income and the local government’s need for revenues.

Perhaps during these challenging times, Catalonia has opted to relax restrictions for the sake of their economy. Will other European cities with difficult economies follow this path?


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