What will Barcelona’s ban on holiday rentals mean for travellers? What will Barcelona’s ban on holiday rentals mean for travellers?

In a monumental move, Barcelona will cease licencing short-term apartment rentals from 2028 in efforts to combat overtourism and lower housing costs. But how will this impact travel to the city?
24 June 2024
Plaza Real , Barcelona (Shutterstock)

Mass tourism has been an issue in travel for many years, but in 2024, it has seemingly reached its boiling point. Governmental organisations around the world have already implemented methods to deter overtourism – countries such as Iceland have introduced a tourist tax, landmarks such as Peru’s Machu Picchu have put a cap on daily visitors, and cities such as Venice have banned cruise ships and megaphones.

But it’s Spain’s most popular city that has recently made the headlines, making one of the most powerful decisions yet to combat overtourism. On Friday (21 June), Barcelona’s mayor Jaume Collboni declared that by 2028, all holiday apartments will be banned. This means more than 10,000 apartments across the city will have their short-term rental licence revoked.

Although restrictions for short-term rentals have been seen before in cities such as New York, Berlin and Amsterdam, this outright ban will likely bring monumental change for Barcelona’s landscape, both for locals and travellers.

The reason for the ban is to protect Barcelona’s residents from being pushed out of the city altogether. In the past decade, prices to rent long-term have increased by nearly 70%, while the cost of buying a house has risen by 38%. This ultimately has led to a catastrophic impact on local communities, with younger people in particular unable to afford living in the city.

Barcelona is Spain’s most popular city break, and suffers from mass tourism (Shutterstock)

Speaking at a city government event, Collboni said: “We are confronting what we believe is Barcelona’s largest problem.”

“We want to guarantee the right to live in Barcelona and deal effectively with the housing crisis we have been suffering for years,” he later elaborated on the social media platform X.

The short-term rental ban in Barcelona is anticipated to be instated within the next five years, and by 2029 “tourist flats as we conceive of them today will disappear from the city of Barcelona”, according to the mayor.

How will Barcelona’s short-term rental ban impact travellers?

The origins of short-term rentals once provided an authentic way to travel. Visitors could stay in the spare room of a local and experience the region through their eyes. However, online booking platforms such AirBnb and Booking.com have exploited the system by making these experiences mainstream, and with little regulation, has encouraged the purchase of homes to be used solely for holiday lets, resulting in a housing crisis.

Collboni commented on how the 10,000 apartments will be “used by the city’s residents” or go back on the market for sale or long-term renting. The hope is that – in time – local artists, craftspeople and entrepreneurs will return to the urban centre and its surrounding neighbourhoods, reinstating what made Barcelona special in the first place – its vibrant communities. As local people return, so too will the city’s authenticity.

The ban on short-term rentals endeavours to bring back residents and restore communities (Shutterstock)

The short-let ban can also expect to make a positive impact the city’s visitor experience. Firstly, tourist number will decrease: currently an estimated 12 million travellers visit annually, compared to its population of 1.2 million. Although the city’s museums, beaches and architectural landmarks – such as the iconic Basílica de la Sagrada Família – will of course remain highlights, the likelihood is that they will see fewer crowds. Meanwhile, the hopeful rise of a permanent population will transform the city’s local culture, enhancing the authentic experience for travellers.

It’s good news for hotels, too – especially for the smaller, independently run businesses. These establishments will undoubtedly see a boom in bookings once the ban is implemented, with its 440 currently operating hotels becoming the first choice for visitors to the city.

Back in 2015, the former mayor introduced restrictions on new hotels in Barcelona, however the short-term rental ban indicates that this regulation could see a change in the future.

“These problems take time. But with this measure we are marking a turning point,” Collboni said.

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