Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Now Customer Satisfaction Gets Illegal

I despair. Some of you may also despair. After you've read the following. Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then he shall begin, he being Ramón Estalella, the secretary-general of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation.

"We are not against people being free to rent out their properties. The thing we ask, though, is that, as with the tourist offer, these owners comply with the rules of the game as they apply to legislation and taxation, etc. in order that the greatest transparency and guarantees are given." This rental of property should be "a legal, transparent and controlled economic activity that contributes to the public purse".

"One of the problems created by this unregulated provision is customer dissatisfaction. As the rental arrangement is between private individuals, if any problem arises, no form of protest can be made. The image of Spanish tourist accommodation, number one in Europe in terms of its quality-to-price ratio, can therefore be seen to be damaged. This lack of transparency creates problems for everyone."

Sr. Estalella has gone on to say that the majority of owners who rent out private accommodation form part of the black economy because they do not declare income and commit social security fraud. He has added that the lower prices of these owners' properties represent enormous competition to the legal offer; not because of customer satisfaction but because of price.

So, here we are yet again. The slight difference this time round is that it is a Spanish hoteliers representative who is getting the retaliation in early against the so-called illegal offer and not a Mallorcan hoteliers representative. Never fear, the Mallorcan hoteliers won't have their lost their voice and won't be short of the spade-loads of hyperbole that were being chucked around last summer. The economy was "broken", they said, because hotel occupancy in high summer was going to be so dismal, and this was all down to those nasty inhabitants of the black economy. It turned out to be rubbish; July's occupancy had never been so good (this century at any rate).

I suppose one can argue that Sr. Estalella has moved the now-so-predictable arguments on a touch by bringing in the customer satisfaction thing. He would appear to know that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, despite the fact, as he points out, that it is difficult for dissatisfied guests to make their complaints known. Perhaps he stops tourists on the streets of resorts and interrogates them.

In his defence, it is of course far easier for a hotel guest to complain and to go onto Trip Advisor and slag off a hotel. If all illegal accommodation is lousy, then it would definitely do harm. But what percentage of it are we talking about? Would the complaints outweigh complaints about hotels? Can it be said, in all instances, that hotel guest complaints are acted upon satisfactorily and that guests' experiences of hotels don't also do harm?

The latest round of let's-all-have-a-go-at-the-illegal-offer game is being played out against a background of reform to the tenancy act. This reform, so the unthinkingly pro-hotelier media in Mallorca has been telling us, will be the thing to make the rotten non-tax-paying owners finally get their just desserts. Perhaps it will also mean that tax-paying owners who have, remarkably enough, been declaring and paying tax, despite having allegedly illegal accommodation, will get what's coming to them as well.

I despair of all this not just because of the same old, damn points being made by the hoteliers but also because of the total confusion that surrounds the issue of the so-called illegal accommodation. And now, because of reform to the tenancy act, the Balearics may well have to pass another bloody law. I thought they'd already done this, but Will Besga, lawyer of this Mallorcan parish, who is far better positioned to know about law than I am, suggests that this will indeed be needed. And once it's passed, if it's passed, everything will be clear. Or probably not. 

Though it has been generally assumed that the illegal offer is more of an issue in the Balearics (and the Canaries) than in other parts of Spain, the fact that a Spanish hotelier group is pronouncing on the subject shows that it isn't. And a reason for it having become more of a whole-Spain issue is that anything that smacks of not being legal is fair game in these times of crisis and austerity. Fair enough. Now then, how many hotels do you reckon pay at least some of their employees' wages in black?

Any comments to please.

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