Monday, May 05, 2014

Divorced From Reality: Holiday lets

I have the power of prophesy. A couple of weeks or so ago I wrote that "around this time of the year the Mallorca hoteliers federation leaps into propaganda action by issuing dire warnings about the consequences of the so-called illegal offer". And what do you know? They have leapt. I shouldn't be immodest. I don't have the power of prophesy. It is predictable and pathetically so.

Predictability has not been occurring in the Canary Islands which, those of you who are observant will have noticed, share certain things in common with the Balearics. Yes, they are islands. They are also remote and they also have a track record of taking a hard line against holiday lets. Their greater remoteness does place them on the European periphery, but nevertheless, I have been surprised at the almost total lack of attention that has been paid to the approval from the European Commission for there to be subsidies of landing fees for new routes to the islands. The Balearics aren't on the periphery in quite the same way, but their isolation causes the same issue of connectivity. Has anyone here been taking note of the Canaries' subsidies? Perhaps they have, but as these are paid by the regional government there, the one here would probably rather not know.

I have also been surprised at the fact that news that the regional government in the Canaries is edging towards legalising holiday lets has been given a similar lack of attention. There is a way to go, but the president of the Canaries, Paulino Rivero, is to meet representatives of something called the Plataforma para la Regulación del Alquiler Vacacional next week. The platform is encouraged, and the stance against holiday lets in the Canaries does appear to be softening in the face of a petition with more than 16,000 signatures and what has been a co-ordinated effort by the platform to publicise its cause.

If the Canaries were to go down the path of regulating holiday lets, the region would join three of the other four main "sun-and-beach" tourism regions in having some form of permissive regulation. Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia all have systems of regulation. (Andalusia will actually approve its "decreto de viviendas de uso turístico" after the summer, but this is a formality.) The one other region, the Balearics, would therefore be on its own in having legislation which prohibits apartment holiday lets. It would be isolated. Remote.

When national government washed its hands of the whole holiday-rental issue and handed over responsibilities to the regions, it created even more confusion than had existed regarding a subject that was already crowded by confusion. In abrogating any responsibility, it acted in a manner totally contrary to its own tourism plan, one through which legislative harmony and standardisation was to be pursued. Pity the poor old tourist (as well property owner) who has to understand not one but several legislative systems in order to do something as simple as go on holiday.

Confusion, I think it fair to say, is a state that satisfies the tourism political class. It certainly appears to in the Balearics. Where the rental of apartments is concerned, the confusion has been made that much greater since the head of the Balearics estate agents association said recently that he understood that the tourism ministry would not be going around fining anyone for illegally renting out property this summer. Now, inevitably, we have the hoteliers engaging in their ritualistic, annual utterances of illegal-offer high dudgeon. 

Confusion is one thing. Divorced from reality is another. In the Balearics, tourism politicians have long since given the impression of existing in an unreal other world (think PSOE's Celesti Alomar, for example), but now there are other realities that they flatly refuse to accept or, more likely, understand. The market for accommodation rental, and not just for holiday apartments, is being turned totally on its head because of the so-called P2P market, e.g. the likes of Airbnb. To insist on maintaining the outlawing of private apartment rental (in a transparent, regulated and properly commercialised fashion) is an attempt at holding back the waves, when instead the tide should be allowed to come in in an orderly and regulated fashion.

In other regions, they seem to understand this. They have sought to reduce the confusion, not add to it, and if the Canaries were to go the way of Andalusia and the others, then the Balearics would be shown up for what its tourism politicians have made it: out of step with reality and wholly subservient to the commands of the hoteliers. Possible changes in the Canaries are going unnoticed, because in the Balearics, they don't want attention being drawn to them. Well, I have. And for my next prophesy ... 

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