Friday, September 12, 2014

Holiday Lets Confusion And Challenges

When Balearics' tourism minister Jaime Martínez said that there was consensus regarding holiday let legislation envisaged in the new tourism decree, we knew that he was talking nonsense. Confirmation of this has come from the non-hotel complementary offer of tourist attractions, restaurants, clubs and retailers which met at the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday and which today will present its challenges to the decree. These will include a demand that owners of private apartments be allowed to commercialise these apartments as tourist accommodation and advertise them as such through promotional channels such as websites.

The complementary offer also wants movement in two other areas - all-inclusive and hotels' secondary activities. On the first it is calling for minimum quality standards and a minimum period during which all-inclusive can be offered. This latter provision would tackle what does happen in some hotels whereby daily all-inclusive can be obtained. As far as minimum standards are concerned, Martínez has alluded to their introduction without as yet specifying what they might be. On secondary activities, such as having a club or restaurant that is open to the general public, the complementary offer wants a ban placed on keeping these activities going when hotels are otherwise closed, and so is insisting that there be a specific licence which allows them to keep going.

There has been a good deal of other news about the holiday-let situation over the past few days. A detailed study of the situation across Spain by Barcelona-based lawyers Iuristax suggested that the differences in regulation in the various regions of the country could be harmful to the Spanish economy. Their reasoning is quite simple: the different regulations lead to a lack of clarity and to a rise in confusion. Without a harmonised approach there are bound to be discrepancies in control and quality, and these could do a great deal of harm, leading to tourists choosing to opt for alternative destinations having had less than satisfactory experiences.

This lack of harmony was going to be evident from the moment that the national government handed responsibility for regulation to regional governments. It was a strange thing to have done, given, as I have pointed out previously, that residential tourism was identified as a strength of Spanish tourism in the national tourism plan drawn up by the current Spanish Government. The consequence of this is the chaos of different regulatory systems.

From the national confederation for hotels and tourist accommodation (CEHAT) has come a finding that demand for holiday lets is greater among Spanish tourists than foreign visitors. While hoteliers might view this finding with concern, it should also be taken as an indication that the domestic tourist market, which has been in the doldrums for a few years, is genuinely recovering. It was up by around 10% in August.

And coming back to the chaos of different systems, in the Community of Madrid, the association of tourist apartment businesses is taking the regional government to court over its regulations. Moreover, the national competition commission has now got involved. It is studying the text of the Madrid regulations and is seeking detailed explanations from the government. This in itself could be an interesting move. The competition commission has, thus far, stayed out of the holiday-lets arguments. If it becomes more closely involved, it might just make certain regions act rather differently.

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