Saturday, May 28, 2016

Limiting Hotel Places In The Balearics

Putting a cap on the number of holiday places in private property is likely to prove to be an almost impossible task for the Balearic government, but places in hotels are easier to control. Biel Barceló has in the past differentiated between the two types of accommodation, stating that there is (or can be) a finite number of places in hotels, a situation which doesn't exist with private property. Concerned with overcrowding, it may seem discriminatory to seek to shore up this finite number when there is such an absence of regulation for the non-hotel sector, but this is what the government will do.

Under existing tourism law there are already constraints on adding further hotel places. If there is new development, then the new places have to take the place of others. This was all part of a drive by the previous government to weed out obsolete and outdated hotel stock and replace it with greater quality, and this has been happening principally through re-development of hotels. However, the law does make allowance for exceptions when it comes to building new five-star hotels or creating urban hotels, agrotourism establishments and rural tourism hotels. These do not have to replace others, meaning that there will be an increase in the total number of hotel places.

Barceló intends to change this law by removing these exceptions. Regardless of the type of hotel, new places would have, in every instance, to replace existing ones. This wouldn't necessarily mean that there couldn't be new building, but were there to be then existing hotels would either have to have their capacities reduced or close.

This latter option is also addressed under the current tourism law. It permits, subject to approvals, changes in use, one being that hotels can be converted into residential accommodation. In reality there has been very little evidence of this happening (there have been one or two notable cases but not much more). However, such a change in use was always going to provide the possibility of ever more private apartments coming on to the market (mostly illegally) for tourist purposes.

Barceló will therefore need to consider the change in use provisions that were included in the tourism law by Carlos Delgado. It would fly in the face of all his talk about overcrowding were they to remain on the statute, as it should be clear to anyone that not all residential accommodation will be used solely by owners. This then raises the question as to what might happen to hotels which in effect become redundant. A bold initiative, might one suggest, would be to arrive at accords with hoteliers to either expropriate old hotel stock or to permit conversion into social housing or accommodation expressly for rental to seasonal workers. At a stroke issues of pressure on the housing market, as have been highlighted already this season, would be greatly lessened.

Meanwhile, the complexities of drafting effective legislation for holiday rental regulation are being highlighted in the Canary Islands. The regional government there has come up with a raft of measures designed to curb the growth of private accommodation. These include the setting of standards through mandatory minimum sizes of beds, ensuring accommodation is equipped with certain kitchen devices, towels and so on. This doesn't sound unreasonable but the National Competition Commission is taking a rather dim view. It is opposing in particular a Canarian measure that would prevent holiday apartments being in areas which are already predominantly tourist zones: the centres of resorts in other words. The Commission has observed that the likes of Airbnb currently offer up to 85% of accommodation in areas that are otherwise dominated by hotels. To not permit apartments in these areas, the Commission argues, would severely limit competition.

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