If Biel Barceló and the Balearic government think that holiday rentals' legislation is already complicated, then they can now add a further ingredient to the mix. Aware that the legislation will have to take account of the growth of "sharing" accommodation websites such as Airbnb, along is coming a company which is a grand advocate of free markets and competition. It is? Ryanair.
The new theme for the Irish airline is that it plans on becoming the "Amazon" of travel in Europe. Michael O'Leary has said so, and he has been echoed in this by Kenny Jacobs, the head of marketing. On 1 October, the airline is to launch Ryanair Rooms, a service by which its travellers can book all manner of accommodation, including tourist apartments.
This "Amazon" approach, which already includes Ryanair Car Hire, is the latest service to come out of the Ryanair Labs (with its motto "always improving"). The plans for Ryanair Rooms are such, or so it would seem, that the company wants to challenge even Airbnb. And who is to say that it won't?
Until now, Ryanair has had an agreement with Booking.com. That will cease when Ryanair Rooms comes on-stream. Jacobs says that Ryanair's low fares revolutionised air travel and Ryanair Rooms will "transform" the booking of accommodation.
The intention of Ryanair to enter this market is just another move that is indeed transforming the booking of accommodation. TUI has already started to include private accommodation in the sale of packages, there is a growing number of travel agencies doing this, while Be Mate, which was launched back in 2014, was a statement of intent by the founder of Room Mate, Kike Sarasola, that he wished to create his own Airbnb-style model.
Be Mate in fact announced a few days ago that it had entered into an agreement with the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV) for the marketing of tourist apartments. That led the former president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Aurelio Vázquez, who is also the Iberostar CEO for Spain, the Middle East and Africa, to say that Be Mate is doing "more damage" than Airbnb. Sarasola responded by stating that the prohibition of something only awakens desire. Be Mate is going to be at the head of the market not in the rear. "We strive for excellence in our treatment of customers, which is why an organisation such as CEAV is good for us. We share the same philosophy."
At the same time as Be Mate was making its tie-up with the travel agencies known, Aurelio Vázquez was attending a forum on hotel investment. One of the themes that came up was holiday rentals, and there was a specific aspect to the rentals' market that hasn't necessarily been well discussed. It was one of safety and security and in particular the ease with which potential terrorists can book into accommodation via a site such as Airbnb. The former president of the hoteliers in Madrid, Antonio Gil, observed that hotels are required by the police to record data related to every guest. This is not the case with rentals' websites.
Well, maybe terrorism is something else that the Balearic government will need to factor in. With all the activity going on and with such big hitters in or entering the market, it becomes increasingly difficult for governments, such as the Balearic government, not to adopt legislation which reflects what is a massive and unstoppable trend. The previous government under the Partido Popular preferred to bury its head in the sand (assisted by the hoteliers) and so only contributed to making legislation more complex and more urgent.