THE phoney war between home-sharing websites and Barcelona seems to have come to an end. After months of sparring between the parties, this week Barcelona levied fines of €600,000 ($636,000) each on Airbnb and HomeAway, which it says have been offering to rent properties that do not have a tourist licence to holidaymakers. The firms had already been fined a nominal amount last year. HomeAway says it will pay the fine; Airbnb is appealing.
Airbnb says that it is “part of the solution” in Barcelona. That depends on which problem it thinks it is addressing. Barcelona is a cramped town. The number of visitors to the city has more than doubled since the start of the decade, from 3.1m in 2000 to 7.8m in 2014. That is close to five tourists for every inhabitant. Tourist accommodation is scarce. The average hotel occupancy rate in Barcelona is 78%, the highest of any of Spain’s main towns. Hotels’ revenue per room, too, is higher than in other cities. All of which suggests a strong demand for…Continue reading