Barcelona & Airbnb: Synergy for Sustainable TourismHoliday rentals have been under serious scrutiny over the past few years in Barcelona. An apartment is considered to be a holiday rental when the stay in the apartment does not exceed 31 nights. Due to this, any touristic apartment listing which surpasses this limit requires a tourist licence. However, in 2013 the city capped the total number of tourist licences that could be issued. In many of the most popular touristic areas like Ciutat Vella, the municipality took it a step further and will not renew the license when they expire.

Barcelona & Airbnb: Synergy for Sustainable Tourism

Illegal listings and the measures taken

Avoid Airbnb finesBeing that Barcelona is a city of great interest to Airbnb’s business, due to the large influx of tourists, it was in Airbnb’s interest to observe regulations. Therefore, the two parties agreed to work together to remove 2500 illicit ads from the platform.

Despite Airbnb’s willingness of complying to the regulations, last year they were fined €600,000 by the city for allowing on their platform hundreds of listings that were not registered on the Barcelona’s records and imposed by the regulations in 2012. The city also warned them that they will proceed with the fines unless all illegal listings were removed. In order to find a solution, Airbnb suggested an easy method for the city hall to identify and eliminate illegal listings. The city hall said they would provide the lodging giant with a list of apartments that should be taken of the website.

Airbnb’s agreement with the city hall

Airbnb and the city hall have agreed to cooperate to confront the issue of so-called ‘bad actors’ to grant legal support for hosts renting out their apartment. This agreement took place after a meeting where the company displayed how 532 local hosts heavily relied on their service to increase their returns by over 25% which provided them with financial security, also because owners can make 5 times more profit by renting to tourists rather than locals.

On the other hand, the city claims that even though the apartments are being rented for financial needs most of these owners are making large gains through this system as “research shows that the great majority of the properties on offer are owned by a small number of people” (Daniel Pardo, Assemblea del Barris).

Airbnb’s solution

Setting standard procedures and differentiating legal and illegal listings has not been simple as despite the measures that have been taken, there are still listings that appear in these online platforms that are unregistered or display a fake licence.

This makes it very hard to track their authenticity. To support the city’s stance on apartment rental Airbnb offered to establish a similar system to what is used in Paris and other big cities, where owners would not be able to share their home for more than 120 nights.

Airbnb has adopted some further methods to encourage the enforcement of the law. Such as a call to action button linked to the licence number. In this section of their webpage, they explain why the registration number is necessary to respect local regulations of certain areas such as Barcelona. Then they proceed to warn its customers of the risks involved when renting an unregistered apartment or of reaching out to owners outside the safety and insurance of their platform.


Overall even though the tensions between Airbnb, tourists and the city of Barcelona persist, the company has made themselves available in modifying their practices to conform with the laws and regulations. Ultimately they aim to make sure both parties are satisfied as both Airbnb and Barcelona have mutually benefited from this coexistence.

Obtaining a new tourist licence in Barcelona is almost impossible but loosing yours may not be that unlikely! Download our free guide which will walk you through step by step on How to Keep your Tourist Licence Safe.CTA - EN

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