21-02-2016Laura Pons Bedoya

The Majorca Hoteliers Federation, meeting with Biel Barceló, the tourism minister, at the Berlin ITB travel fair, has once more expressed its concerns at the growth of residential tourism accommodation in Majorca. With legislation due to be introduced later this year, the federation is asking the government for regulation that will involve a tightening of the supply of such accommodation.

Its president, Inma de Benito, says that there are at present 26 million square meters of land in Majorca that are for residential use and which could potentially lead to increased "human pressure" of some three million people. "If we add current second homes and the rental of empty properties, it could be that this figure rises to five million. It is vital, therefore, to maintain a balance between residential and regulated (hotel) accommodation so that there is sustainability of the current Balearic model."

Benito's concerns are reinforced by the fact that between 2001 and 2015 the growth in the number of hotel beds on the island increased by 2.6%, while residential housing has gone up by 17%. Benito believes that this is leading to greater seasonality for Majorca's tourism, while it has not created jobs but has been an incentive for the black market.

The federation has been making proposals to Barceló which maintain its total opposition to the open and legal marketing of apartments for tourist rental but which go further than current constraints under the 2012 tourism law. For instance, the hoteliers want to see semi-detached properties excluded from what can currently be legally marketed. They argue that this is creating confusion and problems of co-existence between neighbours. Essentially, therefore, the federation wants only stand-alone, detached properties to be legally classified for the commercialised rental of tourist accommodation.

A further proposal would be to put private accommodation on a similar footing to regulations regarding the use of hotels. These cannot be for any purpose other than tourist accommodation. Therefore, argues the federation, so also should private accommodation if it is to be used for holiday rental. This would be its sole usage.

The complex issue of holiday rentals requires, says Barceló, an open debate that includes all stakeholders, but it is an issue that the mayor of Palma, José Hila, recognises is far from straightforward when there are property owners wishing to rent out in order to top up incomes and others who are doing so on a grand scale.

Into all of this is now entering the National Competition Commission. It has released the preliminary findings of a study into the so-called collaborative economy and will be making recommendations as to an increased liberalisation of the market that recognises services such as that of Airbnb.

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