In Palma there is a great deal of illegal tourist letting. | Archive


European regulation on short-term rentals is scheduled to be approved before the end of the year. Given prominence at this week's Palma summit of EU tourism ministers, for whom the social sustainability of tourism was the key theme, this regulation intends to establish harmonised data collection and exchange for all EU countries with the aim of increasing transparency in the holiday rentals sector. It is driven by the desire to stamp out illegal supply of tourist accommodation.

For the president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Maria Frontera, the regulation represents progress, but she insists that it will not offer a definitive solution. Control by Council of Mallorca inspectors needs to be reinforced.

Frontera says: "The problem isn't tourism, but the proliferation of illegal supply. The rental websites, which invest so much in technology and marketing, look the other way when it comes to the illegal offer and don't want to invest in or be responsible for licence verification." In her view, the websites just focus on their businesses and not on compliance with the law. "That means that where there is a home, there is accommodation."

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"What for some was a collaborative economy has got so out of hand that infrastructure is incapable of handling all the supply, while there is a shift from residential to tourist accommodation that makes access to housing difficult. In the last ten years, legal tourist accommodation in the Balearics has increased thirty times more than hotel beds. A blind eye has been turned and we are now paying the consequences, but the hotels haven't generated these.

"Growing economically is important, but more important is how we grow - with order and planning and following criteria of circularity to achieve objectives from social, environmental and economic points of view."

Maria Gibert, the manager of Febhatur, the Balearic federation of holiday rentals, supports the EU initiative but believes that its implementation will be difficult. "It is already difficult to eradicate illegal supply in the Balearics. With European authorities, it will be even more complicated, especially with foreign citizens who have second residences here and who do not use the usual commercial channels to rent them out. Cross-checking data with the Tax Agency would be a good approach."

She argues that the large rental websites should not be demonised. "It's important that they cooperate, but they can't be blamed for everything." Like Frontera, she supports Council of Mallorca control. However, the inspectors can only do what they can with the means that they have.