Barcelona Airbnb host 'manages rentals worth £33,000 a day'

Apartment platform accused of becoming marketing site for big hotels and holiday rental agents

One Airbnb “host” manages a portfolio of 204 apartments in Barcelona worth €37,721 (£33,369) a day in rental income during the high season, a data organisation established to look into Spain’s tourist apartment industry has found.

The 10 biggest hosts in the Spanish city manage 996 apartments between them, while a further 666 manage five or more, and 3,633 host between two and four, the report by DataHippo found. Altogether the rent for licensed holiday apartments let via Airbnb and other platforms comes to €1.5m a day.

The findings appear to contradict the “shared economy” image projected by Airbnb and other players in the online apartment marketplace and come as city authorities grapple with growing evidence that the massive upsurge in tourist apartments is driving rents up and residents out.

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Before a moratorium was introduced in April 2014, Barcelona city authorities granted an unlimited number of holiday let licenses at €230 each, creating what has been described as a property gold rush. Owners simply had to notify the local authority of the change of use of their property in order to obtain a licence. These same licences now have a market value of about €80,000 each.

Responding to DataHippo’s finding, Airbnb said “the vast majority of hosts in Barcelona are regular people and 76% of hosts only have one entire home listing. Only 4% have more than 10 listings.”

Andreu Castellano, Airbnb communications director, argued that DataHippo’s findings showed that Barcelona city council needs to change its rules.

“While the vast majority of hosts are regular locals, more than 80% of accommodation licences are held by big hotels and real estate agents,” Castellano said. “We firmly believe that everyone should benefit from visitors to Barcelona – not just hotels – and are making good progress with policymakers on clear and modern rules to support local families sharing their homes.”

Airbnb has long complained that the ban on new licences has encouraged speculation, even if that is the opposite of what was intended.

“The regulation in Catalonia and Barcelona is contemplated exclusively from the perspective of the professional … it does not take into account the fact that people can offer a space in their own home,” Castellano said.

Abigail Long, of AirDNA, an independent analytics company that collects data on short-term rentals worldwide said the DataHippo findings told only half the story.

“These ‘multi-listing’ Airbnb hosts are not individuals making tens of thousands of euros per month in profit,” Long said. “They are vacation rental management companies (VRMs) that employ a team of staff to manage a portfolio of properties that are owned by their clients. VRMs typically take 10%-30% of revenue made on a booking site.

“Airbnb is fast evolving from being a platform for ‘alternative’ accommodation for millennials on a budget to becoming a marketing and booking platform rivalling the largest players in the travel industry,” Long said.

“Many new listings now being added to Airbnb are bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels and very high-end properties, which would also go some way to explaining multiple listings managed by one host.”


Stephen Burgen in Barcelona

The GuardianTramp

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