Coronavirus drives majority of tourist rental flats off the market in Spanish cities like Barcelona

Barcelona, where almost two thirds of holiday rentals have disappeared from the market since the C19 crisis exploded.
Barcelona, where almost two thirds of holiday rentals have disappeared from the market since the C19 crisis exploded.

With international tourism in the deep freeze since Covid-19 shut the world economy down, owners of tourist rental properties in Spanish cities like Barcelona have taken their homes off the short-stay market, reveals a rental association.

Tourism is one of the pillars of the Spanish economy, which explains why Spain is being hammered particularly hard by the Covid-19 crisis that has reduced global tourism to a fraction of its normal level, and left holiday rental owners without any clients.

The number of holiday-makers visiting Spain in July was down 75% compared to the same month last year, with the key British market down 83% to 377,886 visitors in July, the latest month for which figures are available. That was before the UK began quarantining people returning from Spain, and Germany started advising against travel to Spain, so August was probably even worse.

Catalonia was the worst hit region with a coastline, down 82%, worse even than the Canaries (-79%), and significantly worse than the Balearics (-75%, and the only region with more than half a million foreign visitors in July), and Andalusia (-71%).

Holiday homes driven off the market

The lack of tourists has forced holiday-rental owners to take their homes off the short-stay market, especially in cities like Barcelona, where there is at least the option of turning to the long-term rental market. Some of them will be forced to put their Barcelona properties up for sale.

According to the Association of Tourist Apartments of Barcelona (Apartur), 62% of holiday-rental flats in the city have disappeared from the short-stay market this summer. That translates into close to 5,900 flats that are no longer being offered to rent to holiday-makers and other visitors on a short-stay basis. Many of them will have switched to the long-term rental market.

It is likely to be a similar story in other cities in Spain, and around the world, that attract large numbers of foreign tourists, facilitated by global rental platforms like Airbnb. That explains why Airbnb and other holiday-rental platforms are now turning their attention to the extended-stay market.

What about holiday-rentals on the Spanish coast? They will also have seen a big reduction in foreign visitors, partly compensated for by an increase in local tourism. But, unlike city pads, holiday-homes in coastal areas can’t turn so easily to the long-term rental market when tourism implodes, so I imagine fewer homes have been taken off the market in those areas, at least for now.

Normality will not return to the short-stay business for a year or more, warns Apartur, claiming the business is directly responsible for maintaining some 5,000 jobs in Barcelona, and many more indirectly. Apartur and its members hope that rental demand will pick up quicker than hotel demand, as social distancing is easier in private apartments, they argue.

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