News that the number of tourist beds in Spain offered by Airbnb operators now outnumbers hotel beds is an interesting development but not necessarily a welcome one.
AFP quotes a survey by the Spanish tourism sector body Exceltur that in Barcelona 64 per cent of available rooms are offered by online home rental services.
Airbnb and other similar sites now list 2.7 million beds in Spain (December 2014 figures) compared to 2.4 million beds at hotels and other lodgings.
Tourism accounts for about 11 per cent of all economic activity in Spain and for one in nine jobs.
But apart from quality issues there are two other drawbacks from a national economic perspective. The number of jobs generated from home rentals is just 9.8 per 100 beds, compared to 53 jobs per 100 tourist beds at a hotel, according to Exceltur.
It also estimates that up to $1.3 billion is lost in tax due to undeclared earnings.
From the tourists’ perspective Airbnb may be cheaper, but I think the practice raises questions about quality.
I used an apartment in Brooklyn New York recently. It wasn’t particularly cheap compared to local hotels – although it was certainly cheaper than midtown Manhattan (but what isn’t?)
However I felt like an unwelcome guest in someone else’s apartment. There wasn’t much room in the wardrobe and there were no spare coat hangers. There wasn’t much space to put a suitcase, and no room in any of the drawers. There was no jug or kettle and no toaster. The place was clean and well enough located, but overall I didn’t feel like I got a real bargain.