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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Short-term Rentals Bring Problems for the Long-term Residents
Thursday, April 18, 2024 @ 9:16 PM

We’ve looked at the incipient turismofobia, as a mixture of the usual dislike and enviousness shown towards the apparently wealthy foreign tourists, who sometimes appear to under-appreciate this wonderful country (and are -whoops!- sometimes sick in the garden).

But it’s a great business – they bring money – 13% of the GDP comes from the trippers – and in return, they go home again with empty pockets, a sun-burn and a hangover. Not a bad exchange, all in all.

Not that the trickle-down-system necessarily works in this case for everyone. Some areas get a lot of visitors, and others, of course, don’t. Some folk make some good money from tourism, and most of the rest of society – needless to say – doesn’t. Indeed, all they seem to get is the inconvenience.

The Canary and Balearics have it the worst, because one can only pack so many peas into a jar.

For the islanders, thanks to the huge number of visitors, there’s high demand for a dwelling, a lack of affordable homes on offer, ever-more tourist apartments (they pay better), more and more short-lets, shortages, queues and of course legions of guiris understandably out for a good time… bringing scary news items like ‘Lanzarote on brink of collapse as tourists overwhelm small island and exploit resources’, ‘Ibiza locals living in cars as party island sees rents soar’ and ‘Protesters in the Canary Islands on hunger strike over mass tourism’. And there’s nowhere to go, beyond living in a cave, a hut or a van, or the incredible bother of flying over, daily, from the mainland. We learn that if you really want a cheap place to sleep, then there’s always ‘The most surreal (and precarious) rentals offered in the Canary Islands, from shacks to mattresses in parked cars’.

Not that the problems of high-rents, scarcity and being pushed to the back don’t occur elsewhere. An article in El País is titled ‘A journey through Spain with the victims of voracious tourism: “I can't take it anymore”. Residents from Cádiz, Palma, San Sebastian or Tenerife explain how their lives have worsened due to the rise of tourist apartments, the filth in the streets and the collapse of public and private services’. In Barcelona, someone is telling the local radio, ‘in our block there are 33 ATs (tourist-lets), and there’s noise, dirt and vomit’. The plan is to build more short-term apartments – because they produce better income for the owners (which, as often as not, turns out to be a vulture-fund). One detail in the story is of a resident who saw 28 people come out of a tourist-apartment one morning (after an understandably noisy night). And because they are short-term – maybe just a day or two – they don’t care much if they break or trash something…  

In my local tourist town, you can rent only until May, when the landlord will start looking for some Booking or AirBnb mini-breaks.

So where do you go until the low-season returns?

In Madrid, the national government talks of building more affordable apartment blocks, while threatening to clear out the worst barrios of an excess of ATs.

In metropolitan Valencia, there are twice as many tourist-lets as regular rentals.

In Seville, a local association complains about the bars and restaurants occupying the pavement with their ‘terrazas’, the endless special city-hall ‘events’ designed to bring in visitors (the current Feria de Abril), and of course, the tourist-apartments.

It can be annoying when hotels are allowed full swimming pools, but – due to water restrictions – residents living in community-blocks are in doubt. The good people of Málaga are not amused.

Maybe we could go swim at the hotels – it’s only fair…

Perhaps, say some visionaries, we could create a new tourist destination to ease the pressure on the current ones: a ‘New Ibiza’ in Cantabria.

Don’t laugh, they’ve already bought the land.  

The BBC says that ‘Activists have begun a hunger strike on the island of Tenerife, in protest at what they see as the destructive growth of tourism on the Canary Islands. Protesters are calling for a halt to the construction of a hotel and a beach resort in the south of the island’.

The answers to all this are inevitably to curtail the number of short-term apartment lets and to build more housing to become available for residents. Furthermore, to raise hotel prices (more wealthier tourists, less cheap holidays); apply ‘eco-taxes’ in high density resorts, show some respect towards local residents (priority parking stickers as an obvious example) and – above all – relief of the 90/180 day rule – being those long term tourists who generally own their own home (and in six months will evidently be spending a lot more than the brief visit by a holiday-maker).

Short-term apartments are fine in a rural tourism setting, but not so much in the city.

A graffiti on a wall in Madrid: ‘Fuck BNB, save the Barrio’.

Right now, the season is only just starting…

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carvajal7 said:
Saturday, April 20, 2024 @ 5:57 PM

Just wondered whether the following resonates with anyone else as this is our firsthand version of ‘turismofobia’ 😩

We are a British couple bought an apartment in Carvajal between Benalmadena and Fuengirola in 2004 - well, it was half built then but we didn’t complete until June ‘07 - you know how it is in Spain.

We bought on a small low rise development with 2 communal pools available, one of which was situated in front of our block.
Between 2007 and the summer of 2012 we spent most of our teacher holidays in the apartment before moving over permanently in Aug ‘12.

We had been very much looking forward to our new life and immersing ourselves in Spanish culture, language etc as my hubby and I both have/had a European parent and a British parent and I actually taught MFL. We had been ‘told’ that the development would be quite residential and hoped to make friends of our neighbours who we assumed would be mainly Spanish.

However, it became apparent quite early on that most of the properties were actually owned for holiday lets by many faceless owners who we would never see let alone get to know. Yes, from late October till early Spring we pretty much had the place to ourselves and the pool was empty and pretty to look at but from early Spring onwards it became a kind of living hell!!

I actually had a teaching job, albeit part time but I had to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up for school in the morning - what I didn’t factor in was holiday makers deciding to try and break into the pool for a midnight or early hours swim usually after a heavy drinking session and making all sorts of racket!!

In the early days of the community the inaugural President did lock up both pools with a padlock at 9pm every evening but he then started to get so much abuse from ‘lovely tourists’ that he stepped down from his locking up duties. By then the tourists were climbing over the peripheral fence and getting in anyway.
An entry card system was then introduced but again was abused - people just held the gate open for others and still went in out of hours.

Another issue linked to the pool misuse was the fact that many holiday let owners were in fact defaulting on their community fees but still being allowed to let their properties and their ‘tenants’ were clearly still using and abusing the facilities not to mention the rest of us picking up the bill for the privilege. Even the collection of basura has to be paid for when you’re on holiday- who’d have thought it 🤦‍♀️

Anyway, it all became too much for me and much as my hubby and I really had planned to spend the rest of our lives in Spain we made the decision to return to the U.K. in 2015 so actually spent less than 3 years full time in Spain.

Maybe our community itself was to blame? Maybe it wasn’t run very well? Maybe we were very naive in our expectations?

We had holidayed on the Costa for a few years before buying and are well aware that the Costa del Sol is an outdoor lifestyle area for much of the year and that this part of Spain in particular can be quite loud. We did choose to be close to the coast rather than inland as we wanted the ease and choice of facilities and transport links - our development was a short walk from Carvajal train station which linked us directly to Malaga city and airport. We did enjoy having a choice of shops, bars and restaurants on our doorstep so to speak. As the local sunbed guys and business owners would often say to us “ los/las turistas son un mal necesario “ and we totally understood that and accepted that we would have to share our space so to speak during high season in particular.

We just assumed however that it wouldn’t be too much to ask to be able to enjoy our own balcony in the evening without some horrendous pool noise and likewise a decent night’s sleep.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the funds for a villa or detached property and our apartment itself was absolutely lovely!

As a Brit though I just have the feeling that maybe we’re not that well suited to communal living as we are still principally a house owning/ renting nationality unlike many other European countries where apartment living is the norm - or maybe it was just us and we were just unlucky…

lenox said:
Sunday, April 21, 2024 @ 7:11 AM

*Thanks for writing.

ukarranview said:
Sunday, April 28, 2024 @ 9:03 PM

Our family bought an end-terrace 'town-house' in 2008 in Los Alcazares (on the Mar Menor, just north of Cartagena) near KLa Manga and we use it for family holidays at different times of the year. Our experiences of short-term' holiday rentals of apartments on our small Estate of 42 units almost exactly mirrors yours and we avoid going out during the summer months as the place is packed with rowdy holidaymakers who have rented from absentee northern European Owners and - you're so right - they (like Clark Gable in 'Gone with the Wind') just 'don't give a damn' ! To compound the problem we are actually now having to endure this same Short Term Lets chaos in the apartment building we now live in in Ayr, which is also a seaside resort. It's actually probably worse here for us than in Spain as the STLs are operating here all year round and we have had to endure 4 incidents of 'pop-up brothels' and one drugs den over the past 4 years ! Unfortunately, our local Council in South Ayrshire are hell-bent on issuing over 400 STL Licences to anybody who applies for one on the basis that 'Tourism must be encouraged at any cost' - and to hell with the normal long-term residents! However, at long last there appear to be stirrings of organised opposition to this exploitation of valuable local housing resources and I'm pleased to note that this is expanding around the world as local authorities are starting to realise that STLs are not the 'pot of gold' they expected. From our own personal experiences in Ayr we have found that the majority of those who use STL apartments on our Estate are NOT 'tourists' at all but itinerant workers or people vising relatives or coming to the area for weddings or funerals, etc. We are currently battling with South Ayrshire Council to get them to stop issuing Licences under the new STL legislation in Scotland but so far it appears that they just will not listen to residents whose lives have been adversely affected by this 'AiRBnB phenomenon. We will continue to oppose the spread of STLs in Scotland to the best of our ability and also keep going over to our place in Spain - outwith the high season - to recover from our exertions ! We have every sympathy for the Spanish whose lives have also been affected by the 'mass tourism' malady and we sincerely hope someone somewhere will find a solution to this horrible plague in the not-too-distant future ! (Good article, Lenox)

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