Tourism website Airbnb contributed 740 million euros to Barcelona´s economy

In 2015, Barcelona saw 740 million euros from American home-sharing website Airbnb, through which over 800,000 guests connected with over 9,000 hosts. This number marks an increase in guests, in amount earned, and in overnight stays. This year also saw a shift in lodging location as the rented spaces are no longer primarily centred in the historic ‘Ciutat Vella’ neighbourhood. By the website´s data, Barcelona is now the fourth most important destination, preceded by Paris, London, and New York. CNA spoke to CEO of Airbnb in Spain and Portugal Arnaldo Muñoz, who explains the negotiations in progress between the company and the Catalan and Barcelona authorities. 

A group of tourists, this summer, in Costa Brava (by ACN)
A group of tourists, this summer, in Costa Brava (by ACN) / ACN


March 16, 2016 06:57 PM

Barcelona (CNA) .- The American home-sharing website Airbnb contributed 740 million euros to Barcelona´s revenue in 2015. This number came from 889,000 guests staying in lodgings rented out by 9,200 hosts. The financial contribution marks a significant increase from 2013, when the total sum came to 128 million. This six-fold increase mirrors what has transformed Barcelona into the fourth most important destination according to the American platform, after Paris, London and New York. Additionally, more and more travellers are utilising Airbnb, showing an increase from 227,000 guests in 2013 to 889,000 in 2015. In the last few years the company has not only seen a growth but also a shift: whereas previously most of the accommodations were concentrated in the ‘Ciutat Vella’, the central tourist neighbourhood in the centre of the city, now other neighbourhoods are seeing a rise in activity as well, such as Eixample, Gràcia, and Horta-Guinardó. Arnaldo Muñoz, CEO of Airbnb in Spain and Portugal, speaks to CNA about negotiations between Airbnb and the authorities of Catalonia and Barcelona in an effort to regulate their activity and to contribute to the tourist tax collection. 

Through the home-sharing website Airbnb 889,000 guests were accommodated in the various rooms and flats in Barcelona offered for rent by the 9,200 hosts. In 2015, this influx generated 740 million euros for the city, six times more than in the last year registered, 2013. The evolution of this platform has seen a decentralisation of the available accommodations. In 2011, 37% of the spaces were concentrated in the Ciutat Vella (or ‘Old City’) while 2015 has seen a decrease, reducing the numbers to 25%. It was these numbers that converted Barcelona into 2015´s fourth most visited international destination. According to the American home-sharing website, Barcelona follows the metropoles of Paris, London, and New York. 

This influx of travellers hosted through Airbnb has increased significantly as well. The figures have increased from the 2013 quantity of 227,000 guests to that of 2015, a significantly higher 889,000. This shows a growth of 291.6%, approximately four times as many users in only two years, according to the website´s data. 

Arnaldo Muñoz, CEO of Airbnb in Spain and Portugal, has disclosed that the company is negotiating ‘innovative’ proposals with the government in order to regulate its activity and do more to help collectthe tourist tax. 

Muñoz added that resolutions from the National Commission for Markets and Competition is aiding these discussions and negotiations with the government. The objective of the dialogues would be to agree upon how to regulate the activity registered by both hosts and guests on Airbnb. 

The CEO of the website´s branch in Spain specified that 73% of the website´s host users rented out a single space to travellers. In other words, the majority of hosts rented out one or two rooms of their own permanent residence, or even their entire home, if, for example, it coincided with a prolonged trip they themselves took.

Also available is an Airbnb study of host and guest profiles in Barcelona. According to Muñoz, the website will continue updating the study regularly on behalf of the website in order to provide maximum transparency.  

The study´s first conclusion is that the lodgings offered on the platform are becoming increasingly distributed in different neighbourhoods of the city, and are no longer only concentrated in the central Ciutat Vella district. In 2011, 37% of the Airbnb accommodations were gathered in the historic neighbourhood, while by the end of 2015 this number had decreased to 25%. Currently, among the neighbourhoods favoured by hosts on the website are those of Eixample, Gràcia and Horta-Guinardó. 

Said redistribution isn´t only seen in supply, but also in total overnight bookings. In 2009, 86% of these took place in Ciutat Vella, while in 2015 overnight stays in the central district were only 36% of the total. 

The CEO of Airbnb´s Iberian branch emphasised the financial impact that Airbnb traffic brought to Barcelona in 2015, totalling 740 million euros, while in 2013 this number came to 128 million. Said increase represents a six-fold growth in the business volume for the Catalan capital. 

The typical Airbnb host is about 38 years old and rents out lodging around 58 nights a year, equalling 5 nights a month, and earns a “complementary” income of approximately 5,100 euros a year. As for the Airbnb guest, the approximate age stands at 34 years with, on average, 2.6 people per reservation, spending a total of 500 million euros for lodging in 2015. As regards the guests’ nationality, the study shows that 70% of lodgers come from European countries, 17% from the United States and 5% from Asian countries. 

For Airbnb, this data represents the individual who offers their home through the platform: this is a person who is looking to “supplement” their regular income, which helps them to support themselves and to pay either their mortgage or expenses. Airbnb´s “mission” is to help as many people as possible, emphasises Muñoz. 

The regulation debate

The CEO has supported continuing to aid Barcelona with a negotiation which would regulate the platform’s activity and would contribute to collecting the tourism tax, a tax which is currently only collected through a network of “professional” establishments. What´s needed is a regulation that differentiates said professional tourism establishments from the individual user who opens his or her home to travellers. This regulation, notes Muñoz, already exists in cities such as Paris, Lisbon and Amsterdam. 

Airbnb insists that the regulation to be agreed upon with the government should include “innovative” elements to expand who is included, which so far is only professional entities and entrepreneurs. The company suggests that accommodations should be made for individual users who wish to let one or two rooms of their home or even their entire residence, in the event of an extended absence for studies, work, or holidays.

Muñoz did not disclose any details from the negotiations with the Catalan government or with the city of Barcelona, but has spoken of the positive direction they are moving towards.   

Chris Lehane, global director of Public Affairs, stated that the platform is a movement born of the people and for the benefit of the people and which is transforming the way one uses their home. Lehane also affirmed that in negotiations in different cities around the world, the activity is approached as a way to increase revenue for tax authorities.