Airbnb recovered in three months the number of flats in offer it had before to the closing down of 2,500 illegal flats in Barcelona

This is a translation of an original article published at Catalunya Plural in Catalan and Spanish.

Placa Catalunya, Barcelona

Despite the removal in June of 2,577 illegal flats published on Airbnb, last September the platform supply grew to the levels it had before the commitment to close unlicensed ads. In addition, in Ciutat Vella neighborhood the offer of holiday apartments on Airbnb still triples the official licenses

At the end of May last year, Airbnb pledged to Barcelona City Council to remove 2,577 flats that were on offer on its platform. These were tourist flats that the local government had flagged as irregular and with which it threatened to penalize Airbnb with more fines.

This commitment was observed in Airbnb’s supply of entire apartments, which went from 8,758 ads in May to 6,925 in June, according to an analysis of the data provided by Inside Airbnb, a portal that — along with DataHippo — shares data from the tourism platform for easier analysis and discussion.

The drop in 1,833 tourist flats on offer on Airbnb in June went back to what it was three months before

Evolution of the number of entire flats announced in Barcelona through Airbnb


The data, however, also show that in just three months the number of entire apartments advertised on the tourist accommodation platform returned to the level it has had for the past two years. By September, there were again more than 8,500 apartments on offer, a little bit less than the 9,559 licenses for tourist housing that the city has given, a figure frozen since 2014.

Similarities between unpublished and new ads

Last June, 2,632 entire homes were withdrawn from the tourism accommodation platform offer — permanently erasing or temporarily deactivating them — more than the floors that Airbnb had promised to remove. With the data obtained, we can not know, however, whether these were only irregular floors or if they were from users who had deleted or unpublished them for other reasons.

Two months later, during the touristic season, Airbnb’s supply again increased dramatically. In August alone, 2,530 ads were published, but is difficult to know how many have been previously published and deleted, as this platform does not show the exact address of the apartments.

2,632 ads disappear in June 2018…
…there appear 2,530 new ones in August


The analysis of the ads unpublished and published last summer shows many similarities, though that does not mean that they refer to the same flats. One third of the ads deleted between June, July and August 2017 were from Ciutat Vella neighbourhood, as were a third of those published between July, August and September. These data do not match the general composition of the flats announced on Airbnb, as the offer in Ciutat Vella alone represents 20% of the total.

These ad closures and openings have had a small effect on Airbnb’s offer. While in January 2018, there were 8,746 entire flats advertised representing 47% of the offer (the rest were rooms), a year later in January 2019 the ads were 8,737, 48% of the total offer.

During these same months, the number of flats on offer in Eixample neighbourhood increased from 3,256 to 3,427, more than one hundred in Right Eixample neighbourhood and ninety in Sagrada Familia neighbourhood; and from 1,627 to 1,916 in Ciutat Vella neighbourhood, especially in the Ribera and the Gothic Quarter. In the rest of the districts, however, they decreased, to a greater or lesser extent — always according to the data obtained by Inside Airbnb from the tourism accommodation platform’s website.

What has changed significantly is the distribution of flats management. The number of users announcing a single flat decreased and the multi-manager multiplied. While in January 2018, single-storey advertisers represented 80% of the hosts and 40% of the ads offered, in January 2019 they became 70% of their hosts and controlled 23% of their bid. In the same period, advertisers doubled with five or more full flats on offer on Airbnb, which in January 2019 controlled 60% of the city’s offer.

Hosts with five or more floors advertised on Airbnb control 60% of the supply

Host distribution by the number of ads they have and the proportion of supply they control


During the summer of 2017, it can also be seen that the ads that disappeared from the Airbnb offer outperformed those ads that were published for the first time or republished. Arnau Muñoz, Airbnb’s CEO in Spain and Portugal, said in a press conference that the company had removed 2,500 ads in 2017 to “decongest” tourism in the city.

From those ads, half were removed at the request of the City Council, which considered them “bad actors”. The rest were dropped off in Ciutat Vella, where Airbnb began enforcing the policy of allowing only one entire flat ad per host. By January 2018, 88% of users with flats on offer in Ciutat Vella had only one advertised flat, but a year later this figure had dropped to 73%. In January 2019, advertisers with five or more flats on sale in this district represented 8% of the total and controlled almost half of the flats on offer.

Illegal touristic flats still on offer in Ciutat Vella, the Old Town

The company’s gestures to decongest the touristic offer in Ciutat Vella have not achieved the elimination of illegal offer yet. The entire flats on offer on Airbnb triple the official licences in this district, according to data for January of this year. For 605 legal holiday homes, there are up to 1,916 full-flats ads on the holiday rental platform.

Licences for tourist flats VS flats published on Airbnb, by district


Aside from Ciutat Vella, in Sant Andreu and Nou Barris neighbourhoods the flats announced on Airbnb also exceed, to a lesser extent, the City Council’s licences. In the first district there are ten floors more on offer than official licences and six in the second.

Only 272 touristic flats are left without a licence according to the City Council

Ada Colau’s government’s battle against touristic flats in Barcelona began in 2016. Since then, Janet Sanz, Deputy Mayor for Ecology, Urbanism and Mobility, announced at a press conference that action against tourist homes operating without a licence has reduced the advertisements without a mandatory licence by 95%. From the 5,875 irregular ads that the City Council had counted at the end of 2016 among all the tourist rental platforms, at the end of 2018 there were only 272 left.

Asked about the increase in total flats on offer on Airbnb during the summer, municipal sources have told this media that they are not aware of these figures. As the City Hall explained in the press release, “municipal services have closely followed the evolution of the offer and the new publications of flats without the corresponding data so that they could be removed”.

This is the policy they have followed with Airbnb since July 2017: When they detect irregular flats on the web, they let the company know, so they can remove them. In addition, since last June, Airbnb has forced users to authorize the transfer of data to the city council and to put a licence number on the new ads. However, these numbers are not checked before they are published.

In parallel, Airbnb is one of the platforms that is part of the joint table with the City Council seeking its collaboration so that everyone complies with the law. “Platform activity is under control; we have developed tools to keep it under control,” said Janet Sanz, although she acknowledged that the work could not be left here. “We must continue the inspection activity in order to eradicate illegal activity in the city, we will not lower our guard,” added the Deputy Mayor.

Methodology: This analysis of the data obtained by Airbnb is an extension of the analysis performed in the Airbnb Effect workshop conducted by Montera34.


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