Barcelona mayor's tourism crackdown puts Airbnb in firing line

Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:18am EDT
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By Adrian Croft

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's new mayor is picking a fight with home rental websites as she tries to crack down on uncontrolled tourism that she fears could drive out poor residents and spoil the Catalan capital's charm.

Ada Colau is threatening to fine firms like Airbnb and if they market apartments from tourists without a number showing that they are on the Catalan tourism register.

Colau, a left-wing former housing activist elected in May, also wants rental websites to hand over information on the property owners.

"Everybody must comply with the same game rules," Colau told Reuters in Barcelona's city hall.

"An internet platform cannot become a means to thwart the regulations and to shelter illegal tourist apartments. In that case we do have to intervene very forcefully."

Colau, who headed a coalition backed by Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos, is one of a new breed of local politicians who have come to power amid a backlash against traditional parties.

The dispute with rental websites is an example of the friction created by the new online "sharing economy", ranging from San Francisco and Santa Monica restricting short-term home rentals to court injunctions that have hit online taxi service Uber in a number of countries.

San Francisco-based Airbnb, which matches people wishing to rent out their homes or rooms to temporary guests, has been one of the fastest-growing start-ups of recent years and is valued at more than $20 billion.   Continued...

A man takes a selfie at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, August 16, 2015.  REUTERS/Albert Gea