[Credit: Vitur Summit]

Vitur Summit preview: “STRs are the solution to revitalise cities”

“Short-term rentals and tourist apartments are the solution to revitalise cities – and they are definitely not the cause of the lack of available housing” 

Spain: Ahead of the Vitur Summit in Málaga this Wednesday through Friday, the president of FEVITUR, Miguel Angel Sotillos, defends the value of his sector before his speech at the most important event in Europe for the world of short-term rental and tourist apartments.

Explaining the societal value of his sector, the president of the Spanish Federation of Tourist Housing and Apartment Associations [FEVITUR] argues that: “STRs are the solution for the revitalisation of city centres around the world. 15 years ago many apartments and buildings were in ruins in the centre of the cities, still you see it now in the centre of Barcelona for example. These investors have reformed streets and even neighbourhoods where nobody wanted to live and businesses were closing.”

Offering more proof of the economic value that it brings to local communities, he points to a report presented by FEVITUR and carried out by the University of Salamanca, which calculates the spending of domestic tourists in Spain alone at €20,388 million, of which 80 per cent is spent in the local community and only 20 per cent goes towards accommodation. The sector is convinced that this is the highest such ratio when compared with tourist accommodation options.

Sotillos even finds it a bit ironic that those who have revitalised city centres are now being criticised: “Now they want to live there when it was terrible before. Regarding the accusations of noise and coexistence problems, the percentage of the total reservations in housing for tourist use is practically non-existent, however the sector works actively to minimise this type of negative impact on neighbouring communities, through technology, investment, training and information.

“All types of activity have some negative consequences, which in the case of the STR sector are magnified and, moreover, now during the electoral period, they are used for political gain, when the reality is that the sector itself is the one that has actively implemented pilot tests to minimise possible negative impacts on local communities,” he added.

Responding directly to the question that STRs are the cause of the lack of affordable housing for working people city centres today, he commented: “It is definitely not the cause of the lack of affordable housing in city centres. Tourist use according to Spanish government statistics represents 1.2 per cent of the total number of houses built, and in the cities, this do not exceed three to four per cent of the total, whilst the average number of empty houses at any one time is between eight per cent and 16 per cent.

“Many of the STR apartments are rented for a few months of the year when the owner is away. These are not tourist homes that could have been rented by a permanent lease tenant. In the same way, there are many apartment owners who do not want to rent on a permanent basis, due to the risk of having a tenant who does not pay the rent or who destroys the house,” he added.

Observing that there are local elections in Spain right now, Sotillos added that politicians are using the issue of STR housing to “capture votes, without basing their arguments on verifiable data – the issue of affordable housing is important to many voters, so politicians blame their failure on others”.

With respect to threats of banning STRs apartments in some cities, he warned that it would “promote a black market, which does not benefit the consumer, the market or the destinations at all – and may create the same situation as prohibition laws in the United States, where they worsened the situation. We will all lose, especially the final consumer.”

To listen to his speech in full, attend the Vitur event from 10-12 May in Málaga where this topic and many others related to the sector will be debated on stage. Around 500 industry leaders from all over Europe will attend.

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