23 cities across Europe urge EU to limit short-term rentals

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Europe is open again, and now that visitors can travel freely, without being subject to Covid rules, tourism figures reach record highs. This may sound like good news for business, especially after two years of stagnation, but some 23 European cities are actually push for a crackdown on short-term rentals.

Public square in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

For years, destinations such as France, Italy and Spain, to name a few, have struggled to contain the overwhelming tourist influx, mostly to no avail. Regardless of accommodation taxes, controversial alternative plate measures and the trial of a new ticketing system in places like Venicevisitors kept coming.

Therefore, some of Europe’s biggest cities could be preparing to take more drastic measures to fight against this so-called “touristication” of Europe:

Tourism in Europe reaches a tipping point

Tourists gathering around Fontana di Trevi in ​​Rome, Italy, overtourism concept, Europe

Earlier this week, the European Cities Alliance (ECA), a collective of 23 cities, published a open letter to the European Commission, urging them to take “legislative measures” and to limit short-term rentals in the area. Specifically, they seem to have a problem with the rising cost of living, long associated with overtourism.

These cities are:

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Arezzo, Italy
  • Athens, Greece
  • Barcelona, ​​Spain
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Bologna, Italy
  • Bordeaux, France
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Florence, Italy
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Krakow, Poland
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Milan, Italy
  • Munich, Germany
  • Paris, France
  • Porto, Portugal
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Valencia, Spain
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Warsaw, Poland

*In addition to the 23 key destinations, the Alliance also acts on behalf of Eurocities, comprising more than 200 cities in 38 countries.

Steps leading to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre, Paris, France crowded with tourists, overtourism concept

In their letter, the Alliance designates short-term rental as main problem behind this phenomenon, and are urging the EU’s main governing body to introduce “stricter” regulations. According to them, these developments “deprive” cities of their essence by drive out the inhabitants downtown neighborhoods.

The text lists Amsterdam as one of the hubs most impacted by the commercial gentrification, which sees most centrally located properties converted into tourist rental sites. In the Dutch capital, these registrations increased by 20.4% between 2013 and 2017, pushing natives to the suburbs and radically changing the urban landscape.

Center of Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands

Other destinations are mentioned in the report, such as Florence, Italy, and Krakow, Poland. These two cities, ranked among the most visited in their respective countries, have seen a massive increase in tourist rentals. Florence’s roster is now up 60% from 2015, while Krakow increased by 100% between 2014 and 2017.

Chronic shortages and rising prices fuel the fire

Young female traveler checking her phone at the airport

The sudden lifting of Covid measures, coupled with shortages in the tourism industry and the economic crisis, has also done locals a disservice. These last months, Europe has fought hard to contain the floodgates of travelwith airports like London Heathrow going so far as to force airlines to reduce the frequency of flights on a number of routes.

Even then there has been little to no relief and air traffic continues to be congested. For all the reasons listed, Europe’s love and hate relationship with tourists is about to get much more complex. In October 2021, the European Commission went further and considered, for the first time, to introduce a package of ‘pan-european rules‘.

European Union EU flags flying against the backdrop of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium

These would apply to the whole of the European Union and would concern short-term rentals. Although no formal action has yet been takenat least at European level, it won’t be long before the ECA complaints are dealt withespecially now that overtourism has already prompted popular vacation spots to take matters into their own hands.

What exactly does the ECA want?

Young woman working from her computer inside a hotel with a breakfast tray in bed

In sum, the Alliance demands that:

  • The Commission ‘urgently’ moves forward with ‘short-term rental initiative’legislation meant to strictly regulate and limit the availability of tourist accommodation
  • ‘Clear permission’ for local, regional and national authorities to set their own holiday rental rules to be granted
  • The Commission calls for more transparency from platforms like AirBnB in sharing their data
  • A practical system allowing short-term rental companies to better understand and comply with European regulations

Following a public consultation, which garnered over 5,200 valid responses from political entities across Member States, countries such as France, Italy and Germany have been identified as among the most committed to the cause, and supports it. Prior to any EU-wide initiative, some of them have already enacted restrictive laws.

Female tourist reading map while exploring the Latin Quarter of Barcelona, ​​Catalonia, Spain

Several European cities have already acted

In 2021, the city of Barcelona, ​​in Spain’s historic Catalonia region, imposed a ban on AirBnBs and other forms of short-term rental contracts of less than 31 days, in an effort to disperse crowds. This remarkable decision was overturned by the Spanish Supreme Court in January, but it is a clear indication of the state of affairs.

Busy beach in Sitges, Metropolitan Barcelona, ​​Catalonia, Spain

In another example of Europe’s anti-BnB movement, the French capital of Paris now mandates that in order to list a second home as tourist accommodation, hosts must purchase a third property “of equal or greater size” to rent out. long-term. Others like Amsterdam, Rome and Lisbon have resorted to taxing tourists.

Supporting these initiatives, the Court of Auditors considers that, unless the Commission puts these proposals to a vote in the immediate future, “the availability, affordability of housing, as well as the habitability” of European cities will be “at stake”. “. So far, the European Commission has no specific deadline that these proposals be formally evaluated.

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