High-end hotels do not consider the tourist platform

The increase in tourism and the proliferation of vacation rental platforms offering apartments, houses and rooms have completely changed the tourist landscape, especially in large urban destinations. Taken together, these circumstances have become a major factor challenge for local government in cities like Barcelona. This is mainly due to the conflicts they can create between the inhabitants of the city and the question of the regulation of the different types of tourist accommodation.

A team of researchers from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) interviewed managers and directors representing high-end hotels know their perception of this situation. In the lyrics of Francesc González Revertélead author of the study, researcher at UOC NOUTUR group and member of the university Faculty of Economics and Commerce“the study uses an emic approach and a qualitative methodology to determine the opinions and attitudes of high-end hoteliers in Barcelona towards competition from Airbnb”.

In the study, which was published in the international review Tourist geographies, the researchers examined the arguments, the discourses and the differences between the different types of hotels, according to the orientation of their activity, during interviews with the managers of the establishments. According to González, “high-end hoteliers don’t see Airbnb as a direct competitor. However, there are various nuances to their rhetoric, ranging from a stance of having a superior product to greater concern about Airbnb’s effects on their business and its disruptive effects.”

In particular, the researchers point out that there is a dominant discourse on Airbnb that it is not a concern among high-end hotels. This the pitch is based on their superior hotel product compared to what Airbnb has to offeras well as the fact that they aim to very different customers.

According to a second discourse among hoteliers, Airbnb is a source of concern, but also an opportunity for learning and innovation to improve. Finally, the third discourse sees Airbnb as a complementary competitor and considers it a potential ally, with whom new business models could be established.

The researchers also explain that high-end hotels have reacted skeptically to platforms like Airbnb, and in a reactive rather than proactive way, suggesting that they see it as some threat to their industry. “Some hoteliers see Airbnb as a threat that requires a proactive and unified response from hotels, taking into account the urban environment and the neighborhood where they are located,” González said.

He also added that “high-end hoteliers don’t think platforms like Airbnb pose a perceived risk, but budget hotels and pensions have clearly suffered from Airbnb, according to the latest studies“.

The city of Barcelona has more than 850 hotelswhose 183 are considered high end, with nearly 34,000 rooms, according to figures from the Turisme de Barcelona tourist office. In addition, estimates suggest that there are currently approximately 19,000 listings on Airbnb for the Catalan capital.

Perceptions of Airbnb vary widely across the hospitality industry

The researchers identified various nuances in the discourse regarding Airbnb among high-end hoteliers. In general, large chains tend to see Airbnb as a non-existent competitor that does not affect their business model. However, holiday hotel chains point out that Airbnb can help transform less consolidated or less profitable hotels into tourist apartments. At a time, hotels insist on the unfair competition they face from Airbnb, and how difficult they are to compete against the platform as a result. To finish, city ​​hotels and smaller city chains view Airbnb as a spur for innovation and continuous improvement.

There are also a few points of consensus. González said, “In any case, hoteliers place particular emphasis on Airbnb’s aggressive impact on the urban environment, as it promotes gentrification and touristification process in the most touristic neighborhoodsmaking it a factor of urban distortion and engendering discontent and tension among members of the local community.”

In discourse analyses, the arguments and perceptions of the actors are extremely useful for identifying their attitudes and their contradictions, in this case among tourism actors. González said: “Among high-end hoteliers, it is striking that some aspects of their discourse on platforms like Airbnb are the same as the arguments used by social movements protesting against this type of tourism. other words, they both see Airbnb as a company that creates urban externalities and therefore needs to be limited and heavily regulated, but they have different objectives and a different strategic perspective.”

Despite the regulations governing this type of platform in place in Barcelona, various resident groups and social organizations have expressed the need to use methods to monitor and record apartment rentals and associated trends over time, restrict the density of rental apartments in certain areas, establish resort taxes for users and owners, and distinguish between commercial apartments and those used for Colocation.

“Of course, these measures are not intended to meet the needs of hotels but rather to reduce the urban impact of Airbnb, in particular in the fight against the displacement of residents due to rising prices and housing shortages. However, the hotel sector can indirectly benefit from measures aimed at regulating its competitor,” González concluded.

This study is part of a larger research project on the effects of the collaborative economy on tourism entitled “The collaborative economy and tourist spaces: contributions, transformations and challenges” funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities through the Challenges of Society program.

This UOC research supports Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and 12, Responsible Production and Consumption.


Francesc González-Reverté, Joan Miquel Gomis-López & Pablo Díaz-Luque (2022) Airbnb as a hotel competitor in tourist towns. Perceptions among high-end hoteliers in Barcelona, Tourist geographiesDO I: 10.1080/14616688.2022.2131898


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