The number of beds booked on online rental marketplaces like Airbnb in Spain has surpassed those on offer by hotels - an alarming development for an industry that has been crucial to the country's economic recovery.
It has been called the "hotelization of housing" - renting out private properties to tourists and travelers via online marketplaces - and its rapid growth has Spain's tourism industry on edge.
Spain is the world's third most popular destination for tourists and the 2.4 million hotels beds booked in 2014 represented an important source of revenue for the country's still recovering economy.
But last year marked the first time the number of online bookings on vacation rental sites like Airbnb, which allows users to advertise their homes and apartments for short-term stays, was higher than the number of hotel reservations.
According to a study released Friday by Exceltur, an umbrella organization for Spain's leading tourism groups, last year Airbnb and the like listed a total of 2.7 million beds.
"This is a highly lucrative business that has experienced rampant growth," Exceltur said in a statement. But it warned of unforeseen effects to the "foundation of the tourism sector, which is key to continue promoting recovery for the Spanish economy."
One in 11 residents living in districts frequented by tourists in 12 major Spanish cities had made their domicile available for rent in 2014, the study found. And while this nascent industry has generated jobs - 9.8 per 100 tourist beds - its overall impact has been dramatically less than that of hotels, which create an average of 53.3 jobs per 100 beds.
Spain attracted an unprecedented 64 million foreign visitors last year - a 7.1 percent year-on-year increase, the Agence-France Presse news agency reported Friday.
That spike is important for jobs - one in nine jobs are in the tourism industry. But Exceltur has also warned of what it called an "underground economy" and "lawless situation," in which rooms were offered without earnings being declared, depriving the state of up to 800 million euros ($897 million) in lost tax revenue.
cjc/uhe (AFP, Exceltur)