Tourist Apartments: problem versus opportunity

* Image Nice, France. By Paul Rysz ©

The problem of high tourist occupation in certain cities is mobilising neighbourhoods perceiving tourism as a nuisance.  Integrating the increasing inflow of visitors, establishing the appropriate synergies, seizing opportunities and minimising the impact on the city’s neighbours is a task for everyone.


Following in the footsteps of other Regions, in Galicia the regulation on housing for “touristic purposes” has just come into force. Its aim is to highlight the number of private housing units used for this purpose when accommodating visitors and the major impact this has on cities.

Touristic apartments are very comfortable and usually more reasonably priced than a hotel. And the money that can be made from renting an apartment to tourists by the day is much greater than it would be in more long-term rentals.

For these and other reasons, there are more and more touristic apartments in city centres and the tertiary fabric adapts to the needs of these new inhabitants.

Establishments that covered the needs of stable neighbours such as groceries and primary services are gradually replaced by other souvenir or prepared food shops, all generating a push-out effect.

This process is well on its way in cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid, where solutions have been sought for a long time. The first step is normally to prohibit use for “touristic purposes” in the most saturated areas while seeking ways to regulate. Generally, the following measures are taken:

1_ A limitation is placed on the number of apartments exclusively devoted to tourists.

2_ A limitation is placed on the number of days that make this type of rental considered a business.

3_ Fees are instated to inspect and sanction illegal accommodation.

Several experts have analysed this issue in international for a. The problem is global, and the task is not easy.

We must bear in mind that tourism is a major economic activity, meaning we need to strike a balance for coexistence with other businesses, for integration, and for generation of wealth.

If consumption of touristic apartments continues to increase, then the solution cannot be mere prohibition.  We need to understand the reasons behind the demand and attempt to respond, seizing the opportunity to establish beneficial synergies for the city.

We will come out ahead if we cultivate the attractiveness not only of the city’s physical space and its parks and monuments, but also its cultural, economic and social distinguishing features, and even industries specific to each location.

In coastal areas, in addition to beaches and restaurants, fishing and crafts industries may entice tourists and draw capital investment in these sectors.

In small communities where it makes no sense for hotels to be established, tourist apartments could contribute to refurbishing old buildings to the benefit of the entire community. Furthermore, the increase in population that tourism generates in certain places makes it possible to establish services that would otherwise not be viable.

Fortunately, tourism is not only present in major cities. We can visit any small town if there is someone to offer us accommodation. Some of us will settle on a tent, but apartments are more comfortable, accessible and inclusive.

There has always been a thirst for experiencing new places and cultures and it is positive for more and more people to be able to do so. Because to travel is to live, to open one’s mind and become a better person.

Living with tourism is complicated, but undoubtedly, over time and with the right decisions, cities will evolve to integrate tourism into their daily urban lives.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
Arquitecta gallega especialista en rehabilitación y eficiencia energética. Desde el comienzo de su carrera profesional, además de los procesos proyectual y ejecutivo de la edificación, su trabajo incluye la investigación de tipologías edificatorias y procesos constructivos.Con amplia experiencia en asesoramiento y formación técnica para profesionales de la edificación, es fundadora y directora de asesorArqla plataforma de Asesoramiento Profesional en Arquitectura.

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