MADRID, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The Spanish city of Barcelona on Tuesday rejected modifications by home-renting site Airbnb to its platform which aimed to ease a dispute with local authorities worried that visitor crowds are overwhelming the city.
Catalonia is Spain’s most popular tourist destination and its capital attracted more than 8 million visitors in 2015, according to the latest official figures, raising concern t it has hit saturation point and posing a headache for its 1.6 million residents.
Airbnb, which was fined in November for failing to comply with local tourism laws, said in a letter it would limit the number of listings per host and facilitate the collection of tourist tax from those advertising apartments.
“This is a joke,” city hall spokeswoman Susana Suarez said. “It’s not clear in the letter whether (Airbnb) agrees to comply with the law and stop advertising illegal apartments.”
Airbnb’s conciliatory move comes after a city crackdown which included a fine against the platform in November for not complying with local tourism laws, a charge Suarez said the company also failed to address.
Last month leftist mayor Ada Colau also blocked the construction of new hotels and restricted licenses for new tourist apartments in central Barcelona. Licences outside the centre have also been strictly limited as part of the plan.
The platform maintains it is part of the solution in Barcelona, launching a mediation tool that allows neighbours to report any issues concerning an Airbnb host.
The San-Francisco based start-up is no stranger to conflict with disputes in other cities like Berlin and Paris that claim it deprives locals of accommodation for permanent rent and hikes rental prices. (Reporting by Amanda Calvo; Editing by Paul Day and Angus macSwan)