Spain intensifies crackdown on illegal holiday rentals with new tourist tax enforcement

A couple of British tourists walk near Magaluf Beach in Calvia
-Credit: (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Spain could soon witness the closure of thousands of holiday rentals as part of a new crackdown on tourist tax evaders. The Balearic government has approved a decree that allows local councils and town halls to shut down illegal holiday lets.

Unregistered tourist apartments and villas, whose owners are not paying Spain's compulsory tourist tax, will be sealed off. This move follows data suggesting there could be as many as 8,700 unlawful holiday rentals in the Balearics alone.

Inspectors now have the authority to seal off properties found to be operating illegally, with local authorities also seeking police assistance for the inspections. The comprehensive decree addresses numerous issues, encompassing 46 law changes in total.

These include measures related to nature conservation, waste, roads and tourism, reports the Mirror.

A report indicates that there has been nearly a 10% increase in the number of holiday rentals in Spain over the past year. Just last weekend, more than 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Majorca - the largest island of the Balearics - demanding 'immediate measures' from the government to address tourist overcrowding.

READ MORE: Spain's Magaluf 'half empty' as bar owners worry 'wishes of anti-tourism protesters granted'

Tensions between locals and tourists have been rising in certain parts of Spain recently, with residents arguing that the surge in tourist numbers has led to soaring rent prices and contributed to a housing shortage.

The Banc de Temps de Sencelles community group, which led the protest, presented a manifesto to local authorities outlining seven key measures aimed at securing more affordable housing for residents. The protesters are also pushing for legislation that would limit foreign nationals from purchasing property in the Balearic Islands - including Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera - unless they have lived there for at least five years.

Tourism is a significant economic contributor to the islands, accounting for around 45% of their income. However, the manifesto calls for a 'controlled' tourism strategy that doesn't overshadow their way of life. The group clarified their stance on tourism, saying: "We have to rethink the tourism model."

The protests seem to be making an impression on tourist numbers. Magaluf is unusually quiet this half term, with recent photos showing the typically bustling Majorcan resort experiencing a sharp decline in visitors, as local business owners expressed concern over the reduced footfall.

Photographs taken on 27 May depict deserted sunbeds on the town's beaches and rows of unoccupied tables outside bars. This comes just days after demonstrators marched through Majorca's capital, Palma, demanding the government take 'immediate measures' to address the island's housing crisis and tourist overcrowding.

Bar owners are now worried that the "wishes of anti-tourism protesters [have been] granted".

The local newspaper, the Majorca Daily Bulletin, also expressed its concern that Magaluf seemed "unusually quiet" on Monday, stating it was "half empty if that". It reported a sense of unease among business owners about the scarcity of tourists, while others maintained it was still bustling during the weekends.