Spain to shut down thousands of holiday apartments in new crackdown

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

Spain is set to see thousands of holiday rentals shut down as part of a new crackdown on tourist tax evaders. The Balearic government has passed a decree allowing local councils and town halls to close off illegal holiday rentals.

Unregistered tourist apartments and villas, whose landlords are not paying Spain's mandatory tourist tax, will be sealed off. This comes after data suggested there might be up to 8,700 illegal holiday lets in the Balearics alone.

Inspectors now have the power to seal off properties found to be operating illegally, with local authorities also wanting police forces to assist in the inspections. The wide-ranging decree covers numerous issues, including 46 law changes in total.

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

According to one report, there has been a near 10% increase in the number of holiday lets in Spain in the past year. Just last weekend, over 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Majorca - the largest island of the Balearics - demanding 'immediate measures' from the government to tackle tourist overcrowding.

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Tensions between locals and tourists have been escalating in parts of Spain recently, with residents claiming that the surge in tourist numbers has caused rent prices to skyrocket and contributed to a housing shortage, reports Birmingham Live.

The community group Banc de Temps de Sencelles, leading the charge, delivered a manifesto to local officials outlining seven pivotal steps to ensure more affordable housing for locals.

They're also pushing for new laws to limit property purchases by foreigners in the Balearic Islands - including Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera - to those who have lived there for at least five years.

While tourism is key to the islands' economy, accounting for around 45% of their income, the group's manifesto calls for a 'controlled' approach to tourism that doesn't overshadow their way of life. The group clarified their stance on the industry, saying: "We have to rethink the tourism model."

The protests seem to be making waves, as evidenced by the unusual quiet in Magaluf this half term. Recent photos reveal the typically bustling Majorcan resort town is experiencing a significant slump in tourist numbers, leaving many business owners concerned over the noticeable reduction in visitors.

Pictures taken on the 27th of May depict empty sun loungers along town beaches and vacant tables lined up outside local pubs. This eerie sight surfaces merely days after protestors took to the streets of Majorca's capital, Palma, to demand immediate government intervention relating to the island's escalating housing issue and increasing influx of tourists.

Pub owners are beginning to worry that the "wishes of anti-tourism protesters [have been] granted".

The local paper, Majorca Daily Bulletin, too noted a sense of anxiety due to Magaluf appearing "unusually quiet" on Monday, even going so far as to describe it as "half empty if that". The paper relayed the concern among business owners over the lack of tourists but added that some felt the town still bustled during weekends.