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Llano: «They criminalize us for historical problems that Eivissa suffers»

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The president of the holiday home association denies that they are responsible for the housing shortage or the saturation suffered by the island and urges that measures be sought among all accommodation sectors. PHOTO: Diario de Ibiza.

SOURCE: DIARIO DE IBIZA (subscription), DECEMBER 10, 2023

Bea Rosello
José Antonio Llano (Barcelona, ​​1973) claims that he was born in Barcelona by "chance." He replaces Roberto San Esteban at the head of the Ibiza and Formentera Tourist Housing Association (AVAT) since the end of November. But he is not new to this since, between 2018 and 2022, he accepted the presidency even though "I neither considered it nor expected it." In this new stage, he points out that he will contribute the "experience" acquired to promote a "new project." The new board of directors, he highlights, is a "mix" of owners (like him, who markets a family home), and agents who make tourist homes their business.

-Will there be many changes compared to Roberto San Esteban's mandate?
First I want to thank all the work that Roberto [San Esteban] has done with the association because at the time and, correctly, he considered that it should have a regulatory framework and visibility that is what it now has. In these years, a lot of work has been done and visibility and recognition from both institutions and other tourism sectors has been achieved towards AVAT as a consolidated product. Therefore, we do not intend to start from scratch. We want to continue with a new project with the defense of interests regarding the bad image that other sectors want to attribute to us, such as the lack of housing, when tourist housing is a small part of the offer and is a regulated offer. that meets its tax obligations and offers a quality product. The idea is to continue defending our interests and make our activity visible, which is very important within tourism activity.

-In relation to what I said, they accuse them of being part of the problem of high housing prices. You attribute it to intrusion. What is the real reason for the problem?
It is a complex problem, which comes from many years ago when in Ibiza and in Spain, at a general level, there has been a lack of investment in protected or affordable housing and that, now, has generated a collapse that is common throughout Spain. But it is accentuated in Ibiza due to the strong demand that the island has at the tourist level. It is also true that Ibiza, in recent years, has been losing family tourism, with average purchasing power, and has been focusing on luxury and we have seen the conversion of many hotel plants and this means that prices have risen. Attributing the problem to tourist housing is not correct because our accommodation plant is not intended for residential housing. We are not the cause of the problem.

-He says that Ibiza is aimed at luxury tourism. What type of client is tourist housing aimed at?
Our offer is aimed at all types of clients. Ibiza is famous for its price, but within the range of homes there are many prices: from mega homes that have exorbitant prices to homes that are for other purchasing power. It must be taken into account that most of the time this cost is usually divided among a group of friends and that it is not usually much higher than staying in a hotel. It is true that there is another type of client, with greater purchasing power, who can afford to rent a vacation home.

-What is the profile of your clients?
It is not much different from what you might go to a hotel: Spanish, British, Dutch and, to a lesser extent, German. What varies is that this client is looking for a different product than what a hotel offers. We are not here to compete with a hotel because this client is looking for a different product and hotel occupancy is not diminished by vacation homes. It is a different, complementary product and we are lucky that in Ibiza we have a wide range of products, not only in terms of accommodation but also complementary offerings, and that makes it rich and attractive.

-And the owner's?
Within this amalgamation of homes there are many Ibizan owners who have a second residence that they have legalized and rented and there will be other foreign owners, because there has been a lot of investment in housing, and it is a product that has been in demand. There are different types of owners and a wide base of local people who rent their homes and that means that the income from this activity is very branched and diversified.

-For some time they have been calling for more inspectors to address intrusion. Has the illegal supply overflowed?
Illegal supply has always existed on the island. The problem is that there are no means. It is true that the Consell de Ibiza is making an important effort but it is still insufficient. We defend regulated homes, but there exists, and has existed all our lives, a wide range of homes that have been destined for illegal, or alegal, use, or as second homes. We have seen it this season, hotels and holiday homes have had occupancy levels very similar to last year, but traveler entry data has been growing. There is a mass of people who enter the island and go to an illegal or illegal offer, to a second residence or to the homes of friends or family. Not everything can be included in the illegal supply, but it is true that there is a very broad illegal supply, difficult to quantify. It is this illegal supply of flats that harms the supply of residential housing and that is where it should be attacked.

-Has this illegal offer increased compared to your first term as president?
It is difficult to quantify, but the truth is that it has not decreased. It is a complicated issue and is aggravated by the luck of how powerful the Ibiza tourism brand is worldwide and that we have to take care of.

-Your predecessor said a few weeks ago that the island had "high" saturation levels. Do you share that idea, do you take part of the blame for that problem?
Blame it all. Vacation housing is not responsible for the saturation of this island. It is difficult to put doors on the countryside and very complicated to say that we do not want more tourists, but among all the tourist accommodation sectors we must try to establish some measures or agree on some actions so that the island does not suffer from this saturation. Vacation housing is very important because it allows the season to be deseasonalized. It must be taken into account that a tourist home has much more flexibility to open than a hotel. A tourist home can be open almost all year round and is not like a hotel, which has fixed costs that are very difficult to assume. We saw it in the pandemic, when tourist housing almost became the engine of the Ibizan economy because people were looking for a product to be alone and opening a home was much more affordable than opening a hotel. In the end, it was of great importance.

-After the covid pandemic, places were lost because some homes were sold. The president of the Real Estate Association said that there were investment funds that showed interest in buying them. Have you noticed this loss of vacation spots?
I will not say that it is the fault of the investment funds, but we do see that of the 21,900 places that were initially granted, there is an important part, around 2,000 or 3,000 places, that are not on the market. Either because there was a boom in demand at the time or because those homes have been sold and have moved on to the residential market. Our intention is to know the real number of places there are. We want to be allowed to market these places that are between the real ones and those that were initially granted.

-The Balearic Government has already announced that it intends to purge these places that have never been activated or that are currently not on the market. Would you agree?
We agree that it should be known how many these places really are, what we do not agree with is that these places should be lost. We would like these places not to be lost and to be able to go to the pool [of places] and for this pool to be different from what the hotel sector has. It would be fair to separate them and for these places to be converted, reused or put back on the market until reaching this limit of 21,900 that were initially granted.

-How does it benefit you to differentiate these 9,000 places in the pool that you share with hoteliers?
A hotel space is not the same as a housing space, starting with the cost. Buying a space for a tourist home has the same cost as for a hotel and that penalizes us because a hotel has many more possibilities of amortizing this space than a tourist home. What is important is that they are differentiated and it is possible to know where these places go, with a price that adapts to the home.

-And of these 9,000 places, how many do you think would correspond to you?
This remains to be seen, it is an issue that we have on the table at the board of directors. At least the difference between those that are in operation and those that were granted at the time, we do not have to lose them and be able to use them. There are about 21,900 places initially granted and about 19,000 in operation.

-Do you feel less valued than the hotel sector in dealing with the administrations?
No. We as an association have achieved fluid dealings with the Administration in recent years. We were a sector that was not consulted before and now it is. They have taken us into account when making decisions and in this aspect we do not feel less than. Many times it is true that we are the critic or an easy attack for the hotel sector to accuse us of all the evils that the island has regarding the issue of housing.

-At the sector congress, Holidu [vacation rental metasearch engine] spoke of 150.6 million euros of average income from tourist homes. Are these figures managed?
We cannot quantify it, but if this company has done this study, it will have its figures. What is clear is that among the 2,600 homes in Ibiza there is a wide price range and surely if the hoteliers' figures are analyzed, they will be much higher. Could be.

-His predecessor stated that the season had gone well. How much good?
The season has been very similar to last year and last year was a record one. We are talking about an occupancy of 85%. We have been a little lower than the previous year, but it has been good and everything suggests that next year will also be good because we are beginning to see that there is movement in demand, they are booking more in advance.

-What do you expect from the new tourism law of the Balearic Government?
We have joined an association at the Balearic level in order to defend our interests with a single voice in the face of this new tourism law. We would expect [from the new law] a deregulation or elimination of the moratoriums [of the regulations approved in the last legislature] that do not do good to the sector because regulated vacation rentals are being prohibited when illegal or alegal ones are still the ones that run rampant. wide.

-Taking into account the idiosyncrasy of Ibiza, is it optimal to join a Balearic group?
It is true that the four associations that form it defend different criteria. For example, in Ibiza tourist apartments are not allowed, but they do want them in Mallorca. Get together and be able to give a single voice to the most important points of the new tourism law, which will be aimed at the number of places or their liberalization, but there will be points where we will diverge. Even so, we believe that there is strength in unity and this union was needed due to the attacks it receives from the hotel sector.

-Do you feel very attacked?
Sometimes yes because we are blamed and criminalized for problems that the island suffers such as overcrowding or lack of housing, when they are historical problems. One does not come to attack anyone, one comes to defend oneself with moderation, with objective data, of the importance that our product has on the island and the benefits it brings.

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