On Friday night, at the Gino Germani Research Institute of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires, we had an interesting debate on the topic of temporary rentals for tourists in the city of Buenos Aires. There was a well-mixed audience between university people and Airbnb hosts, which was quite noticeable in the differences in a speech on the subject.
It began with the exhibition by Guadalupe Granero, of the Center for Metropolitan Studies, which showed data on the growth of temporary rentals in the city and on its presence mostly in the northern part of the city. Based on data extracted from AirBNB publications, Guadalupe also commented on the topic of the average price per day on properties offered in Buenos Aires.
Then followed Arturo Blas López Puertas, host of Airbnb, who talked about how he manages the rental of rooms in the area of Courts, and recounted some of the problems that the hosts have. His presentation marked the tonic of the comments made by other hosts after the exhibitions: that they were people who only rented property or rooms, and that it was not true that their profitability was so high. They made it clear that it was to have an extra income to make ends meet. It’s something in line with the AirBNB narrative, by the way.
Third, Gervasio Muñoz, of Group Tenants, scored some points that concern them with these temporary rentals. In a city without standardized contracts and where nobody knows for sure the real number of tenants, temporary rentals can add pressure to the issue of prices and availability for locals. But it is difficult to say precisely as long as there is not enough data to make precise estimates of the subject.
Finally, it was my turn to exhibit, and I focused on two subjects. First, the difficulties of the tourism market to face the conflicting issues of the temporary rental market – beyond, of course, the sectorial fights between hoteliers and global platforms. Between the traditional risk aversion of the tourism market and the narratives of celebration of the trip as a purely individual achievement – something that today can be seen very easily in networks such as Instagram – addressing these conflicts is not a simple issue., and it will become an important problem for destination and private sector managers. In the second part, I made a summary of some of the regulatory approaches of other cities, particularly European ones. There they go from the limitation of rental days per year to the total prohibition of temporary rentals for tourists – or their limitation to certain areas of the city. I also told how companies that are dedicated to controlling platforms such as Airbnb appear today to see if they comply with local regulations and sell that data to local governments.
Then the debate started, which was as interesting as it was fast. Among quite long interventions by some attendees, some Airbnb hosts present at the talk set a very precise tone: that they were looking to present themselves negatively as if they earned a lot of money or had many properties. And they told their personal stories as examples that would deny those versions. Both Guadalupe and I mark several times in our interventions that we never present the issue in that way, and that we focus on data and trends. Personal stories are valuable, but the data and trends revealed in many cities mark that there are several worrying points, such as the expulsion of local inhabitants from certain areas of the city and the increase in prices – for example, this recent study done in Barcelona, published in English. If that is perhaps not so evident in Buenos Aires, it is due more to the lack of information on the subject of rents and the relative stagnation in the number of visitors the city receives. Much of the inconvenience was also due to a bill that, according to the hosts, would in principle be sent to the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires and that would restrict temporary rentals – I have no more information on the subject that that one, so you have to be vigilant.
Anyway: I had a lot of fun, and in general, I liked a certain conflicting tone. As a public university, it seems to me that it is important that these fast-paced themes and found positions appear. And at the same time, I liked being able to analyze them from a tourism-related framework, to make it clear that there are very controversial topics of debate in our field. Perhaps with shorter interventions by the attendees – the exhibitors only had 10 minutes each – more issues could have been analyzed, but it still worked out very well. There will be a new opportunity for debate. Thank you for the invitation to the organizers Juliana Marcús and Bárbara Catalano.