How are tourist accommodation licences currently regulated in Barcelona?

How are tourist accommodation licences currently regulated in Barcelona?

With the increase of tourism in recent years, the supply of tourist accommodation has also increased progressively. As a novelty, the rental of private homes for tourism purposes has appeared. Furthermore, the lack of a proper regulation in this sector has derived into various problems: massive concentration of tourist accommodation in some areas, lack of offer in others, a “black” market for private dwellings for tourist rentals, etc. To solve these problems, the Barcelona City Council suspended the granting of any licences for tourist accommodation from 2015 until 2017 to create a special urban development plan to regulate this booming sector. This is what is known as “moratoria”.

In order to understand the regulations governing the granting of licences for tourist accommodation, which include the licences required for the opening and management of tourist accommodation and hotels, a distinction must be made between two specific moments: (i) before and (ii) after the approval of the Special Urban Development Plan for Tourist Accommodation (known as PEUAT).

Situation before the approval of the PEUAT

Prior to the approval of the plan, there was little regulatory regulation in this regard. Moreover, it was possible to open tourist accommodations throughout the city almost freely. For this reason in recent years, there has been an enormous proliferation of this type of establishments, especially in the areas of greatest tourist interest.
The consequence of all this was that in 2015 the City Council of Barcelona announced a complete suspension of all types of licences for tourist accommodations, in order to approve a special plan to regulate the sector. This suspension of licences is also known as “moratoria”.
Despite the fact that the suspension was supposed to last only one year, the PEUAT did not come into force until 6 March 2017. The main objective of this plan is to settle a regulation that includes the urban planning and management criteria for tourist accommodation in Barcelona. The concept of “tourist accommodation” comprises all hotel establishments, tourist accommodation, tourist apartments, hostels and university residences.

Situation after the approval of the PEUAT

Given that Barcelona has areas with more tourist intensity than others, the PEUAT divides Barcelona into different zones according to the intensity of tourists in each one of them.

Zone 1 (Degrowth zone): This zone refers to the part of the city with the highest concentration of tourists in Barcelona. For instance, only 50% of all hotel beds in Barcelona are concentrated in this area.

Therefore, the Plan does not allow new implementations of any type of tourist accommodation or the expansion of existing places. In these sense, the cessation of activity of a tourist accommodation implies its deletion from the corresponding register, preventing its opening under a new registration. In other words, the granting of licences for tourist accommodation has totally been limited in this area.

Zone 2 (Maintenance zone): This Zone borders the area with the highest concentration of tourists, and still a strict restriction regime protects it.
This area, maintains the number of places and establishments already existent. However, given the case of cessation of an establishment it is possible to implement a new one, but only with the same number of places as the establishment that has ceased.

Zone 3 (Zone of new implementation): Compounds the rest of the territory that is away from the areas of tourist interests, reason for which they are not sensitive to their pressure.

In this zone, it is permitted to set up new establishments and to expand existing ones, provided the maximum density of places established for each area are not exceeded. For example, in Les Corts area, the offer cannot exceed of 1,464 places; or in the Horta area, 564 places.

Zone 4 (Areas and regions of specific regulation): Some zones, due to their special characteristics, are governed by specific regulation, even though they are located in some of the three abovementioned zones.

Specific regulation mainly focuses on the maximum number of places allowed in an area or for a specific establishment or a minimum distance between one accommodation and another.

The future of tourism licensing

Lately, other big cities are gradually adopting the same model as Barcelona, that is, establishing a moratoria on the granting of licences for tourist accommodation until a special plan is approved to regulate the sector.

Earlier this year, the city of Valencia cautiously suspended the granting of licences for tourist accommodations in its old town, both for hotel use and for tourist apartments. The suspension of licences is also of a temporary nature until the Special Plan for the Protection of the Ciutat Vella is drawn up.

Also in Madrid, they have suspended the granting of licences for all types of tourist accommodation at the beginning of this year for a period of one year. The suspension here is also of a precautionary nature until the draft and process of a special plan to update the town planning regulations in the city, especially in the center areas of the city.


Due to the increasing influx of tourists into large cities, more and more cities are going to establish specific regulations in this type of areas. Do you want to undertake a new project in this field? If this is your case, we recommend that you find out more about the local regulations or that you contact experts on the field that will be able to advise you and guide you on your new journey.

Marinel-lo @ Partners