How tourism and Airbnb split CATALONIA into two different worlds

By Laura Aragó, Sara Chodosh,
Rocío Márquez, and Ànnia Monreal

Coast or inland. Coca of fruit or coca of crackling. 'Charnego' or 'catalanet'. Catalonia is dual, also in tourism. 19.2 million tourists visited the Principality in 2018, and some stayed in one of the 73,857 apartments or rooms offered on Airbnb, the largest shared accommodation platform.

Barcelona is not the only city that has seen this form of tourism spreads. 87% of Catalan municipalities appear in this controversial network, while the rest live on the fringes. We analyze the presence of Airbnb outside the capital.

Of the 947 municipalities, 87% have at least one Airbnb listing. The rest, 119, do not appear on the platform (most belong to Terres de Lleida).

At the tourist level, Catalonia is divided into nine brands: Barcelona, ​​Costa Barcelona, ​​Costa Brava, Costa Daurada, Paisatges de Barcelona, ​​Pirineus, Terres de l’Ebre, Terres de Lleida and Val d’Aran. Costa Brava is the one with the most locations with apartments on Airbnb.

Leaving aside Barcelona, ​​Salou, ​​Roses and Lloret de Mar are the three towns with the highest number of accommodations on Airbnb.

Naut Aran, Begur and Pals are the ones with the highest density of tourist apartments, to their number of dwellings.

Catalonia is a land of sun and beach for tourists: the coastline monopolizes the supply of shared accommodation — Costa Brava has the highest rate of Airbnbs. The Pyrenees follows, while in the West they are scarce.

How is the Airbnb catalogue distributed in Catalonia? We fly over the Principality to observe closely in which areas of the hottest points the offer is concentrated and what the non-existent municipalities are like for the platform.

Naut Aran, a group of towns made up of Arties, Bagergue, Baqueira, Garòs, Gessa, Montgarri, Salardú, Tredòs and Unha, accounts for the highest percentage of Airbnb in all of Catalonia: 66%

Airbnb has been a source of complaints and legal discussions in Barcelona, where the City Council's attempts to legalize tourist accommodation have not fully borne fruit. The platform is accused of promoting gentrification and raising the price of rents, as well as being a nightmare for some residents. In Barcelona, Airbnb's offer is concentrated in the districts of Ciutat Vella, l’Eixample and Gràcia.

The coast, and especially Costa Brava, is the biggest claim for those who choose Catalonia as a place of recreation. The interior, especially the West, is uninteresting. Why? Apart from the tourist attractions of each place (cultural or natural), the data analyzed does not provide a clear answer, beyond the sun and the beach.

Does Airbnb help people with low incomes? Does it contribute to gentrifying neighbourhoods and raising the price of rents? Or is it a way of travelling and getting to know the destination better? The heads and tails with which it is associated with the platform do not have a firm conclusion when looking at the entire territory and not just the capital.


One of the aspects that most arouses the detractors of the platform, the concentration of apartments in a few hands, is not appreciated in a sufficiently contrasted way when analyzing the situation of the entire Principality. On average, each owner owns 1.47 apartments or rooms (the average in Barcelona is 1.82), although in some municipalities it is possible to speak of 'Airbnb landlords': Salàs de Pallars and Foradada (each person in charge has seven references ), Cabó, Conesa and Ogassa (a single owner has five) or Castellfollit del Boix, Montferri and Vilalba dels Arcs (a single owner has four apartments).

The beach towel seems to unite the most attractive municipalities while ageing towns appear among the absent ones. Els Omellons, Bovera, La Palma d'Ebre, El Cogul and Algerri, five of the ten Catalan towns with the highest percentage of people over 65 years of age (between 37% and 39% of its population), do not appear on Airbnb. Two of them, Els Omellons and Bovera, do not have any type of tourist accommodation.

Depopulation is also part of the non-tourist Catalonia. La Febró and Fígols, two of the ten towns with the fewest inhabitants (40 and 43 people, respectively), are not on Airbnb either. And among the previous five aged, the sum of its population does not reach 1,400 people.

A great tourist Catalonia and a small Catalonia without visitors. This is the main result of this work, which opens up ways to continue exploring the arguments of both parties.