Anti-Airbnb Court Ruling Postponed

The Florence skyline at night

Months after Florence’s attempt in October 2023 to ban new applicants from opening Airbnbs for short term rentals in the city center, the decision whether to uphold this local decree was postponed by the court from May 9 to an ambiguous future date. There’s now enough time in case the court wishes to investigate the details and application, all while the mayoral election is forthcoming. After Florence reopened to visitors in the wake of the pandemic, tourism skyrocketed, bringing a host of new problems with it. The central area of Florence is a UNESCO world heritage site flooded by tourists on a day-to-day basis, leading to some discomfort among the population. Mayor Dario Nardella set forth to restrict tourism within the site, but it appears that his original plan may be subject to delays. The final say has been reserved for the Regional Administrative Court of Tuscany.

Forza Italia political party leader Marco Stella stated that he was convinced the new rule was unconstitutional. Others had previously termed it anti-democratic and criticized the mayor for his attempt to put forth this decision. Those who emphasize the right to private property may take issue with the fact that the mayor is attempting to restrict what they might consider to be legitimate business involving that which they own.

While it’s easy to see why some may be upset at the rampant tourism filling the city, it’s also worth noting the impact the tourism industry has on the city. In 2019, 15 million visitors stayed overnight in Florence, a number over 40 times larger than the population of the city (which is 360,930 as of 2023, excluding the metropolitan area). Close to 13,000 accommodations available for short-term rentals in Florence, 9,000 of which are in the historic center. Property tax for short-term rentals like Airbnbs is as low as 21%, while the normal range is from 38%-43% for home-owners, depending on the income. Although Florence is home to a variety of lucrative businesses, tourism is, without a doubt, its highest earner.

The average tourist spends approximately 135.9 euros for their per capita daily expenditure. In total, this adds up to over a staggering three billion euros annually spent by tourists, money is funnelled into the Florentine economy. Tourism makes up 12% of Tuscany’s regional GDP, bringing in over 12 billion euros. The region as a whole receives about 48 million visitors a year. Tuscany’s tax on tourists, designed to pay for garbage pickup, varies from one to five euro a night, earns the region over 150 million euros, 70 million of which comes from Florence: 36 million from tourist rentals alone.

While some see tourism as lucrative and others intrusive, the court’s ruling is sure to have some bearing on the future of tourism in Florence, whether that means it’s restricted or more difficult to restrict. It is to be seen whether or not this controversial and pressing issue will have any bearing on the mayoral election, scheduled for June 8 and 9. (Daniel J. Capobianco)