Are 'adults only' hotels legal in Spain?
“Adults only" or "only for couples" are just two of the phrases with which hotels designed exclusively for people over 18 years of age are defined and that include age restrictions, that is, they do not allow children. They are aiming to attract travellers who want a quieter and more relaxed environment during their trip. But are they legal in Spain?
The resorts often include activities such as dinners, wine tasting, spa treatments, and evening entertainment, and "the stay is more expensive than normal, because they are looking for more luxury, peace, and experiences, and they don't mind paying more," explains Pablo Díaz, professor of tourism at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).
During the 1970s, adult only resorts became fashionable, especially in large tourist complexes in the Caribbean. Originally, the concept was dedicated to couples from the United States who were looking for holidays without children to rest. "Basically, it was a honeymoon for couples that lasted between one and two weeks, with a spa and wellness experience," says Díaz.
Tourism focused on people over 30:
According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE), in 2019 around 23.6 million foreign tourists visited Spain for leisure purposes, of which approximately 13.3 million were 45 years of age or older.
This represents a significant portion of the overall tourism market in Spain. Thus, this type of tourism seems to be focused on this niche market, especially due to age and spending.
“These products are aimed at two age brackets. Young people aged between 30 and 45 years old, and those over 45. It is true that the tourism sector is focused on attracting tourists of a more mature age their average spending is higher", Díaz details.
The first of these "adults only " complexes in Spain, opened in Playa del Inglés, in Gran Canaria, in 2007. Although it is nothing new, this type of tourism for adults only is experiencing a golden age. According to a report by the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT), 5% of Spanish hotels are now "adults only" .
“The increase is due to the dynamism of the tourism sector, which, in constant search for new and attractive products, places this as an interesting offer for DINKS (double income, no kids), that is, two adults with salaries and no children. The average cost of this type of product is higher than that of usual tourist stays, which is why it is interesting for hoteliers", says Díaz.
According to Hosteltur, reservations for couples increased by 14% after the pandemic, in 2020 they represented 51% and in 2021, 65% all of reservations. Spain has positioned itself as one of the EU countries with the greatest offer of exclusive hotels for adults, followed by Greece and Germany.
Does the “adults only” concept discriminate against minors?
Jorge Fernández, professor of Law and Political Science Studies at the UOC, clarifies this. “Yes, the definition itself involves unequal treatment of the group of minors, which, thus stated, involves discriminatory treatment based on age”.
And can this type of accommodation deny entry to a family with minor children? "It would be a discriminatory act based on age, which would violate article 14 of the Spanish Constitution, established in the title relating to fundamental rights and duties," he explains.
"The usual practice is not to deny, but to discourage families with children from reserving or contracting accommodation in said hotels," says Fernández. The forms of dissuasion are very varied: advertising focused on adult activities, non-existence of children's entertainment, children's menus, extra beds or cots, promotion of the hotel as a place of romantic rest, etc.”
Making the reservation and realizing the mistake, with the family and suitcases in the hotel, does not give them the right to transfer those clients to another establishment.
“If the reason to justify the transfer was that it is an adults-only hotel and that children cannot be in the hotel, without doubt it would be discrimination based on age and it would not be legal. Normally, in order not to incur in said discriminatory act, reference is made to other causes that may justify this transfer, seasoned with other arguments that make the hotel to which they are going to be transferred more attractive to the family than the one in which they reserved", warns the legal expert.
Adults-only hotels advertise freely on booking websites and travel applications, to which Fernández believes that the Administration should control better.
“The administrations are not excessively active when it comes to auditing accommodation that is advertised as only for adults. And, in cases of inspections, the response of the establishments focuses on denying that minors are prohibited from entering and saying that they are simply focused on an adult public, although all types of clients can access without any age restriction,” he concludes.
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