Cala Agulla, Capdepera. | Anja Schmidt


When the founders of Mallorca's tourism industry gathered in Palma in December 1905 and constituted the Fomento del Turismo (the Mallorca Tourist Board), their vision of tourism was primarily that of the winter months. This was to change, influenced by new habits such as sunbathing that took hold in the 1920s.

Move forward to the boom years of the sixties, and it was summer and very little else. Policymakers were acutely aware of the seasonal nature of tourism in Mallorca. All the infrastructure of the resorts was being developed, only for it to be unproductive for several months of the year. Efforts were made to address this. The dominant British market was to be attracted by winter sun campaigns, but for a variety of reasons this was to go into sharp decline in the eighties. The German market filled the void and became Mallorca's number one supplier of foreign tourists - winter and summer.

But regardless of the origin of tourists, the low season of November to March never contributed more than 15% of the annual total of holidaymakers. After regional government was established in 1983, addressing seasonality was a key task for the new tourism ministry. Products like cycling and golf were on the agenda. They still are, and yet the same imbalance remains. More so in fact, as that one-time 15% is now more like ten per cent.

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The latest report from Spain's General Council of Economists has analysed tourism from 1997 to 2019. This finds that whereas other main tourist regions experienced decreases in the percentage of annual tourists for the three months of July to September, the percentage in the Balearics increased from 47.2% to 48.7%.

In real terms, low-season foreign tourism in 2019 - January to March plus November and December - was 999,646. In 2002 it had been 1,050,986. In the first quarter of 2002, there were 766,847 foreign tourists. For January to March this year, there were 670,945. The anticipation is that 2023 will set a new record for total tourism (Spanish included) and so beat 2018's 16.5 million. But in so doing, it will be by squeezing ever more visitors into the summer months.

The outgoing government has often spoken about the redistribution of tourists to the months of the low season, an objective which - based on the figures - is not being realised.