A March day in Palma. | Jaume Morey


Growing low-season tourism in Mallorca and the Balearics has been the ambition of governments and business ever since the days of the tourism boom of the 1960s.

Whatever perceptions there may be to the contrary from decades past, the low-season months of January to March and November/December have never contributed particularly significant percentages relative to the annual total numbers of foreign tourists.

The ambition has therefore always existed, and recently there have been renewed efforts to grow the low season. In January this year there was an 8.4% increase in foreign tourists to a total of 139,268; in February an 18% rise to 214,451.

It's not as if there isn't current growth, but if one compares these five low-season months in 2023 with the noughties, one discovers that they are very similar. The percentage of foreign tourists over those five months was 7.3% of the annual total. The actual number was 1,049,833. In 2004 it was 1.02 million; 2005, 1.13 million; as late as 2008, 1.09 million.

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The percentages were therefore higher, e.g. 11% in 2004, when there were 9.27 million foreign tourists for the whole year. There came a dip after 2008, as there was with all tourism, because of the financial crisis. In reality, the islands' low-season tourism is only now at a stage of recovery.

For the whole of 2023 there were 14.41 million foreign tourists, over five million more than in 2004. The explosion in tourist numbers, and it's the same for the Spanish market, has been over the other seven months of the year. April and October have been especially dramatic. In April 2003 there were 471,117 foreign tourists; last year there were 1,182,897. In October 2003, the figure was 577,178; in 2023, 1,473,640.

Real growth in the low season continues to be elusive, regardless of what gets said about a lengthening of the overall season. And the director of the Balearic government's Aetib tourism strategy agency, Pere Joan Planes, wonders how realistic it is to grow the low season; significantly, that is, and for now at any rate. But maybe it's better this way.

"Air connectivity is low and so is the number of hotels that are open." This is probably a reflection of a demand that simply doesn't provide more for the five months. If there were the demand, he adds, businesses wouldn't spurn the opportunity. "Perhaps these are months of rest that allow us to improve infrastructure, to carry out work that doesn't coincide with the start of the season. We have to be realistic."