Magaluf restrictions. | MICHELS


I once imagined a scene at 6.30 in the morning in late summer in Magalluf. The last ever tourist (British) of excess, brainless on account of several bowls of vodka-based concoction, his arse hanging out of Union Jack shorts, was ceremonially escorted away by the Guardia Civil and taken to the airport, never to be seen again.

Mayor Alfonso Rodríguez declared that after many a long decade of battle, Magalluf was now finally excess-free. The Relief of Magalluf was mirrored by events in Arenal, where Mayor José Hila was observing as the last ham and beer were eliminated from Schinkenstrasse and Bierstrasse.

What is Magalluf any more (and by extension Arenal also)? Jet2’s Steve Heapy said in his recent interview with the Bulletin that he really didn’t know what Magalluf was any more. His words, when you stop to think about them, were pretty damning. The CEO of a major tour operator, and he neither knows what Magalluf represents nor what plans there are.

Damning words, because despite nigh on ten years of Meliá-led transformation, the message has failed to get across to some of those who matter, such as tour operator CEOs. The failure isn’t Steve Heapy’s; it’s someone else’s.

The Rodríguez-Hila message would of course be that soon, very soon, their respective resort zones will be free of excesses. By implication, this means that never again will drunken tourists be laying waste to the streets, while they may also hope that gangs of drug dealers, illegal street sellers and so-called prostitutes evaporate into the ether.

The message to be boomed from the rooftop of the Balearic parliament building would be delivered by Iago Negueruela, reminding us all of the words he spoke inside the building in early February last year. “It was time to act with forceful, necessary and courageous measures that banish certain practices from our territory.”

When the government’s tourism of excesses decree was approved by parliament sixteen months ago, the tourism minister stated that the decree and a “commitment to tourism quality” may cause “difficulties or harm”. For whom? That was obvious enough. He added that when the tourism season ended, he was willing to open a “broad debate” in order to modify what had been proven not to work.

The debate never materialised because there barely was a season, but the short part that there was resulted in the closure of establishments selling alcohol. Punta Ballena, Schinkenstrasse and Bierstrasse were effectively closed down.

The 2021 season is staggering like a drunk before it has even started. But if it finds its legs, the government is prepared to tackle the drunks and the excesses. There will be special surveillance by units drawn from the local police, the state security forces, government inspectors (tourism, health, consumer affairs) and with the collaboration of the relevant town halls.

For now, there is the curfew and there is the limit on social gatherings. Nightlife is shut. These restrictions are going. Preparations there are to deal with the potential consequences.

The tourism of excesses decree obviously still applies and without modification because no broad debate was entered into. What, however, of the specific order that closed the bars, clubs, restaurants and shops selling alcohol? It doesn’t apply any longer, and if the government were minded to reactivate it, the courts might not be as amenable this time. You can play the Covid card once. But twice?

In outlining the surveillance for this summer, Negueruela said: “It is a type of tourism we cannot afford and that could jeopardise the entire season this year. No one wants it - not employers, not workers, not the government.”

Yes, but then there are employers and workers who have been hung out to dry. There are businesses which have made investment in wishing to maintain some sort of pace with the Meliá-isation process. There are others which would probably love to but which have been devastated financially.

We do sort of know what the bigger picture is, what Negueruela means when he has referred to taking a “long view” through the commitment to tourism quality. At the same time, however, he has accepted that there are those who may be caused harm by the decree, while there is enough uncertainty about the profile to leave Steve Heapy wondering whether “young groups of guys and girls” are welcome.

What happens if there is just the one incident this summer that is captured on video and which goes viral and has its images splashed all over the pages of British or German papers?

The thing is that you can’t just will all excess away. There may come a time when there is the ceremonial removal of the last tourist of excess, but in the meantime there has to be empathy and support for businesses and workers who, through no fault of their own, have suffered, while there also needs to be absolute clarity as to what Magalluf is.