Let’s consider this. Two to three hundred youthful visitors to Majorca (they could well be many more) are gathered on a street after midnight. They are making a great deal of noise. They are drinking; some are underage. Nearby residents are unable to sleep. They call the police, as they call each night, for this scenario is repeated, as it has been repeated for years. There is rubbish everywhere. Discarded bottles especially, some of them smashed. The chanting grows louder. It’s like that of a football stadium. “Olé, olé, olé, olé; olé, olé.”
Let’s consider this. These two to three hundred youthful visitors are in Magalluf. They are British. Images and videos are captured on phones. They spread like wildfire on social media. British redtops get hold of the images. Riots in Magalluf. Brit shame. These images are compounded by the fact that there are still some Covid rules in place, and these provide some additional justification. The mayor of Calvia is shocked, the CEO of Meliá is appalled, and so the Balearic government leaps into action. Shut all the bars. Ban the booze. The tourism of excesses decree, plus remaining Covid rules must be obeyed.
But these two to three hundred youthful visitors aren’t British and they are not in Magalluf. They are Spanish students and they are in Arenal, which is where they (or rather their predecessors) have been for many years. This isn’t any old “botellón”. Yes, Covid restrictions play a part. Extend bar opening times a couple of hours and reopen the clubs (this especially) and this will make some difference, but only in that there is a period of relative quiet during the night between the students being ferried off to a club and then ferried back. Before and after, and it is the kind of riot that Arenal residents are currently complaining off, only now it is going on that much longer because the clubs are shut.
The police do their best. They are attending up to fifty incidents a night. But the numbers can be far more than two to three hundred. As an officer in Playa de Palma remarked when the end of the curfew brought thousands onto the streets (of different nationalities, resident and tourist), they would need a thousand officers to stand any chance of getting round to doling out fines.
You can imagine that the police despair, as much as the residents despair, and like I despair when I hear the mayor of Llucmajor declare that there is “zero tolerance” or when the president of the Balearic government or the tourism minister says that the botellón had been banned before Covid.
What damn good is a ban when it is totally ineffectual because the police simply can’t deal with the scale of the problem? I also despair because I know full well - as will you - that if these youthful hundreds were British and in Magalluf, the responses would be very different. I despair for businesses and employees in Magalluf who could rightly believe there’s some discrimination.
I also despair of those who say, ah but, these kids have been shut in for so long on, let them enjoy themselves. No one’s denying enjoyment, but residents have a right to peace and a good night’s sleep. They should not have to endure night after sleepless night. Year after year; Covid’s by the by.
When the students returned this summer, one of the organisers pointed to the benefit for hotels. Up to 80% occupancy. Happy days indeed, if not so happy nights for residents. But aren’t these hotels, in areas such as Arenal, supposed to be part of a transformation of tourism and an end to excess, because make no mistake, we are talking tourism of excesses here? Isn’t there meant to be some sort of partnership in a movement to so-called quality tourism? Don’t make me laugh. Not when there are beds to be filled.
This isn’t only Arenal. The scale in Alcudia has never been the same, but the problems have been. Let me tell you what a one-time mayor of Alcudia told me. He could act in certain ways, but one thing he most certainly couldn’t do was tell hotels - well, one in particular - who it chooses to have as guests.
And he was of course totally right. In Llucmajor, the mayor has referred to “this type of tourism”. His words say much, as he clearly doesn’t want it on his patch, and nor did that mayor of Alcudia. Yet for all he says there’s zero tolerance, the words are completely hollow.
For as long as there are tour operators providing packages and for as long as there are hotels only too concerned with their occupancy rates, “this type of tourism” isn’t going anywhere. A mayor can’t tell businesses who to sell to. Can anyone? What about the tourism minister? Or is the demonisation of Magalluf all he cares about?