What will be the consequences of the Mallorcan tourism law on future holidays? | R.L.

0

There is a new tourism law for the Balearics or, more accurately, there is a decree law of urgent measures for the sustainability and circularity of tourism in the Balearic Islands. This is the title, the text having been published in the Official Bulletin last Friday. And with this publication, the decree law came into force - 34 pages of it plus 38 for the annexes.

This is not a general tourism law. Were it, there would be many more pages, while it would not have been presented as a decree law. As it is, the use of the decree law tool - for which there is justification in the text - does seem somewhat excessive. It will be subject to parliamentary process, but the content - regardless of President Armengol suggesting that parliament might make improvement - is as good as done and dusted.

Opposition parties have complained about there being a decree, and one has some sympathy for that view. The government, however, has determined that its measures are so urgent that legislation cannot wait for the protracted period that would typically be required. The urgency may be debatable, but the legislative procedure probably makes little difference. The three parties of the government have all been involved in the drafting, as this is a tourism law that genuinely does cut across other areas of government.

This was why Juan Pedro Yllanes, Podemos and minister for energy transition, and Miquel Mir, Més and minister for the environment, were given equal billing with Armengol and Iago Negueruela of PSOE at the Friday presentation. Their names, as president and minister for the economic model, tourism and employment, appear on the law document, but it clearly has been a joint effort.

Més aren’t totally satisfied, the party leader in Mallorca, Lluis Apesteguia, having highlighted all-inclusive and the number of tourist accommodation places as issues of concern. Més have been wanting tougher regulation of all-inclusive for some time, but the decree doesn’t deal with this.

As to accommodation places, which Més would like to reduce, the decree freezes new ones for four years. Island councils have to come up with plans to indicate what each island can sustain in terms of tourist numbers. An implication is that they are likely not to want the new places that have been frozen - 8,486 in the case of Mallorca - or not want all of them. There wouldn’t be a reduction but nor would there necessarily be an increase.

However, a four-year period includes the next elections. Might a political change, a shift to the right, challenge the thinking about accommodation places or indeed the main tenets of the decree? That’s doubtful. Across the political spectrum, there is an acceptance that a growth in tourist numbers is not needed. Nor is it wise in the broader context of sustainability, for which there is also general political agreement.

The losers in the accommodation places stakes are holiday rentals. The Habtur association has a legitimate beef in saying that it feels cheated, but its voice is an isolated one in taking issue with the key principles of the decree.

The hoteliers, by and large, are content. The president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Maria Frontera, has described the law as “ambitious” and a consequence of “intense negotiations” with Negueruela’s tourism ministry. Yet while the federation is satisfied, can this be said for all hotels? There is much that smaller ones will find burdensome, such as the circularity plans. In the case of larger hotels, some have already implemented plans or are on the way to doing so.

The sustainability and circularity criteria feed into what is contained in the annexes - the revised classifications of stars for hotels and keys for tourist apartments. There are 345 elements to be scored for stars, 271 for keys. It is these classifications which get to what this decree means for tourists, for their experiences of accommodation. Holiday rentals, not subject to a classification system, will nevertheless be expected to adhere to certain criteria, e.g. for saving water.

Ultimately, any tourism law, however it is dressed up, is about tourists. Whereas much of this wouldn’t have been of great significance to tourists even a few years ago, it now is. It’s no longer enough to talk about sustainability, it has to be demonstrated, visible and experienced. Enhanced quality comes as a natural consequence of this sustainability.

Generally, therefore, it seems a decent enough piece of legislation. As to quality over quantity, then so be it. Everyone was calling for it anyway, long before Armengol and Negueruela made it a maxim in presenting the decree. But quantity, save for the freeze on accommodation places and a reduction in places in exchange for increased facilities in hotel grounds (if hotels choose), is not a specific of the decree. A halt to growth yes, but there is no mandated de-growth.