Costa d'en Blanes. | Toni Diez


In 2011, I wrote an article with the headline 'The Biggest Wave: Tourism and climate'. It was against the background of a conference in Palma about the impact of climate change on tourism.

One of the participants was Sergio Alonso, now emeritus professor in physics at the University of the Balearic Islands. He made an observation similar to that made two years previously by Carlos Duarte, marine ecologist and professor of research at the Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies in Mallorca. Both were of the view that Balearic tourism would benefit from higher temperatures - not in the summer but in the low season. Seasonality would be reduced, with this reduction implying a loss of tourists in summer - it would be too hot.

That was eleven years ago, when I commented that it was a case of just how hot it might get in summer. At that time, 2003 stood out as having been something of a freak because of the heat and for its duration - from May/June to the very end of August. Since 2011, the summers have been among the hottest since records began. Between 2011 and 2021, Mallorca had the ten warmest years since records from the early 1970s.

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So the evidence is there, unless some choose to deny it (and they will). In 2022, there have been three heat waves in Mallorca, two of which have been for a duration way in excess of the three days to qualify for a heat wave. For the whole of the 1990s, there was just one heat wave. In August this year, the Montuiri weather station recorded a temperature of 44.5C, the highest ever in Mallorca.

How hot does it have to be to start deterring holidaymakers? A couple of weeks ago, a hotel receptionist related the story of a British couple who left after having spent just one night. "No one told us it would be this hot." Only one anecdote, yes, but not an isolated one perhaps, as according to Carlos Cendra, director of sales and marketing at Mabrian, a Barcelona-based travel intelligence services company, there has been a "clear drop in visitor satisfaction levels" this summer. And this has been because of the heat.

Cendra wasn't singling out Mallorca, as Mallorca is not alone in having experienced heat waves this summer, but speaking earlier this week he stressed that "if anyone thinks that increased heat is good news for traditional beach destinations, they should think again". "It's changing, and faster than we think. This is likely to change global travel trends in the coming years, so we'd better look at its effects on traveller expectations and preferences."

He may well be right. But if increased summer heat were to mean fewer summer tourists but more during the low and medium seasons, the Balearic government will see that an aim of tourist redistribution is being realised. This won't have owed anything to the government; it will have all been down to the weather.