Magaluf, where the decree now covers less area than it used to. | Miquel À. Cañellas


As I imagine you well know by now, the tourism of excesses decree (renamed responsible tourism and quality improvement in tourist zones) applies to only four places in the Balearics. In Ibiza it covers part of Sant Antoni. In Mallorca there is a part of Arenal (Llucmajor), a stretch of Playa de Palma and a now shrunken area of Magalluf.

Excluding Sant Antoni, these three places are, to all intents and purposes, just two. Arenal comes under both Llucmajor and Palma, and the tourism of excesses decree for Playa de Palma basically means the Palma Arenal. And so the decree, however one wishes to call it, is like glorified municipal ordinance issued by the three town halls; there are, one should note, 53 municipalities in Mallorca.

In reality three for two - which isn't a binge-drink bar offer of the type that is banned - and these two places have long been the only resorts in Mallorca in which politicians can invest any political capital or seek bold initiatives for lavish financial investment. As was the case with the much-publicised redevelopment of Playa de Palma that was to eventually collapse under the weight of sheer political incompetence. In Magalluf, public money eventually came to the aid of the transformative party that was Meliá's bid to create Calvia Beach. Shamed by the level of private investment, Calvia town hall and other authorities finally got their arses in gear. In Playa de Palma, of course, the hoteliers and other businesses are still waiting.

All of this has gone to emphasise what we all know, which is that politicians have little interest in resorts other than the two that are assured of generating the most headlines, even if bad headlines outweigh the good. Ah yes, but if there's bad, look at how much better we (an opposition party aspiring to be in government) will do. It is more than fair to say that Magalluf and Playa de Palma have acquired unwelcome reputations and that they are both economically important. But then so other resorts are important, while anti-social behaviour isn't confined to the two bad boys.

After the Partido Popular took over last year - the government, the Council of Mallorca, Calvia and Palma town halls - it was made clear that the decree would be amended because it had somehow failed. The early reporting of the reform appeared to indicate that the scope of the decree, in a geographical sense, would be much greater. In fact, an impression formed that it was going to apply to the whole of Mallorca.

This clearly isn't the case and presumably never was. The reformed decree is largely inconsequential and what it doesn't do is truly get to grips with responsibility on the part of some businesses, foremost among whom are certain hotels and providers of holiday rentals.

The decree, as noted, can seem like municipal ordinance writ large, as elements of it reflect what town halls had already introduced. Other municipalities have their bylaws to do with behaviour, for example, but they have not chosen to adopt the decree, which does have extra bite, despite having the possibility to do so. Capdepera has been the most obvious example. The town hall decided against the decree for a part of Cala Ratjada on the grounds that anti-social behaviour is supposedly only short-lived during the summer - around a month.

How long should it last then or was Capdepera scared off by a decree stigmatisation? The PP government believed that the tourism of excesses title was stigma enough to warrant a name change, but this hasn't altered Capdepera's thinking.

But the various provisions, e.g. banning street drinking, all fail to miss a point, which is the responsibility for seeking to ensure that there isn't irresponsible behaviour in the first place, and this is where accommodation providers are absolutely in the firing line, or should be. They cannot vouch for all guests, of course not, but they will have a pretty good idea or indeed know full well who they are booking in. Two small examples relate to a hostel in the Foners district of Palma and to a holiday villa in Marratxi minus licence and advertised as a disco club. By the hostel, neighbours are enduring their third summer of hell since it opened in 2022.

This is neither the so-called quality tourism that everyone appears to crave and nor is it responsible, and the providers are to blame. As with local ordinance that Calvia first introduced and which contemplated the closure of bars, so accommodation establishments should be subject to the same threat. Which is where a genuinely responsible tourism decree begins to acquire real teeth when it is clear - or should be - that certain organised bookings undermine the very principle of coexistence. Into this equation, therefore, come Alcudia as well as Cala Ratjada. In Palma, meanwhile, it is evident that issues aren't solely confined to Arenal.

It's not, as far as I can see from the decree's texts, that such sanctions couldn't be applied because of references to competence for policies of general interest, public order, public health and safety. But would this ever happen? How much responsibility does the government truly require?