Palma.—The Balearic Islands has lost 13 of its European Union blue flags for quality beaches this year, leaving it with 63, but retains the 22 granted to its water sports marinas, the Environmental Education division of the Consumer Association (ADEAC) reported yesterday.

The figures mean that the Islands remain a leader in Spain in blue flags of quality so far as marinas are concerned along with Catalonia where the number of flags flying this year remains the same as last.

Economic crisis
ADEAC said that despite the economic crisis, the majority of regions of the country have kept their number of blue flags on beaches and in sporting marinas.

The country lays claim to 603 in total (511 beaches and 92 marinas) meaning that one will be flying in one of every six beaches of the Spanish coastline.

The Association said, on the publishing of its blue flag list for this year that after all the additions and subtractions, there are 10 beaches less with blue flags and 8 marinas more than in 2010.

Association President José Ramón Sánchez Moro, accompanied at yesterday's presentation by Spain's Secretary General for Tourism, Joan Mesquida, described the variation between this year and last as “insignificant” What has been affected, however, said Sanchez Moro, has been the award of contract for managing the beaches because some local councils haven't been able to afford to pay the minimum number of lifeguards (two) or for the laboratory analysis of the sea water which is apparently very expensive.

These restrictions have resulted in a very visible knock-on effect in the Balearics, he claimed.
With nine beaches having lost their blue flags this year, the gain in numbers last year has been left null and void.
Global results
Looking at global results of blue flag report for 2011, Spain remains at the head of the 36 countries of the world's northern hemisphere which participate in the Blue Flag scheme.

The quality award takes into account beach accessibility for the disabled, the cleanliness of the sand and the quality of the water. “The results have been very good,” said Sanchez Moro. “Even the beaches which for one reason or another haven't got a blue flag flying over them are better than ever.” He confirmed that ADEAC doesn't provide an analysis of the whole coastline (of more than 8'000 kilometres) but only 25 percent of this distance which accounts for the beaches. Joan Mesquida voiced his concern over the eruption of another Icelandic volcano and the possible impact of its resulting ash cloud on tourist bookings in Spain.

He said that the “jewel of the crown in the country's industry remains its beaches,” which he claimed had “passed their exam with flying colours.” “One of every six blue flags flying in the world will be fluttering over Spain” said Mesquida who reported that 86 percent of the tourists who visited Spain last year (53 million) chose the Islands and the mainland coastal resorts.

Looking at the top ranking of individual regions of the country, Galicia has the prestigious blue flags on 117 of its beaches and 13 marinas, Valencia (104+12), Catalonia (86+22), and the Balearics (63+22).