Gorg Blau reservoir in the Tramuntana mountains.

01-02-2016Xesca Serra

The collapse of Low Cost
The announcement of the collapse of the Low Cost Travel Group on Friday the week before last produced the inevitable ramifications last week. The Balearic tourism minister Biel Barceló attacked the fact that holidays had been sold up to hours before the announcement was made. The closure of the Palma operation led to the loss of some one hundred jobs. Amid the talk of claims by holidaymakers and businesses, little was said about this human side of the story. Those employees will feel entitled to think they are being overlooked and to therefore be angry.

Through the week it emerged that various hotel chains in the Balearics had ceased working with Low Cost because it had a reputation as a bad payer. There were all manner of questions to be asked of the affair. Where was Paul Evans, the "holiday guru" who had founded Low Cost? Had the Balearic government, in effect the regulator of the Majorca operation, been aware of the company's difficulties? The local travel industry had been or at least had suspected there were problems. What was happening to the claims for compensation against the 1.24 million euro bond that Low Cost had deposited with the government? Why had that bond been reduced from the original two million that was deposited? Indeed, why had a bond of this value been paid, when Balearic tourism law specifies far lower values?

This is an affair that will certainly continue. Barceló is due to do some explaining to the Balearic parliament this week.


Tourist tax: the spending commission and holiday rentals
The minister was meantime busy heading the newly constituted Commission for the Promotion of Sustainable Tourism, the body that will decide how tourist tax revenue is to be spent. So many organisations and divisions of government are represented on this commission that we described it as a camel of a commission created to design a camel of "purposes" for which the tax is intended. It seemed easier to identify who wasn't on the commission and which purposes weren't being lined up. As one of you observed: "It's amusing they are now holding meetings to decide how to spend a tax that was imposed before an agreed reason for it was thought up."

An aspect of the tax is its application (or not) to so-called unregulated private holiday accommodation, which means properties not registered as such accommodation with the tourism ministry and most obviously refers to private apartments which, under Balearic tourism law, cannot be marketed using terms such as "holiday" or "tourist" (among other rules).

The tax agency said that the tax will apply to these unregulated properties. The next day the association for tourist apartments, Aptur, said that it could not be applied, only for the tax agency to reply that it could and must be applied.


Heat and water
Last Sunday we reported that the Aemet meteorology agency was hedging its bets as to whether there was a heatwave coming Majorca's way: to qualify as a heatwave there need to be three successive days of temperatures of a sufficiently elevated level (the definition of a heatwave varies from country to country). On Tuesday the heatwave was confirmed, though as one of you pointed out it was hardly of the same order as last summer when elevated temperatures lasted for several weeks and produced one of the hottest summers on record.

The summer weather, whether exceptionally hot or not, does nothing for the island's water reserves. While drought has yet to be officially declared, there are municipalities on the island which are experiencing greater difficulties with supplies than others. Town halls in the Tramuntana mountains are among the worst affected, with Banyalbufar in particular running short. We were grateful to David Lee for also pointing out that Algaida has had water restrictions for rural properties since early June.

In Palma, where the town hall has been forced into using a good deal of desalinated supply, the councillor who is president of the Emaya municipal services agency, Neus Truyol, was saying that hotels in the city may have to pay more for their water. Average consumption in hotels is significantly higher than average domestic consumption.

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