Cutting tourism promotion
The Balearic budget for 2017, approved the week before by the cabinet (though not without some conflict), entered its parliamentary phase. No major changes are anticipated, despite opposition from the Partido Popular and El Pi and also from some elements within Podemos.
The bulk of the spending, as always, will go towards health and education, with the environment and social services a distant third and fourth. Even more distant was tourism, and part of its budget - for the Balearic Tourism Agency - was cut, suggesting that there will be less effort made on tourism promotion next year.
We noted that the low amount spent on direct promotion (typically around 3.5 million euros in recent years and devoted to travel fairs, press trips and similar exercises) was a policy started by the previous government of the Partido Popular. While there seems little need for much promotion at present, we wondered about the longer-term sense of such low spend. We also asked what had happened to some targets for the tourism agency, such as infrastructure investment which had been listed in plans but not undertaken.
Tourism minister Biel Barceló announced that there is to be a plan to alleviate "human pressure" from tourism. In essence, he was saying nothing that he hasn't previously said about seeking to distribute the number of tourists more smoothly throughout the year. Quite how he proposes to do this isn't clear, but it may perhaps require beefed-up promotional efforts in order to convince tourists to come to Majorca at times other than high season. This plan and the reduction to the promotional spend didn't smack of joined-up thinking.
The human pressure, as in the maximum population of the Balearics on a given day in high summer, was revealed. For the second year running, it was over two million people. The day with the most people was 9 August, when the population was 2,036,132, an increase of some 25,000 over 10 August in 2015.
There was much to query with this announcement. Firstly, why was it made much earlier than has been the case in the past? Was there some political necessity? The Barceló "plan" may have been this need, though we observed that human pressure is a factor in legislation affecting holiday rentals. The draft for this legislation was due last month. Had it been delayed in order that the maximum population figure could be released?
There was also a question as to how this figure is arrived at. It is released without there being any supporting evidence, e.g. the number of tourists, the number of seasonal workers, in addition to the resident population. While that is known from official census figures, it does fluctuate. Our admittedly simple calculations suggested that anything up to 300,000 people can be unaccounted for.
The island's hotels were congratulating themselves on a "spectacular" season in terms of occupancy and a lengthening of the season. By contrast, there was some evidence to back up claims from the non-hotel sector that its season hadn't been spectacular. We reported findings of a survey which found that only 12% of restaurants and other businesses in the complementary sector had a more profitable season. The survey discovered that over half the hotels had a season which was better or at least as good as 2015. The complementary sector placed the blame at the doors of all-inclusives and on lower spending power for its unspectacular season.
The ice-cream kiosk closes
It has been one of the controversies to affect Puerto Pollensa this year. The Gelats Valls ice-cream kiosk, which has existed for half a century, closed its shutters for what was probably the last time. Pollensa town hall had bowed to legal pressures and ordered its eviction. Your reactions echoed the many that have been made on social media: "an absolute disgrace"; "appalling bully-boy tactics"; "commercial greed and jealousy has killed a great stall".
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