No taxi driver protests at the airport yesterday, when there was a record number of arrivals.

27-05-2017Pilar Pellicer

Image part one: taxi drivers
Given views expressed, Majorca's taxi drivers are some people's favourite villains. The protests against the tourist resort bus services are a memory from earlier in the year, when sympathy for the taxi drivers was in limited supply. If the taxi drivers had been looking for a charm offensive to win over their critics, they didn't do themselves an enormous favour on Thursday evening.

Taxi services were withdrawn for over three hours, there having been confrontations with "pirate" operators: not pirate taxis but the minibuses of transfer services, whose representatives were touting for custom at arrivals.

This has been an issue for some time. On Thursday, things boiled over when a minibus was parked along with licensed taxis. The taxi drivers complained that the open touting for business was illegal. An official from the transport ministry went to the airport and started handing out penalties to the minibus operators. Other officials arrived - from the government, from Palma town hall, from Aena - in an attempt to calm the situation down. They succeeded and taxi services restarted, but not before tourists had been massively inconvenienced.

The government responded by passing a decree which makes clear that taxis are the only form of discretionary transport that can pick up clients on the public highway and at airports. As is so often the case, and despite the transport ministry's inspector issuing penalties, there appears to have been a legal vacuum. If there hadn't been, then why was it necessary for the government to pass its decree (which, it is worth noting, had already been scheduled for approval on Friday)?

Among reaction to events on Thursday, there were concerns about the image that was given to tourists. These concerns, regardless of the taxi drivers' case (a perfectly legitimate one), were justified. Scenes like those on Thursday do nothing for Majorca's tourism image.

With order restored, the image of Majorca yesterday was a rather different one. A record number of passengers - 159,995 - arrived at the airport. And might this record have something to do with Whitsun half-term?

Image part two: beaches
The Majorca Tourist Board, which once upon a time virtually ran Majorca's tourism, was expressing its concern about image. This was to do with Es Trenc beach, where the demolition of the chiringuito bars was carried out last week. Heading towards June, and the beach has no services. The new chiringuitos will emerge this week, but the tourist board was also referring to the absence of services such as sunloungers, lifeguards and cleaning.

What has happened at Es Trenc has been a nonsense of bureaucracy. The tourist board was right to question why the bars were being demolished once the season had started. Campos town hall had no choice, as it was commanded by the courts. The awarding of beach services' contracts has been bound up with the chiringuitos and with the Costas Authority giving its approval for this year's beach concessions.

Delays in the services being supplied happen too often. Es Trenc is not the only beach where there has been an issue. In Playa de Muro, for which there are more accolades than any other Majorcan beach on sites such as TripAdvisor, the town hall explained last week that it has had its problems because of the Costas Authority. The sunloungers are now appearing in Muro, but the potential harm to image is the same as in Es Trenc and at the airport.

Holiday rentals - yet more
Palma's mayor, José Hila, was one of several city mayors who attended a forum in Madrid. Top of the agenda was holiday rentals. The mayors were as one in insisting that the Madrid government legislates in order to control websites like Airbnb. The tourism secretary-of-state observed that this control is the responsibility of regional authorities.

Regional power has been exerted. It was reported that fines of some 200,000 euros had been levied against estate agencies in Majorca for promoting illegal holiday properties. Meanwhile, and with everyone still waiting for the Balearic government's rentals' legislation, the Partido Popular let it be known that they will repeal it, if the party regains power.

Illegal street selling
At Palma town hall there were more disagreements over the prohibition of illegal street selling. Essentially, this is between PSOE and Podemos, two of the three parties that make up the administration. PSOE was pressing for prohibition anywhere in Palma to be maintained, while Podemos was asserting that there is a human rights' issue to be considered. Reaction from Bulletin readers suggested that PSOE has the stronger case.


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