No one knows how many vehicles there really are in Majorca in summer. | Jaume Morey

According to data from the traffic directorate, there will be some 805,000 cars on Balearic roads this summer. Of these, 120,000 will be hire cars, and the total is the highest it has ever been.  

On top of the cars, there are lorries, vans, motorbikes, buses and coaches. The total number of vehicles is therefore over one million, 80% of them in Majorca. Around three-quarters of the 120,000 hire cars are in Majorca. The directorate's numbers indicate that there are more vehicles (853) per 1,000 inhabitants in the Balearics than any other region of Spain.

The regional tourism ministry argues, though, that it is impossible to know exactly how many vehicles there are. Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director general, says that the traffic directorate's numbers are based on registrations in the Balearics. But the actual number of hire cars is unknown. This is because various rental companies are not transparent in revealing the number of cars they have. In addition, there are cars that tourists and seasonal workers bring to the islands.

The Balearic Transport Federation notes that there has been an annual increase in the number of vehicles. Between 2014 and 2016, there were over 6,600 more lorries. The number of buses/coaches went up by 153, while the number of cars increased by more 32,400.

Residential tourism, which is one way of describing holiday rentals, has been a major factor. This type of tourism has grown significantly in the past five years, and the use of vehicles has reflected this growth, which has been more dramatic in Majorca and Ibiza than in Minorca and Formentera.

Carbonell stresses the need for accurate figures. Without them, appropriate action to avoid traffic "saturation", which occurs in some heavily tourist areas, is made more difficult. All interested parties need to work together, she insists. "We must have precise data in order to set parameters and therefore minimise the impact of traffic."