Álvaro Nadal, in effect the Catalonia tourism minister. | Pere Bota


Tourism uncertainty in Catalonia and Majorca
There was a persisting sense last week of Majorca's news being overshadowed by Catalonia. While we looked at Biel Barceló's imminent departure for London and the first of the big travel fairs, we also wondered what might happen with the Catalonia stand. The national tourism minister, Álvaro Nadal, is effectively in charge of Catalonia's tourism. The word was (or words were) that it would be business as usual for Catalonia in London. It was difficult to understand how usual it could possibly be, but Nadal (and the rest of the Spanish government) needs to get a grip. We reported that bookings for international flights to Catalonia have fallen by 22% since the referendum.

UK bookings for package holidays to Catalonia were down by ten per cent, according to market research consultancy GfK. They weren't much better for Majorca - down nine per cent (figures up to the end of September). So while the latest stats for foreign tourism in the Balearics revealed a rise of over six per cent to the end of September, with the UK market providing 30% of the 12.5 million total number of foreign tourists, these numbers were released against a background of some uncertainty.

Spending on promotion
One thing was for sure and that was that the Balearic government won't be forking out any vast sums on tourism promotion in order to rectify any slump in 2018 tourism. The promotional budget is staying the same - a total of 5.5 million euros - and the promotional drive, even once responsibilities have been fully devolved to the island councils, will be the same: winter tourism.

We noted that towards the end of the 2007-2011 PSOE-led government, 22 million euros had been spent on tourism promotion. The knife was taken to that spending by the Partido Popular, whose promotional focus was in fact much the same as the current government's. The main difference was, as we observed, that the PP didn't go on about "saturation".

Low-season flights
A modest promotional campaign, that for inter-island short-stay packages, was said to have had some success. Inter-island flights were up 20%, though the increase in the residents' discount had to take some of the credit for this. News of other flights - those to Palma in the low season - suggested that there will be an increase of more than four per cent between now and the end of March. The news of this would, however, have brought very little consolation to those who encounter great difficulties in getting flights to Majorca during these low-season months.

Rentals' hopes dashed
Hopes that the Madrid government, specifically Álvaro Nadal, will come to the aid of owners of holiday rental accommodation appeared to have been dashed. The deadline for the national government lodging an appeal against the Balearic rentals legislation was 31 October. It passed, and no appeal had been made.

Meanwhile another contentious subject, the tourist tax, was once more being discussed in connection with yachts and boats. The parliamentary member for Formentera, Silvia Tur, was advancing the case for the tourist tax to be applied to recreational craft. She does perhaps have a point in that it doesn't seem just that yachts should escape the tax when cruise ships cannot. There is, though, a potentially more difficult logistical aspect with yachts. If they're moored in ports, then obtaining tax payments is probably feasible, but not all do moor in ports.

The nautical industry, for its part, was opposed, and it voiced this opposition at the same time as the government was making a great deal of the contribution that the industry can make to economic diversification and tackling seasonality. The industry itself was suggesting that employment could double.

In other news, unemployment rose in October by 21% compared with September but was nevertheless almost 10% down over October 2016; there was another major drugs raid in Palma's Son Banya shanty town; and a thief who stole an Iberian ham worth 685 euros from a Santa Ponsa supermarket faces a possible eighteen-month prison sentence.