Over eighty leading representatives of the tourism industry, security forces, government agencies and ten European countries gathered at the Hostelry School in Palma yesterday to take part in a day-long conference to address the problem of "booze tourism", among other issues.
Opened by President Armengol and chaired by the tourism minister, Bel Busquets, the overall aim of the conference was to draw up a white paper, a road map, which will be sent to Brussels for approval and, it is hoped, implemented across the European Union. This would include the UK, which could prove complicated post-Brexit.
The key speakers were pleased to have been able to gather together so many important people to discuss a serious problem. This applies to certain resorts, to airlines and airports and implies the general security of holidaymakers and residents and the the extra pressures booze and drug tourism exerts on the Balearic health service.
The health minister, Patricia Gomez, underlined that while the regular population of the Balearics is 1.1 million, just over 16 million tourists come to the islands each year. This works out at an extra 350,000 people per day who are not accounted for by central government in the national budget.
The Swedish representative for the European Commission of the Regions, Ewa-May Karlsson, accused national governments across Europe of failing to properly address the problem of binge drinking, especially by minors, while "leaving the regional and local authorities to clean up the mess - at a great cost".
Everyone unanimously agreed that steps need to be taken to tackle booze tourism which, according to both Armengol and Busquets, only involves a minority in the Balearics "but causes massive damage to the region’s image". These steps include getting a grip on the problem at source, starting at airport bars and on flights.
A representative for the Palma police spoke about how German tourists arrive on the island drunk and simply continue drinking until they go home. Three-day "fiestas" in Playa de Palma, organised in Germany, are becoming increasingly popular among young people.
At the moment, the Balearics are working on various promotional and awareness campaigns. By promoting alternative attractions to sun and beach tourism, it is believed that more "quality" tourists will come to the Balearics and that booze tourism will therefore contract and the season will lengthen.
Among ideas put forward were greater restrictions on the hours during which alcohol can be sold, the proper implementation of existing laws governing the age of drinking and purchase of alcohol, scrapping happy hours and increasing the minimum price of a unit of alcohol.