Partido Popular leader Biel Company visited beaches affected by Storm Gloria.

26-02-2020

Coronavirus and conflicting information
Coronavirus inevitably dominated last week's news, and it is hard to imagine that it won't continue to for the foreseeable future. There were possible positive cases in the Balearics, but these were all swiftly declared as negative. Anything coronavirus grabs the headlines.

The national and regional governments were establishing protocols. Spain's tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, announced protocols for hotels, ports, airports and areas with high numbers of visitors. In Spain, the number of positive cases started to rise, while in the Balearics there is currently just the one. Protocols adopted by the government in Palma will include the possibility of allowing anyone else who tests positive to stay at home. Otherwise, the health ministry was keen to get proper information out to the public.

There was conflicting information about the impact of coronavirus on tourism. Iago Negueruela, the Balearics tourism minister, believed that there was no risk for the main tourism season. Then we had the Majorca Hoteliers Federation suggesting that there had been cancellations for Easter and the summer, before the national confederation of travel agencies said that sales for Easter and the summer were performing well.


Bureaucracy and the beaches
In Cala Millor and other resorts in the northeast and east of Majorca, the greater concern was about the condition of the beaches and promenades. This was because of the damage caused by Storm Gloria. Bookings for the summer will suffer unless beaches are regenerated and infrastructure repaired.

Not for the first time these problems highlighted the role of the Costas Authority and indeed of the Spanish government. Beaches are ultimately the responsibility of the Costas and therefore the state. Depending on location, promenades can also fall under the Costas. Town halls are quite willing to get on and fix things, but their hands are often tied because of Costas bureaucracy.

A good example is provided by S'Illot. Affected by Storm Gloria, it had also been harmed by the 2018 floods. Manacor town hall was having to wait for the Costas to inform it who was responsible for what in S'Illot; this went on for months. Apart from the question of Storm Gloria emergency funding from the state, there is now also the same bureaucratic issue. Bulletin readers have suggested that tourist tax revenue should be used to get the beaches and promenades back into shape. Even if the Balearic government were to contemplate this (and Manacor town hall is suggesting that it should), it's hard to know whether it can; the Balearic government doesn't have the responsibility.


Port responsibilities
Responsibilities were also a factor in Palma. The regional government requested that there be new arrangements for cruise ships as from 2022. It had to make the request, this one to the Balearic Ports Authority (APB), because it has no powers for the five State Ports in the Balearics, of which Palma is the most important. The APB is the State Ports authority in the Balearics.

The request was agreed to, and so new criteria will apply from 2022.


The ongoing airport row
Meanwhile, exactly the same situation regarding responsibilities determines what happens at the airport. The Spanish government, and that means Aena, 51% of which is still state-owned, can have the ultimate say, but the airports authority had taken note of pressure regarding its plans for Son Sant Joan by announcing that there would be a "reformulation" of the project. This wasn't good enough for opponents, and it was never likely to be good enough; a protest is to be held on Sunday afternoon.


Protesting retailers
Small retailers in Palma, who regularly complain about their lot - competition from malls, online selling and illegal sellers, plus the market liberalisation with regard to the winter and summer sales - now have more to worry about: the town hall's so-called mobility policies. Over a thousand shops closed for an hour on Thursday. This was a symbolic gesture to add to protests.

As with the town hall's terraces regulations, the administration's constant references to consensus sound like mere words.

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