Tourism minister Iago Negueruela was having meetings in Palma and Berlin.

02-03-2020Jaume Morey

Hysteria and cancellations
While the seriousness cannot be played down, the hysteria can most certainly be played up. Coronavirus was spreading a fever of social psychosis. No one seemed immune. For Majorca and the Balearics, there was the concern - a big concern - about tourism. A government which has on occasion been accused of being anti-tourism was discovering, again, that tourism is all important. Thomas Cook had proved that, and now coronavirus was adding further proof.

The Palacio de Congresos fell victim. A medical conference was called off. In fact, the national organisation for doctors' institutes and health ministries (national and regional) were wanting all medical conferences called off. The least risks that the medical profession can itself be exposed to were paramount. The health of health is absolutely vital.

The tourism priority, for now, was Easter which, it was reported, was already a washout. Was it? There were sources, such as the Palma-based Travelgate company, whose analyses suggested that Easter bookings were "intact". The national federation of travel agencies believed that cancellations had peaked and that bookings were now in a sort of standby mode.

For foreign tourism, the Balearics tourism minister headed to Berlin, where he met Tui representatives. There was to be regular monitoring of bookings, he said, as if this regularity of monitoring was something that Tui doesn't habitually do anyway. Far more important than the minister actually going to Berlin was Tui deciding to cut prices and offer cancellations free of charge. This way, it is hoped, reservations will be boosted. If there are then cancellations, well at least they have tried, and they were not alone - Globalia and Meliá were among others to adopt the same policy.

January woe and the air tax
Coronavirus, we concluded, had done the Balearic government a bit of a favour. It had completely diverted attention away from the news of a 27% fall in foreign tourism in January. What had been the cause of this? Good question, and it was not one for which the tourism minister had an answer as he said nothing about it. The shaky German economy was probably the main reason.

The Spanish government's air transport tax was also being pushed into the background, but not to the same extent. The Balearics association of travel agencies said that the tax would be unjustified and discriminatory - this discrimination being against people who have no alternative but to travel by air, which is the case in the Balearics (ferries not being a genuine alternative for most travellers). The association did admit, however, that it didn't know what the small print of the tax proposal contains or will contain. An exemption for flights to and from the mainland is likely, while the rate for economy-class international flights may only be very low.

The terraces' battle in Palma
Ever since the left-wing "pact" came into power in Palma in 2015, there has been an ongoing battle over the city's terraces with the bar and restaurant sector. The revised public way bylaw was the responsibility of Podemos, and the Podemos town hall spokesperson, Alberto Jarabo, is the one who is now leading the battle on behalf of the pact.

There are two key reasons for provisions in this bylaw. One has to do with noise, hence earlier closing times for terraces, another with freeing up space for pedestrians.

The removal of terrace enclosures comes under the latter and was the latest development in this terraces' saga. There was some misunderstanding. Taking down these enclosures does not mean that people will have to sit on terraces under a baking sun. Of course it doesn't mean this. Bars and restaurants will provide parasols instead. The real nonsense of the bylaw concerns the winter months, which is when the enclosures are needed.

It was the latest development, but it certainly won't be the last we hear about it.

Mad about the Costas
Capdepera's mayor, Rafel Fernández, was again fuming about the Costas Authority. It would not allow the town hall to go ahead and fix problems caused by Storm Gloria in Cala Ratjada. The mayor had every right to be mad.

The Costas are lending very strong support to the Balearics demand to have management of the coasts. The situation with the beaches is utterly ridiculous, and it needs sorting out pronto.

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