The tourism season didn’t finish on September 15

The tourism season didn’t finish on September 15

02-10-2021AAVV FORMENTOR

The Pollensa tourist office kindly sends me regular emails. They are usually to do with fiestas, guided tours and such events. One that I received last month was somewhat out of the ordinary. It was a reminder that the traffic restrictions on the Formentor road were ending on September 15. I was aware of this, but I guess that not all tourists would have been.

It was very thoughtful. From mid-September, there was no more need to get the bus. There were no more number plate readers. There was no more not getting onto the road in Puerto Pollensa unless you intended purchasing a drink and sending a copy of the receipt within three working days in order to avoid being fined. The road was free. And so what happened?

The tourism season didn’t finish on September 15. If it had, the tourist office wouldn’t have had a great deal of reason for sending out its email. No, the season was and is very much here and so, for example, there was a queue of vehicles around a kilometre long on one occasion last week. This was just one occasion that someone wished to draw attention to. There will have been others.

Formentor is a magnet for tourists (and residents). It is especially magnetic because of the amount of publicity given to traffic restrictions (their introduction and their lifting). “Why is that they want to restrict traffic? What is there to see? As it’s past September 15, let’s go and find out.” And September, as everyone knows, typically attracts a profile of tourist different to that of August, a profile which - in relative terms - hires more cars than an August tourist.

Formentor, here we come. Oh, and watch out for all the cyclists who have descended on the island, having been deprived of pedal time because of Covid. Formentor is a trophy route for any self-respecting cyclist.

The lighthouse isn’t the sole attraction. There’s Cala Murta, for instance, and the consequent rather haphazard parking arrangements. Parking on the Formentor road? Whenever have we heard that this can be problematic? Many a time but more often at the hotel rather than at Cala Murta. September 15 and there are controls and restrictions.

September 16 and there are none. The three-month restrictive period from mid-June is in order to prevent “saturation”. Once it ends, the saturation manifests itself. The complaints follow in swift order. This said, it’s not as though there isn’t still summer saturation, as there is. Cars, or so it can seem, wait in Puerto Pollensa as though they are on a Formula 1 starting grid. The light changes at 7pm and off they all hurtle.

In their midst are the occasional excursions coaches. More than the occasional, to believe the Council of Mallorca’s councillor for roads, Ivan Sevillano. He has urged tour operators and excursions providers to refrain from “inviting” potential customers to witness the sunset from Formentor. After seven o’clock in summer, the coaches start their climb on the twisting road to the lookout points, contributing to a “massive influx” of visitors.

Sevillano complains that these excursions have become fashionable. They are a “tourist offer that didn’t exist before” and generate excessive demand, thus minimising the positive environmental protection effects of the traffic restrictions.

The problem for Sr. Sevillano, however, is that excursions can’t be offered when the restrictions are in place. Operators have therefore sought and found a means of offering excursions. And what could be more delightful than Formentor with its sunset views? What could be more tranquil? Nowhere, if it weren’t for all the other people, cars and coaches.

The operators, and Sr. Sevillano may be unaware of this, have been greatly affected in terms of the range of attractions and excursions they can promote. Covid has been the obvious reason. So Formentor, after 7pm, represents a good option to plug the gap. And who, quite frankly, can blame them? Well, Sr. Sevillano for one. There may have to be a “modification” to the hours of restriction.

It may not only be the hours that the Council and others (the traffic directorate, the town hall) discuss. The dates may be up for consideration as well. Saturation has returned, and with it come the anxieties about sustainability on the Formentor peninsula. Here’s to next summer, when we will find out what solutions will be implemented. Sevillano says that an extension to the restriction hours hasn’t yet been discussed but that it will be “on the table” for future meetings.

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