The week started with buoyant predictions from Jorge Marichal, President of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation. Boosted by the elimination of various travel and health restrictions, Jorge said forecasts for Easter were “very positive”. He noted that the domestic market was performing very well, while the international market was recovering quickly. Sun and beach holidays remained firm Easter favourites, not least with overseas visitors, but rural tourism was also in demand, especially from Spanish nationals. That said, the hotel sector remained concerned about inflation and ongoing unrest in Ukraine. Due to airspace closures, Spain was losing more than 1.4 million Russian tourists - 2% of the total - who tend to come with “a greater spending capacity”.
On Monday, HM Passport Office urged travellers not to leave applications to the last minute. As international travel returns to normal, demand is at an all-time high and it could take up to ten weeks to receive a new blue British passport. To travel to Spain, passports must be less than ten years old from ‘date of issue’ on the day you enter and be valid for at least three months (check ‘expiry date’) after the day you leave. If you renewed your passport early, be mindful that any extra months added to a ten-year passport may not count.
Concern Over Lack of Hotel Workers
On Tuesday, we were alerted to the fact that many Balearic hotels were opening without having sufficient staff. The pandemic forced workers to leave the sector and find greater job security elsewhere, resulting in a lack of candidates for hotels to recruit from. The finger was also being pointed at the high price of accommodation in tourist resorts, pressurising some workers to look elsewhere in Spain. One solution could be for hotel companies to buy or rent apartments on behalf of their employees, without falling into the ‘piso patera’ trap (overcrowded substandard apartments). Bars and restaurants are facing the exact same problem. Eugenia Cusí, President of PIMEM-Restauración (small- and medium-size restaurant businesses in Mallorca) said the lack of waiters and chefs was very worrying: “Workers have been leaving the sector because businesses cannot guarantee them stability; there is a lot of uncertainty”.
Up in Smoke
Tuesday saw more than 3.3 tons of drugs go up in smoke. 3 tons of hashish seized by Guardia Civil in Ibiza last month, 280kg of cannabis buds from a National Police operation in Palma, and 100kg of coffee mixed with cocaine confiscated by Customs, were all destroyed at the Son Reus incinerator. Government Delegate in the Balearics, Ramón Morey, said: “It has not been three or four months (since a significant amount of narcotics was incinerated in January) and we already have material to be destroyed again, that reveals the intensity of the work”.
Flights Back to Near-Record Levels
Having revealed that Palma Airport handled one million passengers in March, just 15% fewer than 2019, Spanish Airport Authority AENA reported that we were set for a near-record-breaking Easter weekend. From Good Friday to Monday, 1,914 international arrivals and departures were scheduled for the Airport, slightly down on 2,039 for 2019 – considered to be a record year. According to data from Palma-based Dingus and TravelgateX, the Balearics were heading Easter bookings from crucial tourism markets: Germany, the UK, France and Scandinavia. It may come as little surprise therefore to hear that Majorca recently took number one spot in TripAdvisor’s ‘Top 10 Trending Destinations in the World for 2022’. Cairo was in second, Rhodes in third, and Ibiza ranked a more than respectable sixth.
Bragging Rights for UK Tabloids
On Wednesday, UK tabloids jumped on that rare opportunity to brag that parts of the UK would be hotter than Mallorca and Ibiza for Easter. The Met Office predicted a balmy 21°C in the southeast on Good Friday, versus 20°C in Mallorca and 18°C in Ibiza. On the flipside, it also issued a warning to hayfever sufferers for high pollen levels.
Lockdown Party Fines
There was no such bragging however for PM Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Both were slapped with fines from the Metropolitan Police for breaching their own Government’s COVID-19 rules and attending parties during lockdown. Boris is thought to be the first sitting prime minister in history to have broken the law. His wife Carrie has also been fined.
Wednesday bore rather better news for RCD Mallorca as Palma City Council extended the use of Son Moix stadium to the Club for a further 25 years. This prolongs the existing 40-year agreement which came into force in 1999 to 2064. Plans for a comprehensive 20-million-euro remodelling were also given the go-ahead. Works will begin on 16 May and include the removal of the athletics track to bring football fans closer to the game. Further stands will be constructed in its place.
High Demand for Car Hire
Despite fears that war in Ukraine would negatively impact Easter tourism, the President of the Association of Car Rental Companies (AEVAB), Ramón Reus, said on Wednesday that vehicle reservation was at 85% for the following five days – and expected to rise with last-minute demand. Some firms were struggling to satisfy the strong appetite due to a lack of cars – a shortage that will become acute in July and August. There are some 50,000 fewer cars in the Balearics than in 2019, resulting in sharp price increases of up to 300%. Meanwhile, Police are conducting an Easter Week crackdown on ‘pirate taxis’ at Palma Airport. They will patrol drop-off and pick-up points and could issue fines of between 6,001 and 12,000 euros to those who provide discretionary public passenger services without the required authorisation. Needless to say, legitimate taxi drivers were already benefitting from large tourist numbers, with Wednesday’s poor weather also helping to boost takings.
Balearics Very Expensive
National Institute of Statistics (INE) data published on Wednesday revealed that the Consumer Price Index (IPC) in the Balearics had shot up to 9.4% in March compared to the previous year – the highest since 1985. Increases in electricity, fuel and food prices are to blame. Similarly, the cost of Balearic housing continues to rise – whether renting or buying. According to the Tinsa IMIE (Index of Spanish Property Markets) the sale price of new and used housing in the Balearics registered a year-on-year increase of 5.9% during the month of March.
Holy Thursday Crowds
The largest of Palma’s Easter Processions, Crist de la Sang (Christ of the Blood), took place on Thursday evening – the first time since 2019. The five-hour procession featured 5,000 members of the City’s 33 brotherhoods and attracted a huge number of spectators. In contrast, the Spanish Royal Household announced that they would not be attending any official engagements in Mallorca this Easter. Aside from 2020 and 2021, it has been a tradition since 1995 for the Royal Family to attend Easter Sunday mass at Palma Cathedral. Back in the UK, Queen Elizabeth indicated that she would neither attend the Royal Maundy Day or traditional Easter Sunday services at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. She celebrates her 96th birthday next week.
Hot in Majorca
Despite the UK tabloids’ bleak predictions, highs of 24°C were confirmed in Majorca on Friday, beating the 23°C recorded in London’s St James’s Park. The glorious weather is set to continue all weekend and into Monday.
And finally, the Guardia Civil is appealing for help to track down a stolen black Lamborghini Huracán. The 250,000-euro supercar was pinched from an address in Calvià on 6 April. Anyone with information should get in touch, given an assurance of “total discretion and anonymity”.