The New Year period is typically a calm time for news, as calm as the weather has been. It came as no huge surprise when the Aemet met agency announced that December in Mallorca and the Balearics had been “extremely warm” (in relative terms). The average temperature in Mallorca was 14C, which was 2.8C above normal. The calmness of news was inevitably punctuated by incidents on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. But even the 191 incidents in Mallorca that required police attention were considered to have represented a fairly quiet night. The fire brigade in Palma had to deal with a house that caught fire after a rocket hit an electricity panel and caused an explosion. Elsewhere, a rubbish container was set ablaze. Just a normal Saturday night in Palma in that regard, given the regularity with which idiots torch containers. The year end and there were also the inevitable annual reports. One of these came from Eurocontrol. Performance 2022 revealed that Palma Son Sant Joan Airport had entered Europe’s top ten busiest airports for the first time. Tourism reactivation last year was of such a level that Palma registered an increase in the number of flights compared with 2019 - up 1.5%. It was the only airport in the top ten to have recorded an increase. The reactivation didn’t extend to the number of passengers; not according to forecasts from the Aena airports authority. It expects that Palma will have ended the year with having handled 28.5 million passengers, down by 1.2 million compared with pre-pandemic 2019.
The return of Covid controls The airport was gearing itself up to reintroduce Covid controls, ones for Chinese travellers. The two main Spanish airports that receive Chinese travellers - Madrid and Barcelona - are the first to have these controls. Palma doesn’t have China flights, so Chinese tourism - as it was pre-pandemic - is negligible. But according to official figures, there are some 10,000 Chinese residents; the Chinese association reckons the unofficial figure is significantly higher.
Investing in Mallorca’s resorts The island’s tourism was otherwise getting a boost in terms of funding. The Spanish ministry of industry, trade and tourism is distributing EU Next Generation funds for “tourism recovery, transformation and resilience”. At present, 245 million euros out of just over 2,000 million have been allocated to the Balearics. What will be done with this money? Apart from projects for tourism circularity (the Balearic government’s big thing), there will be investment in regeneration of “mature resorts”.
One scheme starts while another one ends The keenness to both promote public transport and to alleviate the impact of inflation has prompted the funding of public transport - free services to residents in possession of the necessary cards (the Intermodal Card for Mallorca; the Palma Citizen’s Card). The scheme for buses kicked in on New Year’s Day. A report suggesting that it had got off to a slow start with no great increase in passenger numbers appeared to overlook the fact that it was New Year’s Day. Another scheme, the 20 cents per litre fuel discount, came to an end on New Year’s Eve. There was some evidence of queuing at petrol stations to take advantage of the last day or two of the discount, but the association for service stations in the Balearics said the scenes were nothing like in parts of the mainland, where there were long queues.
The empty homes of Deya In Deya, the town hall has a scheme for encouraging the use of empty properties for social rent. It will fund rent payments to owners and give 95% rates discounts. There are, it was reported, an awful lot of empty homes in Deya - 196, the town hall has counted. For the most part, these belong to businesses and the rich, both foreign and Mallorcan. They are permanently unoccupied, meaning that there are no registered occupants and that they are not being used for the purposes of an “economic activity” (holiday rental). As government census statistics are some years out of date, it was difficult to calculate the percentage of empty homes. But those stats point to under one thousand dwellings, so at least 20%.
Building ban More on a housing theme, and one of the parties in the Balearic government and Council of Mallorca’s coalitions, Més, was advocating a complete ban on new building on so-called rustic land, which, more often than not, means rural land. Més would allow exceptions - agricultural buildings and social housing. Its proposals aren’t actually that different to moves being made by the government, while in Minorca there has been this sort of ban for a number of years.