Tropic of Mallorca
We are well accustomed to "tropical" nights in summer, the met agency term for when overnight temperatures don't drop below 20C. But tropical nights in the first fortnight of March? What was going on? Well, anticyclonic conditions being blown on strong winds from the west and southwest were what was going on, and they resulted in two consecutive nights when Mallorca was indeed tropical; parts of it anyway, Palma and Pollensa specifically.
Naturally enough, there were the "record" temperatures, although it eventually turned out to have been "record" temperature - singular. A daytime 27.1C at the Portopi weather station in Palma was initially evidence of a record high for Mallorca in March. This was before it was explained that the 27.1 was a record for the weather station and not the whole island. As it happened, Son Servera knocked out a 28.4C on the same day, which wasn't a record.
The only way is spying
With such splendid weather, it was understandable that someone might have decided to set out on a 30-hour journey in a van from England to soak up the winter rays. For those of us of a certain footballing vintage, it appeared as if a star of England's campaign at Italia '90 was on his way. But no, it was The Only Way is Essex Mark Wright and not the ex-England defender, who wasn't arriving for the sun but in order to fix a "nightmare experience" with builders at a flat he owns. We all shared his pain. Possibly.
Worse than this, however, was a revelation that Mark and millions of other Britons will be "spied upon" this summer. Good grief, was there a Chinese balloon hovering over the Balearics? No, it was Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE). Several months ago, the INE let it be known that it would be trialling a sort of Big Data exercise of tourist movements by logging phones. All of a sudden, as in the past few days, this became a Big Data big issue, but it's all to do with potential management of tourist flows, so there is no spying, unless there really is a Chinese balloon up there, while it isn't confined to Mark Wright and fellow countrypeople or indeed to the Balearics.
Getting the chaos in early
The statisticians in Madrid may be able to shed some light on the movement of British tourists at Palma Airport; or rather, their non-movement. Yes, the season is yet to begin, but the annual passport chaos is already doing the rounds. This is thanks to easyJet's Javier Gandara in his guise as the president of the ALA association of Spanish airlines. The annual story with the annual main ingredient, as Gandara was bemoaning a lack of National Police. This was mainly at Madrid Airport, where it isn't Britons who are inconvenienced so much as thousands of South American travellers (plus others, like North Americans). He added that tourist airports, such as Palma, will also be affected. Here we go again.
Could it be that the airport has to handle even more tourists than had been thought this summer? The DRV and ABTA travel associations in Germany and the UK are understood to share a nervousness that was evident at the ITB Berlin fair about tourism to Turkey. This is because of the earthquakes and a perceived threat from Russia. German airlines and tour operators are apparently wishing to ensure a "trouble-free summer" and are therefore looking at rescheduling flights from Turkey to safe destinations, with Mallorca top of the list.
The Silicon Valley effect
This all said, it was economists and banking analysts rather than statisticians who were poring over the news of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in wondering if tourist movements might in fact be curbed. Risk of recession having receded, it was now returning and bringing renewed uncertainty for the tourism season and for the Balearic economy. Forecasts of possible record tourist numbers and for economic growth may prove to be wrong.
Banca March pointed out that a deterioration of financial conditions is occurring "at a time when the loan market was giving the first signs of slowing down and commercial banks were already increasing restrictions to the granting of loans to companies and for homes".
Banking crisis and housing emergency
So, might this banking crisis take some of the heat out of the property market and of all the arguments that continue to rage? A Palma conference of real-estate industry representatives - architects, builders, developers and estate agents - concluded that "structural reform of the current housing model" was needed and that this has to be long term and not determined by individual political parties. More land is needed for social housing and regulations need to be amended to allow taller buildings.
While these were among matters discussed at the conference, housing issues in the Balearics had become a political matter at national level for Podemos. The party's minister for social rights, Ione Belarra, said that Podemos will be pressing Pedro Sánchez and PSOE for limits to non-resident home buying in the Balearics (and the Canaries) to be included in the new housing law. Stressing that there is a "housing emergency", Belarra linked non-resident buying to "abusive" rents that are being charged.
The European Commission was meanwhile "hitting back" at Balearic plans to limit foreign buying. This hitting back was in fact a restatement of what everyone knows to be the case - that it is not possible to apply restrictions under existing EU law. The European Commissioner for the Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness, had responded to a question about all this from Rosa Estaras, who is a Balearic MEP from the Partido Popular, the main opposition party, in making clear what is common knowledge. Estaras, one can conclude, was not seeking this clarification because she is supportive of Podemos demands.
Demolition in Andratx
Given that there is a housing emergency, it doesn't seem unreasonable to propose that properties at risk of demolition should be spared and used to assist with this emergency. Twelve properties in Cala Llamp (Andratx), each valued at 600,000 euros, have been at the centre of a legal battle for several years. They were built illegally in that approval for their construction on non-developable land was given by the one-time mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo. He was arrested in late 2006 and was later imprisoned, the Cala Llamp development having been like the Monport site, another one that should never have gone ahead. Monport is to be demolished and a Palma court has now ruled definitively in favour of the Cala Llamp demolition.
There are pros and cons with the argument for sparing such developments. But ultimately, if they remain, then owners, people who paid in good faith for them, would have a legitimate right to them - and no one else. It's an understandable proposal but somewhat unrealistic.
Manacor - for right and wrong reasons
Rafael Nadal has given his approval for a statue to him to be created in the square with the family home. Manacor town hall had commissioned a design and had been seeking Nadal's input before going ahead. This is some bright news to emerge from Manacor, where otherwise it emerged that a fire which devastated the JYSK furniture store last Thursday might have been better contained. It would appear that there was only one fire water inlet in the shopping complex and that this was not compatible with fire brigade hoses, while the store's own system lacked sufficient pressure.
Two habitual robbers were arrested by the National Police for breaking into vehicles in Manacor tourist areas such as Porto Cristo and Cala Varques. Both in their seventies - one is the resident of a home for the elderly in Palma - they have amassed some 170 arrests between them over the years. Also in Manacor, but going back several years, a man contacted the Guardia Civil about the disappearance of 15-year-old Malén Ortiz in December 2013. He said that he had information as to her whereabouts - in a well at a golf course not far from where she was last seen in Magalluf. There was a search, but his story was total fabrication. He had somehow been hoping to get a 10,000 euros reward, as he was unemployed and needed the money.
This came to light among other information regarding the investigations into Malén's disappearance. The recent search of a finca having brought no new news, it has been reported that the Guardia Civil are using special software to reconstruct number plates of some 300 vehicles that were recorded in the area of her disappearance.
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