Queuing for Caló des Moro beach in Santanyi. | Jaime Mora


Given that tourism is the principal industry in the Balearics, it is an important issue for the elections being held on May 28 and has been made even more so by the debates surrounding the number of tourists, tourism promotion and the tourist tax.

PSOE (PSIB) are the main partners in the current tripartite coalition. Since 2019, they have run the tourism ministry and believe that their government is the only one to have taken steps to reduce the number of tourist accommodation places. This has been through a "pioneering" new tourism law. "We do not need more places, and there are results - with fewer visitors we have historical records in terms of revenue, profitability and employment."

Unlike their partners, PSOE believe in promotion: "If we want to choose what type of tourist we want, what we want them to do and where we want them to do it, we have to do this through tourism promotion." On the tourist tax, the party says that it is "an essential tool" to solve the consequences of tourism and one to which the government has been committed since 2016.

Més per Mallorca, one of the two partners, argue in favour of a decrease in tourism and a move towards economic diversification. "We cannot depend on a single economic sector that is also unstable and doesn't distribute wealth." They would "totally abandon tourism promotion by the government", while the Council of Mallorca should replace it and focus on tourism sustainability with two objectives - a decrease and diversification.

Més would increase the tourist tax by 60%. "Half of this increase would go towards buying obsolete accommodation places, removing them from the market and using the spaces for the general interest. The other half would be to finance research projects to assist in economic diversification and a more cutting-edge and competitive economy."

The third partner, Unidas Podemos, maintain that "we must make a clear commitment to a decrease in tourism". "We are not saying it; affected sectors are saying it more and more. Even the hotel sector sees that in order to maintain the islands' well-being, it is necessary to commit to quality and not quantity. We must get away from the mass. More tourists do not mean more wealth."

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Podemos agree with Més that more tourism promotion is unnecessary. They want to reformulate the tourist tax, so that tourists would pay five per cent of the price of an overnight stay and not a fixed charge.

The main opposition party is the Partido Popular. They do not believe that there are too many tourists in the Balearics and challenge "those who speak about a decrease to say how many jobs, how many opportunities and how much well-being will need to be given up".

For the PP, "tourism promotion must continue to be done to position the Balearics as a destination for the whole year, to move away from seasonality and to a destination for cultural, sports and gastronomic tourism to attract higher quality tourism". They would keep the tourist tax, as it is accepted by the tourism sector and by visitors, "who also pay it in other countries". They argue that revenue must be allocated to what tourists are told it is intended for - the environment and the modernisation of the tourism sector, "not for concerts and scooters".

Vox, who may find themselves forming a coalition with the PP, insist that "we must not prohibit or limit the arrival of tourists, what must be done is correctly manage tourist flows". "All those who speak of a decrease are committing to an impoverishment of the people. Tourism is our main economic engine and we must take care of it." They propose promoting alternatives to sun-and-beach tourism, e.g. culture, gastronomy and hunting. So yes, there must be promotion. As to the tourist tax, Vox would scrap it.

Ciudadanos argue that "there is no reason to reduce tourism", believing that there need to be efforts in respect of the management of tourist flows, "which has not been satisfactorily addressed by the government". They advocate digitalisation of tourism through systems that will decongest the busiest areas in high season.

The Cs strongly reject "tourismphobic" messages, and for them promotion is crucial in presenting the islands' quality, excellence and high added value. "We would promote the diversification of the tourist offer - gastronomy, sports, shopping, culture, history, rural activities, hiking as well as MICE tourism (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions)." The Cs would eliminate "the tax on tourism", as it penalises "tourists and residents for the mere fact of spending a night on the islands".

El Pi favour "reducing tourist saturation through the change of use of obsolete and low-quality hotels to housing, health centres and administrative buildings". They believe in tourism promotion, "as it is essential to orientate our product through developments in terms of quality, tackling seasonality and therefore lengthening the tourism season". El Pi would maintain the tourist tax but modify the revenue allocation, so that 50% of the proceeds stay with municipalities.