Booze on board
Ryanair recently clarified the business with carrying ensaïmadas as hand luggage on flights from Mallorca. A minor issue this was, ensaïmadas being unlikely to be the cause of antisocial behaviour by passengers. Altogether more serious is the taking of booze on board, especially booze belonging to British tourists bound for Palma and five other Spanish airports. Ryanair announced a ban and said that there would be checks on hand luggage at boarding gates to ensure that no alcohol was being smuggled on. As to what may be bought at airport shops, the airline has introduced a policy for this as well, which includes having it tagged on an item of cabin baggage and put in the hold.
Arenal, the capital of excess
But why was Ryanair adopting these measures now? Over the past week, it has appeared as if British tourists are all eminently well behaved and that the drunks are all German. A headline read: “Arenal and the failure to curb tourism of excesses.” Residents were once more complaining about young tourists (overwhelmingly German) who are drunk twenty-four hours a day, sleep on the street or a bench for a couple of hours before getting up and resuming the drinking, and are now doing so from March to September.
On top of the Germans, the residents have to put up with the Spanish students. But for how much longer? It is estimated that the number of students on end-of-course holidays this summer is down by around 7,000 from 25,000 in 2022. The CEO of a tour operator specialising in these holidays explained that the island has become increasingly expensive, while institutions in Mallorca discriminate against this type of holiday. “The island is no longer a pleasant destination for young people,” opined Juan Manuel López of Delem Ocio.
Reforming the tourism of excesses law
In Arenal, the residents will be hoping that the downward trend continues or that the students all relocate to the Riviera Maya, which is apparently more suited to a Spanish student’s pocket and where they don’t have a tourism of excesses law. This said, Delem Ocio may be a business like others which hope that new administrations at institutions - the Balearic government, Council of Mallorca, town halls - will find a way to reform the law.
In Magalluf, which has been spectacularly failing to rival Arenal in the tourist-excesses news stakes, businesses are demanding that there is reform to deal with what is said to be arbitrary application of regulation and discrimination due to there being an area of the resort which is subject to the law and another area which is not.
It is claimed that businesses are being closed on the basis of criteria adopted by individual police officers. There is too much which is open to interpretation. And this is especially so when it comes to a provision of the law regarding the objectification of women. The law doesn’t specify examples of what this means. The closure of the Stereo Temple club because of an alleged breach on the grounds of objectification of female dancers highlighted the lack of definition. Moreover, it pointed to the discrimination. In the other part of Magalluf, a club could have a similar dancer and nothing would be said.
But it’s a case of law and order
While new institutions may address issues such as a lack of definition, it would be most unlikely that other aspects of the law and regulations under town hall ordinance governing Magalluf, Arenal and Playa de Palma will fundamentally alter. Much of this does, after all, come down to law and order, and the Partido Popular (and Vox) are keen to stamp their authority in this respect. Palma is very much a case in point, and one of the first acts of the new mayor, Jaime Martínez of the PP, was to call a meeting with the security forces.
Magalluf boring? Not for everyone
So, don’t expect there to be a dramatic about-turn in Magalluf, where British tourists are said to be vowing never to return because the booze crackdown has made the resort boring. A report cited an article in the Daily Express, which quoted one tourist (45-year-old Sarah Stewart from Northern Ireland). Having been going to Magalluf for over twenty years, she was of the view that there is now “zero attraction” because of all the “ridiculous” regulations. Happy hours and drinks’ promotions have been outlawed, and it would be surprising if they were to now be permitted.
The Express article actually went on to report on “positive changes” as explained by the CEO of Cook’s Club in Magalluf and by the founder of Party Hard Travel, who said that Magalluf is “upping its game” and “is growing up as a destination”.
Flights’ nightmare - same as ever
For British tourists, whether they (one of them anyway) are bored with Magalluf or not, there is the prospect of a “nightmare summer” on account of problems with flights. This nightmare wasn’t in fact as nightmarish as it had seemed, as heading the list was the cancellation of four Air Europa flights to or from Palma because of a pilots’ strike. Air Europa doesn’t operate any UK routes. And nor does Air Nostrum, which also has issues with its pilots.
Otherwise, yes, there are concerns about air-traffic controllers (mostly French) and security personnel at Heathrow, but the nightmare is really no more than travellers are unfortunately having to get used to.
Brits working in Mallorca’s holiday sector
While much has been made about the impact of Brexit on Britons’ air travel, there hasn’t been any change in some respects, e.g. passport control that was in place prior to Brexit. The impact of the exit has of course had an effect on freedom of movement and so freedom of movement of labour. The UK travel association ABTA and an organisation called Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT) produced a report which pointed to a 69% decrease in the number of UK citizens working in the European Union holiday sector - down from 11,970 in 2017 to 3,700 this year.
Mentioning the likes of holiday reps, the report stated that the challenge of being able to take on UK workers is now the number one concern for growth over the next five years by UK travel companies. ABTA and SBiT have therefore called on the UK and EU governments to work towards changes of regulations, such as the 90-day rule.
A failure of economic diversification
Mallorca is a destination which has been greatly affected by these restrictions on UK workers. This is because of its huge popularity with UK holidaymakers, a reflection of a tourism sector that is so crucial for the economy.
There has been much discussion of the island’s over-dependence on tourism, something that the pandemic dramatically exposed, if indeed it needed exposing. In this regard, the Forum de la Societat Civil, a grouping of environmentalist organisations, the PIMEM employers federation, unions and others, presented a report which concluded that this dependence has intensified since the pandemic. Diversification into other areas, such as technology, isn’t happening, and the economic weight of tourism has increased.
Spending in restaurants down 20%
The pandemic, as we know, greatly harmed Mallorca’s bars and restaurants. Once the restrictions were lifted, there was a boom. Everyone was going out eating and drinking again. However, the CAEB restaurants association has been suggesting that bars and restaurants away from the island’s resorts and other tourist areas are now having a hard time. Spending by residents in May and so far in June is said to have fallen by 20%. Inflation is being blamed for this, even if the Spanish rate of inflation (for May) was 3.2%, the lowest since July 2021.
Still, this is what the association reckons, and it adds that bars and restaurants, which themselves have incurred increased costs, dare not put up prices too much (if at all), as people simply can’t afford higher prices.