67% of prospective buyers of property in various European countries would prefer to live among the local community. | VAN STOKKUM

Are you an expat and do you want to be around other expats?

Are you one of two-thirds of British expats in Mallorca who prefer to live among the local community rather than be surrounded by other expats? Before you answer, what's your feeling about being dubbed an expat? You may well loathe the word. Expat can conjure up a smugness and give rise to great generalisations. Such as preferring to be surrounded by other expats in places where expats prefer to gather.

According to property consultants at YourOverseasHome.com, 67% of prospective buyers of property in various European countries - Spain being one of them, naturally enough - would prefer to live among the local community. A similar percentage wishes to learn the language. The website's Christopher Nye says: "If our data is anything to go by, perhaps Brits aren't looking to establish Little England abroad, after all." Little England, Chris? What about the rest of the UK?

Has this really changed over the years? Maybe it has. Maybe immigrants do wish to identify more closely with their new environment and new culture. Which is as it should be. But at the same time, why should there be criticism of those who prefer the company of fellow immigrants? It's their lives to live. No one else's, though I can well understand a charge of hypocrisy if roles were reversed - immigrants to the UK sticking together and being criticised for this by the very ones who now crave the comfort of fellow countrypeople in their new land.

PALMA. LITERATURA. Kathleen Bendelack: dos cuentos, una divertida serie para televisión, una obra de teatro y una novela.
Kathleen Bendelack.

Theatre in English denied

One Briton in Mallorca who has clearly been assimilated is Kathleen Bendelack. Actress, director, screenwriter, author and illustrator, she has lived in Palma for 30 years, is married to a Mallorcan and has two children of secondary-school age. Kathleen wants to be able to stage productions in English in public theatres. This means the likes of Palma's Teatre Principal (which is publicly owned) and not Palma Auditorium, which is under private ownership. But she has run up against an obstacle. The Principal, as an example, has only been accepting proposals if they are in Catalan.

Kathleen argues that the English-speaking population and German speakers have "the right" to be able to go to the theatre to see a play in their own language, if only now and then. But doesn't this speak to a breakdown in cultural assimilation? Why should it? There are plenty of foreigners who speak perfectly acceptable levels of Spanish or Catalan, but they still have a mother tongue. From an educational point of view - and Kathleen adds that she has also been unable to take productions into schools - is there not a potential benefit? She hopes that political change at institutions in Mallorca will lead to a change in attitude towards foreign languages.

CIUDAD JARDIN - PLAYAS - El restaurante El Bungalow se enfrenta al derribo tras 39 años en Ciutat Jardí.Costas pone en su pun
Will El Bungalow be saved?

Solidarity and support come in different forms

From whatever background, there will have been a coming-together in being thankful that the president of Spain's football federation, Luis Rubiales, has finally done the honourable thing and resigned. There will also have been support from everyone for the people of Morocco. President Prohens spoke for all residents of the Balearics in expressing her solidarity. Individuals from the islands have gone to Morocco to assist, while charities on the island have been sending aid.

Judging from comments on the Bulletin website and Facebook page, there has been pretty much total support from all quarters for beach bars and restaurants threatened by demolition or by a restriction of their activity, e.g. the loss of terrace space. The orders are those of the Costas Authority, certain responsibilities for which have been transferred to the Balearic government. The new government, which has established a ministry for the sea, intends introducing legislation that will allow the preservation of beach bars that have long existed. "The protection of the coastline and maintaining traditional economic activity must be facilitated and made compatible," says the ministry.

Will this, therefore, mean that the likes of El Bungalow, the 40-year-old restaurant on the beach in Ciudad Jardín (Palma), will be spared a Costas demolition order? It may well do, but the small print of the transfer of responsibilities gives rise to some doubts.

PALMA. VIVIENDA. Los extranjeros vienen de vacaciones a la Isla para comprar una vivienda.
28% fall in property sales to foreigners.

Falling house sales to foreigners, what about a hotel instead?

Returning to foreigners and their preferences for local communities or otherwise, are their numbers about to dwindle, especially those buying at the upper end of the market? The ABINI association of real estate agents, heavily represented by firms active in the international and top end of the market, is concerned by a 28% fall in property sales to foreigners in the second quarter of the year. This follows a 31% drop in the first quarter. The figures "paint a poor picture for the Balearic economy". Do they? Or a poor picture for real estate agents?

If these foreign buyers, or any buyers for that matter, might prefer a hotel to a luxury villa, then there are a fair few of these available. The Idealista website has 111 hotels in the Balearics for sale, an increase of 23% over last year. Is this a sign of anything? Drop in tourism, for instance. No. There typically always are hotels for sale and for a variety of reasons, one being a hope to attract a foreign investor (investment fund rather than an individual). This said, Idealista is unlikely to be listing the type of hotel real estate that is at the centre of many of these investment deals.

PALMA. SON SANT JOAN. TURISMO. Los aeropuertos de Balears operaron más de una llegada o salida por minuto. Son Sant Joan estaba
Is there tourist saturation?

Cruises and tourist saturation

Richard Branson won't have his Son Bunyola hotel up for sale. Opened in June, it is seemingly linked to ambitions that Virgin Cruises have for expansion. There has been an injection of 550 million dollars into the cruise operation, with Palma being a key port. A marketing aspect would be a combination of a stay in a Branson hotel (i.e. Son Bunyola) with the cruise. Oh well, this might be a way of cutting tourist saturation in Palma by transporting cruise passengers to Banyalbufar instead.

And what of tourist saturation? The schools having gone back, and so ministers and parliamentary deputies are back at work. This week's session of parliament gave a debut to the new tourism minister, Jaume Bauzá, who was asked by the opposition whether he believed there was tourist saturation or not. Maria Ramon of Més wished to press the minister on this, concerned about a Partido Popular recipe of "more tourism and more uncontrolled growth".

Yes, the minister admitted, there is saturation in certain places and at certain times. But this certainly wasn't his fault. The blame lay with the last two governments, the first with a Més tourism minister and the second with a PSOE minister. The left-wing coalition was to blame for saturation, stated Bauzá - "115,000 tourist accommodation places were authorised over the eight years, almost 25% of the total".

aeropuerto son sant joan palma
Airlines such as Ryanair will increase seats this winter.

Extending the season?

There having been record numbers of tourists up to July at least, what are the prospects for an extension to the season beyond the normal end-of-October cut-off point? Airlines such as Ryanair and integrated operators - Jet2 and TUI - are programming an increased number of low-season seats for Spain in general, while it is being suggested that for Mallorca there will be more flight activity, if only from Germany. There is talk, therefore, of hotels in certain resorts, those popular with German visitors, being open until the start of December.

Yes, well, this is in fact the same situation we've experienced for many a year. There are hotels which remain open into November, but most of these close by the middle of the month. The focus on the resorts ignores increasing low-season activity in the island's interior as well as in Palma's old centre, courtesy of all the boutique and city hotels.

PALMA. CIRCULACION. Atasco monumental en la vía de cintura al quedar atravesado un gran camión. Perdió el control porque se l
Will the additional lanes on the Via Cintura help traffic jams?

Cutting traffic congestion and jams

Tourist saturation, as we keep being reminded, is a cause of traffic congestion. It's all those hire cars. Nothing to do with the fact that vehicle ownership in Mallorca is among the highest, if not the highest, in Spain. The new administration at the Council of Mallorca reckons that daily traffic jams on sections of Palma's Via Cintura will be cut by up to 30% if there were additional lanes. The Council is waiting for technical personnel to give the go-ahead for these. Hold your horses, say experts. The additional lanes won't be a solution to jams. They'll merely end up creating more traffic.

Public transport may of course help to cut the congestion. Unfortunately, there isn't enough of it or enough that is convenient. And there's never likely to be. Nevertheless, provide an incentive and people will use public transport. The number of intermodal cards issued to residents up to August was just under the number for the whole of last year. Transport is currently free to residents with cards. But this comes at a cost in terms of lost revenue for the government - 10.1 million euros for the first seven months of this year. It's not as yet certain if this free transport scheme will continue in 2024.