Mallorca's Abdón Prats in front of fans at the Copa del Rey final. | RCD Mallorca


Mallorca lost the final and some fans had a terrible time

Real Mallorca's dreams of Cup glory last Saturday were shattered by a penalty shoot-out with Athletic Club. On the pitch in Seville, things didn't go as had been hoped, while away from the ground there was plenty for Mallorca fans to have to contend with.

An incident started by Bilbao ultras marred what was otherwise said to have been a good-natured atmosphere in the city ahead of the match. Flares, smoke canisters, stones and chairs were thrown when these ultras invaded an area occupied by Mallorca fans. There was some retaliation but fortunately there were no serious injuries. Police intervention meant that the violence was only short-lived.

Travel to and from Seville caused a lot of headaches and a great deal of anger for the 800 fans booked on ferries to Valencia and back and coaches from Valencia to Seville. Going out was bad enough, but at least there was still the optimism of a Cup win. Returning was that much grimmer. There was strong criticism of the ferry operator, GNV, for having provided a ship that was inadequate. The number of seats and cabins was insufficient. Many fans spent the journey camped out on floors. The cafeteria service was deficient, as were the toilets. Then there were the delays in the ferry leaving port. One fan explained: "We returned more than eight hours late because only one person out of 800 was able to board at a time."

For those fans who had opted to fly, they encountered delays at airport security, where there was seemingly a repeat of what the security workers' representatives had insisted was not a go-slow over Easter. There were concerns about missing flights, passengers saying that they had to queue for more than half an hour. The airport management reckoned there were "occasional queues of fifteen minutes" but that "fluidity" was quickly restored.

It wasn't only Mallorca fans who were affected. One family on a flight to Manchester said that they spent two hours queuing for security and for passport control, the latter not having been an issue for the fans.

Backside promotion

In Seville, President Marga Prohens unveiled one feature of the 2.6 million euro sponsorship of Real Mallorca by the Balearic government and the Council of Mallorca. "All over the world we will be able to proudly display the name of the four islands by our best representatives, who are the Mallorca players," said the president, while holding up a pair of shorts with the legend 'Mallorca Illes Balears' emblazoned on them - on the backside. A headline-writer's dream, but the opportunity was not taken up. There will presumably be a shorts' rotation system so that the names of all four islands appear.

Still with Real Mallorca, the Spanish Football Federation has announced that there will be an international match at the Son Moix Stadium in Palma on June 8. Spain will host Northern Ireland in a warm-up match for the Euros, which start on June 14. It will be the first international match staged in Palma since October 2013, when Spain played Belarus in the World Cup qualifiers. The first ever was also against Northern Ireland - at the old Lluís Sitjar Stadium in March 1985.

More airport security and parking issues

Back at the airport, there was a security incident of a different type last Friday. Two in fact, as two planes bound for Germany had to make unscheduled stopovers. One was from Namibia, the other was from Morocco. It was an emergency landing by an Air Arabia Maroc plane on November 5, 2021 that resulted in over twenty passengers escaping from the plane in what was an organised attempt at illegal immigration. On that occasion, a medical emergency was faked. Ever since that incident, the security arrangements involving the Guardia Civil and National Police have been very much tighter. There was nothing untoward with either of the two flights. Unscheduled stopovers do occur from time to time, and these flights were perfectly routine in this regard.

The airport's parking regularly makes the news for the wrong reasons. Last year, plenty of attention was given to cars waiting on the access road to the parking area to pick up arriving passengers. They were doing this in order to avoid having to pay for the express parking. A few days ago a Bulletin reader drew attention to another problem - the "complete shambles" in the multi-storey car park, where the second storey had been barricaded off and many parking spaces elsewhere were unavailable because of builders' barriers.

Then there is the new scheme for transport operators' parking that the airport management has introduced. The main problem, according to the Balearic transport federation, concerns the area for VTC (transport vehicles with driver), which is also for pre-booked taxis. At peak times of the day, says the federation, there will be jams because of the sheer number of vehicles. There already is a problem, but this will become much greater as passenger numbers increase from May. The federation's president, Rafael Roig, says that the airport director, Tomás Melgar, has ignored operators' requests.

Low-season low numbers - better this way?

May is when the tourism season is officially said to start, but April isn't that far behind and certainly can't be classified as low season, the months of which are taken to be January to March and November/December. Tourist number figures show that, for all that there is now a more concerted effort to grow the low season, they are remarkably similar to what they were in the noughties. In 2023, the total number of foreign tourists was 1.05 million. In 2004 it was 1.02 million; in 2005, 1.13 million.

There has been some recent growth, but the director of the Balearic government's Aetib tourism strategy agency, Pere Joan Planes, wonders how realistic it is to grow the low season. Remarkably enough perhaps, he suggests that maybe it's better the way it is. It's probably a reflection of demand over "months of rest" that allow for improvements to infrastructure.

For professor emeritus of geography at the University of the Balearic Islands, Climent Picornell, low numbers of tourists in the low season will probably be fine. A highly regarded commentator on social change in Mallorca, he has a new book about Palma and changes the city has undergone over the decades of mass tourism. He admits to being a tourismphobe, "but only if people believe that tourism cannot have limits". "Setting limits doesn't mean being against tourism; it is about containing and reducing overcrowding and saturation."

"Ghost" properties

Picornell has lived in Palma's La Lonja district for 52 years. He says that he certainly couldn't afford to buy a property there now. "They're all Gemans and Swedes. Community meetings are in English." Tourism and foreign buying, despite denials from certain quarters, have impacted and do impact housing availability and prices.

The holiday rentals sector, constantly on the back foot in defending itself, insisted earlier this week that ever-increasing prices for long-term residential renting are nothing to do with its activity. Maybe, but the explosion in registered lets that was facilitated by 2017 legislation has led to there being some 100,000 holiday rental properties in the Balearics. The Habtur association explained that many of these are "ghost" properties that were registered but never rented out. The figure of 100,000 is therefore not real. But are these ghost properties actually being lived in?

The Golden Visa facing elimination

The Spanish government intends eliminating the Golden Visa for foreigners (basically non-EU citizens) who invest more than 500,000 euros in real estate. They get a residence permit in exchange for this investment. A measure introduced in 2013 to encourage foreign investment at a time when the Spanish economy was still reeling from the financial crisis, this visa really doesn't have much to do with the regular housing market.

Real-estate associations in the Balearics, who say that eliminating the visa will have minimal impact on the region's property market, feel that this is all a bit of a political smokescreen to divert attention from failed housing policies. And they may well be right, but the visa is nonetheless a factor influencing prices in general. The president of the college of real estate agents, José Miguel Artieda, observed in another context earlier this week that there is "always a knock-on effect" in pushing up prices because of activity and ever higher prices in the luxury property market.