Arrivals at Palma Airport; this was a scene in 2022. | Juan Luis Ruiz Collado


Are there celebrations for record seasons in Mallorca and the Balearics any longer? In terms of tourist numbers, they are more matters for concern, great concern because of overcrowding and the stresses that human pressure brings to the islands.

In 2023, the total number of tourists increased by a staggering 1.3 million to 17.8 million. In 2024, it is not inconceivable that this total could increase by a further two million - touching 20 million, twice as many as at the start of the century.

It doesn't follow that data for the first quarter will be repeated in other quarters, but they are an indication. The Balearic Statistics Institute reported a 17% increase in tourist arrivals between January and March this year.

An indication, but the national tourism agency, Turespaña points to a 14% rise for the whole of Spain in May, and the Balearics have assumed national leadership when it comes to the greatest percentage contribution from May to October, a status that Catalonia once had. The Mallorca Hoteliers Federation is forecasting a 15% increase in reservations for high summer. When figures for programmed airline seats are also taken into account, 20 million doesn't sound so outlandish.

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Climent Picornell, professor emeritus of geography at the University of the Balearic Islands, has made his own calculations - growth of between 15% and 18%. As well as the forecasts from various sources, he says that the number of illegal accommodation places have to be added. "These have multiplied exponentially in recent years. They have done so in both the holiday rental sector and the hotel sector with overoccupancy and undeclared rooms."

A further factor, it might be noted, is that length of stay has fallen. This was by around one day in 2023. While it might not sound a lot, it does point to greater turnover of guests. Hotel occupancy hasn't changed. For August, as an example and according to the Balearic Statistics Institute, this was 90% last year, as it was in 2022, 2019 and 2018.

For Picornell, the fact that a Partido Popular government is talking about containing tourism growth for the first time is "a very important turning point", caused by congestion on the roads that this year started very early - "much earlier than in previous years".

Picornell accepts that tourist overcrowding isn't a problem that is confined to Mallorca, to the Balearics or to other regions of Spain; it is a global phenomenon. "It's happening all over the world." He believes that attempting to limit port and airport arrivals are "utopian proposals". "The only way that Mallorca and the Balearic Islands can act is by limiting the number of tourist accommodation places."