It has been a busy week in Mallorca. | MDB Digital


What a performance

Foreign media whose Mallorcan awareness stretches no further than Magalluf and Playa de Palma would have been consulting their maps. It was quite possible that some people who live in Mallorca would have been as well. Where was Sa Rapita? And, moreover, why had it been chosen as the location for some sort of tourist demo?

In case anyone doesn't know, Sa Rapita is in the municipality of Campos, a coastal municipality which has a relatively low tourist profile, save for Es Trenc, which is on the same stretch of beach from that of Sa Rapita by the yacht club. So, last Saturday morning at 10am, and despite having been a Saturday, this part of the beach was all but empty. Except, that is, for twenty or so people staging a 'performance' and a roughly similar number of media representatives.

It was all blown up totally out of proportion - both the build-up and the reaction. The people who had gone to the beach weren't against tourism or tourists per se, and they made this clear. They had been motivated to protest by a stupid remark by a Vox member of the Balearic parliament - "We Mallorcans ... cannot expect to go to the beach in July and August as we did years ago."

Anyway, that was that for the time being and until June 16, when there will be another performance at Caló des Moro. The Mallorca Platja Tour group announced that it will start at 8am. Which is just as well, as they would be hard pushed to find parking spaces if they left it later. A touch more traffic congestion in Cala Llombards will perhaps thus ensue, unless they all arrive in a flotilla of pink flamingo lilos that had curiously appeared in Arenal in far greater number than Sa Rapita protesters. What were these lilos all about? Hard to say, but they didn't have anything to do with any protest.

Concerns about tourist overcrowding

Tourist overcrowding continued to the theme of the season. Unsurprisingly, therefore, an opinion survey by the Balearic Institute of Social Studies found that this ranked alongside unaffordable prices for buying or renting a home as the public's two main concerns. Low salaries ranked third. Was the Balearic government correctly addressing housing problems? Opinion - yes and no - was split more or less evenly.

Reports about the housing situation are published regularly. The latest comes from the Sociedad de Tasación (valuation). 'Evolution of accessibility to housing in the Balearic Islands over the last decade' pointed out that the "effort" required to buy a home in the Balearics is far greater than anywhere else in Spain. Taking salaries as the reference for this effort, the report revealed that 19.9 years of full salary is required to buy a house. The second highest effort in Spain is in the Madrid region - under half of that of the Balearics, 9.3 years.

Still on tourist overcrowding, the government announced that it will be launching a website to which Balearic residents will be able to make contributions. This website will be asking for views and concerns. It will be complementary to a huge survey of public opinion which is unlikely to be carried out until after the summer. Findings will feed into the working parties being set up following the large meeting that the government called last week for a hoped-for social and political pact for economic sustainability.

How much 'saturation'?

Apropos tourist 'saturation', the European Commission's Eurostat presented figures which showed that the Balearics lag some distance behind certain other destinations if this saturation can be measured in terms of visitor overnight stays. In 2022, there were 56 overnight stays per inhabitant of the Balearics. These were well below two Greek islands with the highest ratio - Mykonos and Santorini both with 110 per inhabitant. Other destinations ahead of the Balearics were the Ionian Islands (Corfu et al), Croatia's Adriatic coast and South Tyrol.

There again, that was 2022, as overall tourist numbers in the Balearics leapt by 1.3 million in 2023. What about 2024? Forecasts have suggested that a further two million tourists could be added. Maybe. For the first quarter of 2024 (not a reliable whole-year indication), there was a 20% increase. Earlier this week, the figures for April were released. While foreign tourism to Spain as a whole was up 8.3%, in the Balearics the increase compared with April 2023 was just 1.15%. Combined with national tourists, the increase was 0.29%. The early Easter may well have been a factor in this modest rise.

Very little can seemingly happen in Mallorca without it being somehow linked to overtourism. Thus we had complaints about restaurants on Palma's Passeig Born using public benches for their customers. They shouldn't of course do this, and the town hall will be fully justified in fining them. But was this because of the Book Fair on the Born and the fact that terraces had been reduced for the fair? A connection with overtourism was spurious.

The collapse of FTI

If we want a reduction in tourist numbers this summer, will we have Germany's FTI to thank? Europe's third largest tour operator filed for bankruptcy on Monday. Analysts believe that this will have less impact than when Thomas Cook went under in September 2019, but it obviously will have some considerable effect. This said, part of the reason for FTI's difficulties was that bookings had dried up because of concerns about its viability. There was the announcement of an acquisition by US investor Certares in April, but authorisation for this wasn't due until end-August at the earliest. There was a short-term cash flow crisis on top of accumulated debts.

El Gobierno canario asegura que la quiebra de FTI no se parece a lo vivido con Thomas Cook

Might other tour operators step in and benefit? TUI said recently that there was no more capacity for growth in the Balearics; there was more than enough business as it was. Perhaps it will find that there suddenly is capacity.

Related news

'Boobies' on the beat?

Whatever the number of tourists, there are never enough police. Reinforcements for the state security forces - Guardia Civil and National Police - have been arriving from the mainland, and there was talk of there perhaps being some British police in Calvia (Magalluf most obviously). Police from other countries have been common enough in recent years, but an experiment with British police was tried in 2015 and not repeated. It all seemed like a bit of a publicity stunt, although there can be benefits. German police in Playa de Palma have been useful and been welcomed by German holidaymakers. If there are British coppers, can we look forward to the local Spanish press repeating the spelling error of 2015? Bobbies were 'boobies'.

In Calvia, the Guardia Civil presented its summer operational plans, which will run until mid-October and will make use of drones. There were images of officers armed to the teeth, but this was nothing unusual. Apart from anything else, it has to be remembered that the risk of terrorism is ever present.

Cutting the Magalluf red zone

The amended tourism of excesses decree, now dubbed responsible tourism and quality improvement, has had a pretty dramatic effect in Magalluf. The red zone to which the decree's provisions apply has been cut by 90%. This was the estimation of an opposition councillor at Calvia town hall, Natí Frances, who was highly critical of a reduction which means that the decree now applies almost solely to the Punta Ballena strip. Frances complained that the change will mean, for instance, that bars can once more have "aggressive offers like 2 for 1 and 3 for 1".

The Partido Popular and Vox administration at the town hall says that it is "committed to positioning Magalluf as a safe and quality tourist destination". The previous regime would prefer that "stigmatisation" of bars, restaurants and supermarkets is maintained, thus causing a large area to be harmed.

Extra security concerns for Arenal

Arenal in Llucmajor is also covered by the decree, and police and residents are preparing for the annual invasion of end-of-course Spanish students. An estimated 25,000 students, not all of them in Arenal, are expected between mid-June and the first week of July. They may only represent a tiny fraction of overall tourist numbers, but amidst all the hyped-up publicity given to a minority who insist that tourists are not welcome, the students are unfortunately a segment for which there is pretty much universal agreement. They aren't welcome and they bring very little in terms of economic benefit, except for a very limited number of businesses.

While security is being stepped up because of the students, police in Arenal may face an additional problem. Established communities in Palma's Son Gotleu district have been successful in driving out young Algerian men who started arriving in the district some four months ago and were accused of committing all manner of crime. The police feared that the conflict in Son Gotleu could simply mean that these Algerian men would move elsewhere. This is what has happened, and there was almost a lynching in Arenal as a result.


Tackling mosquitoes from the air in Palma

On Tuesday, Palma town hall took to the air to tackle tiger mosquito larvae which have been detected in some parts of the city. The action centred around wetlands within the city which are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Using an especially equipped helicopter, more than 40 hectares of wetland were sprayed using special chemicals. The town hall said that the use of the helicopter was more than necessary because it could achieve within hours what an army of health officials could do in days.

The operation was said to have been successful although a further one isn’t being ruled out.
The tiger mosquito, originally from Southeast Asia, is an invasive species in Spain. It can bite at any time of the day or night, and the bites have been known to pierce clothes.

British tourist fined for damage to a Magalluf hotel

On Tuesday, a court in Palma sentenced a British tourist to pay a fine of 480 euros for having caused damage to two hotel rooms in Magalluf last summer. At 7.20am on July 28, he was in room 411 of his hotel. He climbed across to the balcony of 412 and smashed the glass door to the room. He then left the hotel.

At 8.45pm on the same day, he tried to get into his room - 216 - but the hotel had blocked his access. He managed to get into 217, climbed over to the balcony and again smashed the glass door. On this occasion, he encountered officers from the Calvia police force. He became aggressive and kept shouting “fxxx you” at the officers.

He paid the estimated cost of the damage - 1,600 euros - but still faced criminal proceedings. At the hearing via videoconference on Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to causing damage and to resistance to authority.