There was a rapid response to the story about restaurants and bars in Mallorca this week complaining about a drop in trade. | M.A. CAÑELLAS


The restaurants' lament

Periodically, Mallorca's restaurants offer us an impression of how business is. Rather like the island's hotels, this tends to be a general impression - excellent, good, not so good, etc. But by contrast to the hotels, for which there are reasonably reliable indicators independent of hotelier announcements, there are none for the restaurant sector. So we end up with this general view rather than anything more specific and we have to take their word for it, even if there may be a dose of special pleading (either stated or unstated). What might this pleading refer to? How about prices, those of, for example, flights and hotels? Visitors are having to spend more on their holiday travel and accommodation and are therefore spending less on eating out.

This is how a line of argument will typically go. But although the president of the CAEB Restaurants Association didn't use it earlier this week, Alfonso Robledo did have something to say about prices. Restaurants have not increased prices, as they are aware that customers have less spending power due to inflation. By implication perhaps, he was alluding to greater expense elsewhere.

Prices and quality

What actually was a report about less business during the week in June (weekends are fine) turned into a Bulletin debate about restaurant prices and quality. No wonder there are fewer diners; the restaurants have put their prices up so much, and some of the fare is mediocre. This was a gist of what was said, again always allowing for generalisation and the limited nature of personal anecdote.

PALMA - Cort amplía las terrazas ante la indignación vecinal.La Federació d’Associacions de Veïns pide reunirse de urgenc

Sr. Robledo explained that there has normally been no difference between, say, a Monday or a Saturday. "We were always full because people who are on holiday don't take account of the day of the week." But this year, only the weekends have been doing well. "We don't understand what is happening, as there are more and more tourists, according to what they say."

Some Bulletin readers clearly felt that they could help his understanding - it's your prices, those that Sr. Robledo insisted hadn't gone up. We then entered the realms of the peculiar and of the inaccurate. In the former category came an observation about "study trips", i.e. Spanish students on end-of-course holidays. These were, the restaurants' president argued, indicative of a profile of June tourist who isn't in the medium to high spending power bracket. Eh!? How long have there been student holidays? Why should this June be any different? It was nonsense.

Fewer tourists? No

Pedro Fiol, the president of the Aviba travel agents association was meanwhile misquoted as having said that there are fewer tourists in Mallorca. He didn't say this. What he did say was that tourists are spending fewer days on the island. This is a fact. Average duration of stay is around 6.5 days (last year's figure). But this wouldn't have any impact on restaurants, unless there were in fact fewer tourists, which there are not. There are more likely to be more because occupancy figures are around what would normally be expected.

Returning to prices, and the National Statistics Institute informed us that hotel prices in the Balearics in May went up by 7.7% compared with the same month last year. This rise was below the national average of 8.1%, and nationally the highest ever number of overnight stays for a May was recorded. People are therefore still spending, but maybe they are being less extravagant than they were once all the Covid shackles were removed. Restaurants spoke about a boom because of the post-Covid splurge. Could it just be that 2024 represents a readjustment to a more normal level of spending?

DEIA - EL CHIRINGUITO MAS VIP.El restaurante CaÂ's Patró March, ubicado en Cala DeiÃ

Beach restaurant terrace under threat ... again

Meanwhile, one restaurant found itself up against the environmentalists GOB, and not for the first time. Can Lluc is the other restaurant in Cala Deya; not the one that featured in The Night Manager. Its brush with GOB has to do with its terrace and the use of 23 tables, 60 seats and three benches, as has been the case for years. The restaurant is seeking renewal of permission from the Balearic government's coasts department, there having been an issue with the state Costas Authority and GOB in 2022. It was maintained by GOB that the Coasts Law does not allow occupation with fixed facilities on beaches that are considered to be natural, which is the case at Cala Deya.

Cloudy day, it must be Soller

In roughly the same area of the Tramuntana as Deya, there was a rerun of earlier in the year of jams on the road to and roads in Soller at the weekend. The scenes of traffic congestion in the Soller area were a significant factor in what amounted to an about-turn in Balearic government thinking on tourism sustainability. The Partido Popular started to talk about limits.

The jams were on an overcast day, and it has long been the case that Soller is very popular with visitors when it is cloudy. It's partly a 'saturation' problem, partly a case of looking for something to do that involves a road infrastructure not designed for the volume of traffic it gets. A telltale sign of when these jams occurred, by the way, were images with cars covered with the remains of muddy rain.

Saturation isn't just tourism

Talk of saturation inevitably brings us to the protests, the latest on which was a report about coordination of efforts on the four islands. Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera all have their tourism protest groups, and these have come together under the slogan 'Let's change course, let's set limits to tourism'. They plan "an intense season of protests" across the four islands. These will highlight the harmful impacts of the current tourism and economic model in the Balearics.

All the stuff about saturation must also take account of the growing population. In relative terms, the Balearics have experienced one of the highest population growths among Spain's regions in recent years, and the National Statistics Institute (INE) points to this continuing to the case for at least the next 15 years; the INE predicts a 19% increase in both the Balearics and Valencia. By 2039, if the forecast is accurate, there will be 1,47 million inhabitants. The figure on January 1 this year was 1.23 million. The population growth is largely due to immigration.

Lifeguards striking

While there have been a couple of beach protests related to tourism, might we see a different type? Lifeguards at beaches in Calvia have announced their intention to go on strike on July 7. They say that they are understaffed, that absences aren't being covered and that they are still waiting for the supply of two rescue boats. These should have been available when the lifeguard service started for the season on the first of May. The lifeguards union in Calvia holds both the contractor and the town hall responsible for the situation.

Menorca diving and protesting

You don't get lifeguards at private pools, but they might just be useful if people muck around and put themselves at risk. 'Balconing' doesn't just refer to the practice of climbing from one balcony to another, it also applies to diving from balconies into pools. It is generally illegal, but what happens if the property is private? In Menorca, a resident, with supporting video evidence, reported a group of Mallorcan teenagers who were staying at a nearby property for the Sant Joan Fiestas and who were diving into the pool from the roof. The police said they couldn't act because it was private property.

The fiestas in Menorca have offered the sensationalist media in the UK another protest outrage opportunity, this one being different in that it has been directed at Mallorcans and people from Catalonia.

Such is the exodus from Mallorca for Sant Joan that Alcudia town hall had this year established three temporary car parks for those taking the ferry. The travel to Menorca is news every Sant Joan, but it hadn't really been protest news until this year. Yes, there have been rumblings in the past, but residents now gave full vent to their views. "Mallorcans go home. Catalans go home. Sant Joan is not a business, it is a feeling. Enough of overcrowding."