Frontur figures indicate that the number of tourists claiming to stay with family and friends have more than doubled between 2014 and 2023. | J. MOREY


Family and friends

The National Statistics Institute (INE) has shed some light on one of the great unknowns of tourist accommodation - the number of visitors who either stay in their second homes in the Balearics or who stay with families or friends or who, and just as likely if not more so, stay in a property owned by family or friends who aren't there.

One says shed some light, as there remains just as great an unknown. From statistics contained in the Frontur surveys of tourist movement, for which the INE is responsible, it isn't possible to distinguish between staying with family and friends and staying in illegal holiday rentals. The assumption is, therefore, that of 2.3 million people who apparently stayed with family or friends in 2023, a sizeable number were in fact in illegal lets. How many? No one of course knows. The INE certainly doesn't.

Illegal lets, and it has to also be said the legal ones because of the growth in their number before the last government applied a moratorium on new places, are often mentioned as being a cause, if not the cause of tourist overcrowding. The Frontur figures indicate that the number of tourists claiming to stay with family and friends more than doubled between 2014 and 2023. There were around one million ten years ago. Total tourist numbers for the same period rose by 32%, with 2023 having accounted for a particularly large increase - 1.3 million more tourists to 17.8 million in all.

As for people staying in their second homes, there were 975,800 last year. In 2014 there were 780,451 - a 25% increase, therefore, but in the general scheme of things, not on the same scale as the 'family and friends' tourists.

Consulting the citizens

The Balearic government, who got so alarmed by images of traffic congestion that they decided to seek a social and political pact for sustainability, have launched the website that was promised a few weeks back for citizen consultation on sustainability - tourism sustainability more than anything. This isn't in the form of a questionnaire, as citizens are invited to give their thoughts on a range of issues, e.g. tourism strategy, transport and social sustainability, which correspond to the working parties being established for the pact. The website address is

At the airport

In terms of transport, it has been reported that Palma Son Sant Joan Airport now serves more routes than ever - 147 airports in thirty countries. The Palma focus is on European flights, and the director, Tomás Melgar, believes that this is how it should remain. The third busiest airport in Spain, it doesn't act as a large hub like Barcelona and Madrid, to and from which there are long-haul flights. An exception is the United Airlines New York service. Melgar says that if there is an "interesting" long-haul route, such as the successful New York route, it will be studied.

The airport director has also been speaking about a reorganisation of facilities that is scheduled to be undertaken this winter. There will be two major changes, one of which will see the two security control areas being made into one and moved to a location to the rear of the check-in counters. This new security control area will, Melgar explains, be the largest at any European airport. The technology will include 44 scanners and artificial intelligence for determining what is inside luggage.

According to Melgar, the average waiting time at security filters is currently four minutes per passenger. He says that it is difficult to improve on this, but if the new technologies make it faster, "then so much the better". The system will be more convenient for the passenger and less invasive.

The other development will involve the existing security control areas becoming "a traffic and commercial distribution plaza". Based on the layout at Barcelona Airport, there will be corridors off this plaza for the different modules and boarding gates.

Driving very slowly

Around Easter last year, there were regular ugly scenes at the airport involving taxi drivers and 'pirate' transport operators, often minibuses that don't have permission to pick up passengers unless there is a prior booking. The two sides eventually got together, called a truce and came to an arrangement whereby minibuses could pick up if there were more than four people in a group.

This wasn't a formal agreement with the government and specifically with the ministry for mobility. Inspectors from the ministry have been handing out fines to minibus operators, and so drivers of the vehicles decided to stage a protest. This was in the form of a very slow drive along roads inside the airport, which meant delays for taxis, coaches and other vehicles.

Taking refuge in the mountains

Any tourists whose destination is the Tramuntana for a spot of hiking are unlikely to be concerned by a slow drive to their base. They have all day to go hiking, even if this is now the low season. The Council of Mallorca points to the spring high season - March to May - having been a successful one for their refuges in the mountains. The number of guests isn't great by any means, but there was a 21% increase this year to a total of 15,459 guests at the six refuges. The busiest was Tossals Verds in Escorca (3,302 guests). The season does now extend into June, the refuges having accommodated 3,183 hikers last month, an increase of 9.3%.

Desperate for booze

Back in the resorts and one of those covered by the tourism of excesses decree in particular - Arenal - there is evidence of a way in which the ban on the sale of alcohol by shops between 9.30pm and 8am is being flouted. A method is for customers to pay for booze at one shop, where alcohol isn't being sold, and collect it from outside a different unit which is for storage purposes. A check is made to ensure there are no police and bottles of alcohol are handed over.

Really - the lengths people will go to in order to sell and buy booze are both extraordinary and pathetic.

Police "personal reasons"

Arenal is in two municipalities - Palma and Llucmajor. It is in the latter where this booze-selling is happening and it is also where the chief of police would appear to have had enough and has in effect resigned. Sergi Torrandell is one of Mallorca's best known police officers, partly because Arenal is often in the news for various security reasons. It isn't all the challenges of policing Arenal and Llucmajor that have led him to request being moved from frontline duties, it is the relationship with his political masters, i.e. the town hall.

In a letter to colleagues, Torrandell referred to "personal reasons" of course being a cliché. This justification for having asked to be placed on secondary activities was interpreted as a reflection of disagreements with the town hall.

His resignation came only a short time after the chief of police in Manacor, Manuel Prieto, had presented his resignation to the mayor, Miquel Oliver. Officially, his resignation was for "personal reasons", but he told people that he had reached the end of his tether. There was a meeting attended by himself and the mayor at which there were "raised voices".

Heavy rain but water restrictions

The police and emergency services would have been ready if the storms on Monday had meant that they were required. As it was, the heavy rain that heralded the start of July was confined to areas of the Tramuntana and the north of the island. The most rain was recorded at the Son Torrella weather station near to the Puig Major in Escorca - 51 litres per square metre.

For the reservoirs, therefore, the rain fell in pretty much the perfect place. Very welcome it was, given that the whole of Mallorca is at pre-alert for drought. But not everywhere benefited from the rain, such as four municipalities in the interior which are bringing in limits to water consumption. In Algaida, Lloret, Montuiri and Porreres, there will be a limit of 150 litres per person per day. This is in response to what is said to be an "alarming" increase in consumption, attributed in part to the increased numbers of holiday rental properties.

In Banyalbufar, meanwhile, there is another cut to supplies. In May the water was cut off from 11pm to 4pm, so only seven hours a day of supplies. The same hours of restriction have been reintroduced.

Death of Irish tourist in Magalluf attributed to drugs overdose

The Guardia Civil’s Judicial Police, investigating the death of 45-year-old Irish tourist Michael Grant in Magalluf on Monday, appear to have attributed the death to a drugs overdose. The police had launched a homicide investigation, suspecting that he may have been run over by the same person who had inflicted two bite marks - one on a shoulder, the other on his chest.

The autopsy on Tuesday confirmed that he had suffered injuries possibly consistent with a hit-and- run, but that he had not suffered cranial trauma, which is usual with this type of incident.

A hotel security guard had in fact seen him staggering on the C. Martín Ros García before falling to the ground; this was around 4.30am. Subsequent studies of security camera images in the area revealed no evidence of there having been a road incident.

The police believe that he had been in a fight with a street seller and had run off when friends of this seller appeared on the scene. They further believe that he took cocaine at around this time and that he overdosed. The autopsy did show signs of cocaine in his body.

Michael Grant was staying at the Sol Katmandu Park with his wife Leanne and their four children. On Monday morning, the police were able to locate the family as he had been wearing a hotel wristband. The psychological support service was activated to help the family.