Thursday, December 08, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 December 2016

Morning high (7.43am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 9 December - Cloud, sun, 19C; 10 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 11 December - Cloud, sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing East 3 to 4.

Happy Immaculate Conception. Weather-wise, more of the same. Mild, possible rain, occasional sun.

Evening update (20.15): Wasn't too bad. High of 19.6C.

Complex Problems: Rentals' Legislation

Is it possible that politicians genuinely don't know what they're talking about and don't know what they're doing? One does suspect that this may be the case, although one is also inclined to cut them some slack. Hopefully, they do know, and after all we voted for them (depending on who we are and whether we are enfranchised or not).

A view that was expressed recently apropos holiday rentals' legislation in the Balearics drew into question whether the regional government knows what it's doing. Specifically, the suggestion was that, because this legislation and related law on housing which is to be introduced presents such a complex problem, politicians disguise their inabilities to grapple with it adequately by indulging in bluster. In other words, they say a great deal in order to mask their inadequacies. Which may be unkind. Finding even adequate solutions to certain problems may be beyond anyone.

This particular legislation is far from straightforward, and one begins to appreciate why the Partido Popular were so averse to regulating in a more liberal fashion. Because of the complexity, they chose to ignore it, or rather bury it in the grave of prohibition. Why create an additional problem?

The complexity is such that it isn't clear if the problem has truly been defined. When the PP were so steadfastly refusing to free up the rentals' market, they didn't have the issue that has since arisen. This may not be a housing crisis as such, but there is an accommodation crisis, and it's only likely to get worse. Consequently, any legislation on holiday rentals has to take account of legislative change for housing. Biel Barceló's tourism-driven bill cannot neglect Marc Pons' society-driven act, and vice versa. The two go hand in hand. Or they should do.

This accommodation crisis has compounded what was already complicated. The problem isn't therefore static. Barceló (and Pons) are taking aim at moving targets, with websites like Airbnb seemingly shifting the goal posts on a constant basis. They both also have to take account of legislation that isn't in their hands, i.e. the national law on urban leasing, while there is a fundamental issue - a constitutional one almost - of human rights. Under this, an owner should be permitted to do as he or she sees fit with properties.

The solution, whether you liberalise the market or not, is to resort to the power of the fine. The controversies in Barcelona are predominantly to do with illegally rented holiday properties, yet that city, as with the rest of Catalonia, has what on the face of it seems reasonable enough legislation that permits the open commercialisation of holiday rentals. By now imposing massive fines on websites, Barcelona might hope that the problem will go away, when of course it will not. And the same will apply in Mallorca and the Balearics. Got a problem? Then fine the hell out of it rather than seek alternatives.

Barceló, with hindsight, might have preferred to stick with the PP's prohibitive stance. At least that way he could simply order the issuing of fines without having to concern himself with all the massive complexity that comes with being permissive - where are these legal holiday rentals to be, what are the powers of veto (communities, town hall, island councils), are there to be time limits (x number of weeks/months that accommodation can be rented for tourist purposes), and so on and so forth.

On top of this, Barceló has a problem that the PP did not have - his so-called partners in government. He has to satisfy the requirements of one party (PSOE), which isn't overly minded to establishing tourist number limits, with another (Podemos), which most certainly is. And Podemos sit very firmly on the Pons side of the accommodation debate - society's needs and not the needs of tourists and definitely not the needs of owners with several properties for holiday rent.

Yet another consideration is growing societal antagonism, and it is the way in which Barceló has handled this which allows some to accuse him of indeed trading in bluster. The whole "sustainable tourism" campaign he has undertaken is, say the likes of the Terraferida agitators, a load of eyewash, a major PR stunt with absolutely nothing to back it up.

Inherent to this sustainability is the tackling of seasonality, a problem that has always existed and one that has always been subject to politicians' bluster. They have all made announcements as to how they will deal with it, yet knowing that it is something over which they have minimal control. The current lengthening of the season owes very little to political initiative; it has to do with the fluctuations of demand and with the efforts of the private sector in expanding products such as cycling.

Do they know what they're doing with rentals' legislation? Actually, I believe they do, but convincing everyone of the fact is another matter.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 7 December 2016

Morning high (7.38am): 13.1C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 8 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 9 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 10 December - Cloud, sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5.

Familiar stuff for the time being: cloud and the odd sunny spell with rain possible.

Evening update (20.00): High of 19.6C. Bit of rain in parts. Some sun. Pretty uninspiring really.

Ramon Llull: Immaculate Tourism

Immaculate Conception, which is the excuse for the second public holiday in three days (tomorrow), partly owes its existence (if one can describe it as that) to Ramon Llull. The mediaeval Franciscan came up with what he and other Franciscans believed was a pretty solid argument for the Immaculate Conception. This relied on the notion that Jesus's grandparents had a desire so pure that God graced them with the ability to conceive the Mother of the Son of God. Mary was thus conceived without sin. Given that, in the Llullian version of events, Mary was destined to the Mother of the Son of God, she had to be without sin - actual or original. It was impossible for God and sin to exist within the same person, i.e. Jesus. Ergo, Mary had to be without sin.

While religious philosophers continued their debates as to the Immaculate Conception, it was to become a political tool. Some time in the late fifteenth century, the Franciscans were to convince Isabel and Ferdinand that Spain was without sin and thus free of stain. Spain was therefore pure.

Given all this, you can begin to appreciate how and why the Immaculate Conception is such a big deal in the religious calendar. Or at least why it should have been deemed of major importance several centuries ago. Llull's logic would have been perfect for the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The super-race notion would have chimed well with an expansionist Spain littered with Inquisitional head cases at the end of the fifteenth century. But nowadays?

I recently asked a thirteen-year-old why there is a holiday for Immaculate Conception. It had all been explained at school, she said. But she hadn't really been listening. It was, after all, rather boring. Quite probably. And rather implausible as well. There again, this is how it is with religion. Concepts such as the Immaculate Conception are predicated on beliefs from pre-scientific times. The philosophy that went into them was within the grasp of a select few scholars who grappled with explaining the inexplicable. For a rational and questioning society, and one that is older than a generation hooked up permanently to the ramblings of a Youtuber, arcane theology is indeed boring. It also defies belief. Except to the believers. And also, from a different credo, to contemporary fanatics who mangle ancient and mediaevalist mumbo-jumbo into a form of collective psychopathy.

Although the philosophy is obscure, the history isn't, especially the physical manifestations of it. We have now come to the end of the year of Ramon Llull, who is bound so closely to Mallorca's history. Miramar, the Monestir de la Real, the Puig de Randa in Algaida: here are places which ooze with a Llullian past. But what impact has this year had?

Religious tourism, according to the World Tourism Organisation, moves some 300 million people across the globe per annum. A report for 2014 found that this tourism generated 32,520 million euros. In 2017, there are jubilee years for Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia and the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana in Cantabria. Two million visitors are expected in Murcia and one million in Cantabria. These are significant numbers.

The point about the 2014 report can be found in its title: "The Economic Impact of Church Real Estate". This wasn't a report into religion per se. It focused on religious sites. Visitors do not need to be religious to appreciate such sites; they are attractive to and do attract all-comers.

Which brings us back to Llull and his year. In Mallorcan terms, he is the most significant figure in the island's religious past - more so than Juniper Serra, the physical manifestations of whom, save one or two buildings in Petra, are on the Pacific coast of the USA. But what value - in economic terms from religious tourism related to Llull - has been generated? Any?

The Llull year has seemed more a celebration of his obscure side than the commercial side: a celebration of one of the chief scholars who contributed to the Immaculate Conception dogma. Perhaps this is as it should have been, but here was an opportunity to have developed a brand of religious tourism which by and large passes Mallorca by. When one looks at other studies of this tourism in Spain, Mallorca doesn't feature.

Ultimately, it may be because Llull, despite the reverence in which he is held in Mallorca, simply isn't that well known in global terms. But then maybe this is because of a failing to make him better known. Granting him sainthood, and the Pope appears inclined to do so, might help in this regard, but one wouldn't bet on it.

There is a desire to develop religious tourism, there was a conference about it not so long ago in Lluc, but it requires far more than a holiday to honour Catholic dogma.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 6 December 2016

Morning high (7.00am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 7 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 8 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 9 December - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 increasing Northeast 4 to 5.

Happy Constitution Day. And a fairly damp one in all probability.

Evening update (21.45): Some rain but not a lot. High of 18.3C.

Reforming Spain's Constitution?

How many of you are aware that the Spanish constitution makes possible, albeit hypothetically, the merger of two of Spain's regions - the Basque Country and Navarre? While radical elements long for such a union, the likelihood of it ever happening is all but zero. But the fact that the theoretical possibility even exists reflects historical anomalies that can creep into constitutions. In Germany there is one such. Bavaria, hypothetically, could declare itself independent.

These examples reveal that constitutions, generally considered to be inviolate, contain aspects that may or do require reform. As a form of pact between state and citizen, a constitution shouldn't necessarily remain set in stone. Circumstances do, after all, change, and where Spain is concerned, the constitution has been subject to more or less constant amendment over some two hundred years.

During the nineteenth century, there were various attempts at revision. The first actual constitution was that of 1812, a manifesto of liberalism that was doomed to failure but which was to be a fundamental factor in that century's development. Ferdinand VII revoked it and thus ushered in the clashes between liberals (joined later by republicans) on one side and the conservative monarchists on the other. Both parties were rife with their own intrigues and differences. From the conservatives came Carlism, a Catholic fundamentalism which fostered civil wars. The upheavals through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century bred what was to become Francoism. The 1812 constitution, it might be said, had been the unwitting launch pad for a dictatorship which naturally abandoned the constitution of the Second Republic.

The current constitution, dating from 1978, has been amended twice. Both the amendments were responses to influences outside Spain's borders. In 1992, European citizens in Spain were allowed to vote in and stand for municipal elections. There was little or no disagreement with this. Five years ago, there was dissent. Budgetary stability, demanded by Brussels, became a constitutional mandate. It was seen as a stitch-up between the two main political parties - the Partido Popular and PSOE. Austerity was in effect enshrined into the constitution. This very act was as influential as any other in bringing about the rise of Podemos, whose targets included austerity and what was perceived as the corrupt, cosy co-existence of the casta parties - the PP and PSOE.

Mariano Rajoy faced calls for constitutional reforms during his first period in office, all of which he ignored. Then, prior to the first election last December, he surprised many by announcing that he was open to reform. Getting rid of the Basque Country-Navarre hypothesis was one item on the agenda, a seemingly obscure one but also important. Rajoy inferred that territorial issues would be considered. If that had been intended as a sort of sop to Catalonia, then it had no effect.

Rajoy's shaky hold on government gives this Constitution Day greater relevance than others over the past almost forty years. The Catalonia question and the legality of a referendum dominate the debate in which Podemos (and its friends) support the principle of separatism if a majority wishes it, while the PP and Ciudadanos want no truck with the idea. PSOE, its powers lessened, has an idea for a federal model, one that it has never satisfactorily elucidated. This, at least, was what Pedro Sánchez had been advocating.

There are other demands for reform. Juan Pedro Yllanes, the judge who now sits in Congress on behalf of Podemos in the Balearics, is one to call for a truly independent judiciary. In principle it is independent, but as an example of how it is deemed not to be, Rights International Spain last year referred the judicial system to the United Nations special rapporteur on independence; government meddling was the reason for doing so. Lurking in the wings is the monarchy and a referendum on that. Podemos's charter makes clear the party's demands for referendums on various constitutional matters, but then Podemos isn't in government.

A year ago, Rajoy said that a request from union leaders for Congress to debate constitutional reform was both sensible and necessary. How true he might now be to his words will be put to the test. He says he's open to more talks with Catalonia but not on independence. What the "territorial issues" might therefore be is anyone's guess; so are any other potential reforms.

In the Balearics the main call for reform is for the Sánchez federal model. Francina Armengol has referred to this many times, but her overriding concern is financing, something which doesn't require constitutional change. Rajoy knows that there is pressure for financial reform for the regions. He may feel that that this is a step worth taking in easing pressure to alter the constitution. He is, obviously, a conservative, for whom constitutional reform would be largely anathema, much as he might have said that a debate is necessary.

Monday, December 05, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 5 December 2016

Morning high (6.50am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 6 December - Cloud, 18C; 7 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 8 December - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 4 to 5 easing 3 to 4 during the morning.

Rain during the night, and more rain possible. A fairly grey day in prospect.

Evening update (19.15): And grey it was. High of 18.7C.

The Short Life Of The Arenal Tram

We all know, or at least I assume we all know, about the Soller tram. But do we all know about the Arenal tram? The chances are that we don't: it ceased to be a long time ago.

The story of trams in Palma dates back to 1891. The first tram wasn't quite as we came to know them. It was driven by mules and it wasn't really a tram at all; it was more like a bus. But they still referred to it as a tram or as a "rippert" after Monsieur Ripert of Marseille, the carriage-maker who came up with the design, which others then borrowed (which is a nice way of saying they ripped it off).

It was a hundred years ago that the first electrified tram started to operate in Palma. It covered the same route to Porto Pi that the mule tram had. By then, trams were starting to become faddish. Soller already had its, and then in 1921 the Arenal tram was inaugurated. It was referred to as Es Carrilet de S’Arenal, the "carrilet" being a popular name for a narrow gauge railway.

The route took it from Coll d'en Rebassa via Can Pastilla to Arenal, where a garage was built by where the yacht club now is. While Coll d'en Rebassa was by then an established urbanisation, Arenal wasn't particularly and Can Pastilla most certainly wasn't. There were very few properties along the route, but Arenal had started to become popular with summer visitors. There were also fishermen and stoneworkers.

The track ran right by the beach. There were a couple of obstacles in its way, i.e. the Sant Jordi canal and the Torrent des Jueus, so they built bridges, and the engineer responsible for the track was someone who was to become famous in Mallorca's engineering and tourism history. If anyone has ever wondered who the Gabriel Roca is who has lent his name to many a road in Mallorca, he was the engineer.

A news report at the time of the inauguration spoke of the new tram service. It was operated by the Sociedad Tranvia del Arenal company. Gabriel Roca was named in that report. At the time he was 25 and had just graduated from the school of engineering in Madrid. He was to become the director of the board of works for the port of Palma and was to initiate the project to create the Paseo Marítimo in Palma. The other name - the official name - for the Paseo is the Avenida de Gabriel Roca.

That report went on to say that the tramline of some eight kilometres was attractive because of the "panorama" - an incomparable beach and a splendid forest. The tram itself was driven by motor tractors and was in perfect condition to be electrified at any time. Palma, it was said, welcomed the fact that it could count on there being a tram network that goes to different "suburbs", all of them important because of their natural charms; ones that the tourist can also admire enthusiastically.

It is interesting to note that there should have been a particular reference to "the tourist". The year before the tram was inaugurated, the Hotel Ciudad Jardín was built in what was the first garden city resort in Mallorca. In Arenal, some years later, there was there was the plan for the Bellavista garden city. The tram had almost mapped out was to eventually become Playa de Palma. Gabriel Roca would have taken note. In 1949, he also became the president of the Mallorca Tourist Board.

The Arenal tram wasn't to last very long. The Sociedad Tranvia del Arenal, burdened with debts, ended up bankrupt. In fact, it is reckoned that the company, very soon after the line had opened, realised that it wasn't especially viable. It couldn't really have been, given that hardly anyone lived along the route and that visitors - such as they were - were only going in the summer. Less than a year into its operation, the company tried to sell it to the Palma tram company. They turned the offer down but a few years on did acquire it in order to prevent any competitor from doing so.

As to when the tram eventually ceased to be, there is some conflicting evidence. 1935 is given as the year that it "disappeared", but a different version suggests 1941, a key reason being the scarcity of petrol for the tractors. Whenever the end actually was, it was some years before Palma's trams went into extinction: that was 1959, by which time Palma had a bus service and Arenal was well and truly part of the project for Playa de Palma.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 4 December 2016

Morning high (8.20am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 5 December - Cloud, 18C; 6 December - Cloud, sun, 18C; 7 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 4 increasing 5 in the afternoon.

Another mix of cloud and sun. Rain possible. Tomorrow's looking as though it might be wet.

Evening update (20.15): Nothing special. High of 19.7C.

No We Cannot: Podemos Dissension

Podemos are fast becoming No Podemos - We Cannot. Disappearing rapidly is the curiously Obama-esque positivity, which is being replaced by the squabbles of the over-promoted. Thrust under a political spotlight, the previously unknown and unheard-of are all wanting the light to shine on them. Look at me, look at us. Yes, we can. Oh no we can't.

Montse Seijas, one of the sisterhood of two with Xe-Lo Huertas cast adrift by the politburo in Madrid, has been laying into the Agitpropist-In-Chief, Alberto Jarabo. And that's because it turns out that Alberto isn't as agit as he has previously been made to look. According to Montse, Alberto is in fact weak and selling Podemos out to the revisionist left of Més and, worse still, PSOE. Moreover, so brassed off are Balearic Podemosites with Alberto that he has lost their support. Or so says Montse.

The suspension of Montse and Xe-Lo from the party is, therefore, designed to quash the voices of dissent. Which does, it must say, all sound rather odd, as the suspensions were ordered by the harder left element in Madrid (the Pablo Iglesias faction). But Montse is suggesting that Alberto has gone all soft and is aligning himself more with the Iñigo Errejón wing in Madrid, which is precisely the wing that Montse and Xe-Lo had seemed to be signed up to.

In fact, Alberto doesn't seem to have gone weak at all. Whereas he had said that Podemos wouldn't be seeking changes to the 2017 budget, this is exactly what they are doing, roaring around parliament waving sheets of paper with almost fifty amendments. They don't, for instance, want any more money to go to the university's medical faculty; they've been against it from the outset. And they don't want Biel Barceló spending any money on tourism promotion. The demand is that mostly all the money for promotion - 3.6 million euros - goes instead to innovation and development. Barceló says this is unrealistic, not least because a sizable amount of the promotion budget has already been committed to pay for attendance at travel fairs next year. It's a waste of money, insist Podemos, given that the Balearics are swamped by so many damn tourists as it is.

On a non-financial matter, Podemos have also been wading into the Majorca Day debate. In seeking an alternative to the current day - 12 September - the Council of Majorca has somewhat madly come up with the notion of having two days, one of which would be 31 December, the day when Jaume I took Palma. No, no, no, say Podemos, this will never do, as it would be a tribute to monarchy, something just as bad as supporting a religious act. Hence the day should be 24 April, when the Council of Majorca was constituted in 1979 and would be a celebration far more pointless than the current one. No one much pays any attention to 12 September as it is. Absolutely no one would be interested in 24 April.

Meanwhile, three members of the Podemos citizens' council have resigned because of their support for Montse and Xe-Lo. Others may follow. All the time, someone is keeping very quiet, and that is the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo. Montse implies that she's privately had it with Alberto as well. Given that she has always been the real power, might there be a putsch? Who can possibly say? Can we? No we can't.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 3 December 2016

Morning high (7.50am): 10.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 4 December - Cloud, sun, 19C; 5 December - Cloud, sun, 19C; 6 December - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 2 to 3.

Fairly cloudy to start. Expected to remain mostly cloudy. All calm otherwise, which might not be the case tomorrow. Wind forecast to pick up with more chance than today of rain.

Might Mallorca Follow Barcelona's Airbnb Lead?

While we await with great interest what the Balearic government will be proposing with its holiday rentals' legislation, tourism minister Biel Barceló must be keeping a close eye on what is going on in Barcelona. That city, which some time ago opened what amounts to all-out war against accommodation websites, has caused a stir that captured headlines a few days ago - fines of 600,000 euros on both Airbnb and HomeAway. But there was more lurking behind those headlines. Airbnb are accused of having 3,812 advertisements for unlicensed accommodation; HomeAway of having 1,744. Mayor Ada Colau is blunt in her opinion: "It is unacceptable to have thousands of tourist apartments without licences and in an illegal form, without paying taxes and with causing harm to resident communities."

Both these websites, as far as Barcelona is concerned, have failed to collaborate with the town hall (a neat take on the so-called collaborative economy they profess to represent), but it isn't only the town hall which is taking aim at them. Activist groups are openly accusing Airbnb of pretending that profiles of hosts match those of people who rent out in order to make ends meet and pay the mortgage. However, the great majority of adverts are for large owners, the activists claim, and they reckon that Airbnb is also giving instructions on how hosts can avoid inspections.

Activists' accusations about Airbnb in Barcelona aren't new. These groups can now, though, feel bolstered by the latest fines that the town hall has dished out and the size of the fines. The Colau administration and the activists are basically singing from the same hymn sheet.

Airbnb will be appealing against the fine (as will be HomeAway). It appealed when it previously received a 30,000 euros fine, but given that it is now - as it were - a serial offender, Barcelona has slapped the maximum fine that Catalonia's tourism law permits. The Airbnb response, which almost acknowledges that there are no grounds for appeal, has sought a defence by saying that Barcelona is the only city to be fining it. While it then goes on to speak of the economic value derived from the "collaborative" accommodation economy in a city such as Barcelona, it doesn't - as has been observed - mention the absence of benefit, i.e. tax that isn't being paid.

Belinda Johnson, Airbnb's chief business affairs and legal officer, was reported the other day as saying that the company looks to work hand in hand with local authorities - by collaborating with them, in other words - but in Barcelona this isn't the case. The attitude of the town hall may not be to Airbnb's liking, it may not be like other cities, but the town hall has every right to adopt the measures it is. Colau is putting all sorts of tourist noses out of joint, but on this there is clearly a great deal of support for her action. And more websites are finding out that Barcelona is brooking no argument: TripAdvisor is one of nine to be levied with the basic 30,000 euros fine that Airbnb had appealed.

All this will not have gone unnoticed by the Balearic tourism ministry or, one fancies, by Palma town hall.

Friday, December 02, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 2 December 2016

Morning high (6.48am): 9.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 3 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 4 December - Cloud, 19C; 5 December - Cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3 backing Northwest.

Repeat of yesterday. Nippy morning, mainly sunny all day. Weekend looking potentially damp on Sunday.

Evening update (19.45): Morning was ok. Afternoon less so. High of 19C.

Reaching The Shopping Summit

They were holding a summit in Madrid earlier this week. This wasn't a summit for, say, climate change, nuclear disarmament or how to solve a problem like Brexit. It was for something far more important (some might believe) - shopping. Yes, shopping is that important that it merits a summit. Not a mere conference, seminar or a forum, but a summit. What happens now? Will the UN pass a resolution?

The Summit Shopping Tourism & Economy (Madrid 2016) is an awfully pompous and self-important title for the pleasures (or otherwise) of traipsing around the streets of major cities and handing over vast amounts of cash in exchange for ... . Ah, there you have it. That's why a summit is required. Cash. Lots of it. Now let's make more.

The importance of the occasion was such that the government's second-in-command, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, was there. As was China's ambassador to Spain, Lyu Fan. Among other notables were the secretary-of-state for tourism (Spain's that is), the director-general of Turespaña, the president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce in Spain, and Spain's former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

In addition, there were heads of tourism from Madrid (region and city) and from Barcelona. How many do you reckon where there from Palma or the Balearics? Correct. None. Oh, there may have been the odd one or two in the audience, assuming the town hall in Palma had been willing to fork out the 390 euros (IVA included) to attend, but as for speakers, official institutional and corporate representatives, the number was zilch.

China's ambassador wasn't there to extol the virtues of the local Chinese store (or several local Chinese stores). He took part because the summit was very keen to learn how to extract ever greater benefit from Chinese tourists. Spain currently only gets around 400,000 a year - a mere 5% of non-EU visitors, but a 5% which represents 35% of non-EU visitor spending. Likewise, you can appreciate why a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia might have been invited.

The Chinese tourist offers great fortunes, but the summit was at pains to stress that this shouldn't be the only market targeted. There needs to be greater global segmentation. In other words, we don't care where you come from so long as you are loaded and willing to part with all your cash in a city's main shopping centre. Like, for example, in Palma around the Born and Jaume III.

If only this were the case. A reason why no one from Palma was on the official list is that no Chinese tourists come to Palma (or very few anyway). The same can be said for tourists from other nations with credit cards to burn, except for those comparatively rare European beasts who are capable of meeting prices in a shopping zone with some of the highest rents not just in Spain but anywhere. Alas for Palma and for its ambitions to become Spain's or the Mediterranean's Shopping Central, there aren't direct flights from Asia and the Middle East, so - as with elsewhere in Mallorca - it has to get by with impoverished market suppliers like Great Britain, whose tourists' contribution to the retail economy generally amounts to no more than the purchase of several hundred Embassy, a dozen types of mosquito treatment and an inflatable crocodile for the beach.

But it isn't only the Britons who are cheapskates. Spain as a whole accounts for around 20% of all overnight stays in Europe but only has 4% of the European shopping tourism market. That's mainly because out of the 68 million tourists who come to Spain, 60 million of them are from the European Union. Those from outside the EU spend as much in a day as Europeans do in a week, and if the non-EU market were to be expanded by 25%, then spending on shopping would leap from a current 4,100 million to 8,900 million euros.

It was these 4,800 million additional euros (plus ever more) that the summit was so interested in and therefore why it was deemed to be important enough to be dubbed a summit. Essentially, though, it was a summit for Madrid and Barcelona. Vague references may have been made to "other cities" - and one could mention the likes of, for example, San Sebastian, Malaga, Valencia, plus Palma - but until such time that there are adequate flights, the summit's attention will remain focused on Madrid and Barcelona.

Perhaps, though, Palma can hope for a whole new line of cruises for Chinese tourists. One dreads to think what the reaction would be to that. Hordes of Chinese cluttering up the city then legging it back to ships with the entire contents of El Corte Inglés. Someone would have to learn how to do graffiti in Chinese.