Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 September 2017

Morning high (5.23am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 22 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 23 September - Sun, cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4, temporarily South. Swells of one to two metres.

A chance of a spot of rain. Mainly cloudy with sunny spells. Clearer by late afternoon.

One In Eight: Awash With Rentals

One holiday apartment for every eight residents. The statistic is quoted in an article that was published in El País last week. The information came from Airdna, which isn't some type of Airbnb watchdog but is in fact an Airbnb's data analytics business. The website sounds like Airbnb such is the virtue made of, inter alia, its "rentalizer", the first automated valuation tool for short-term rentals.

Among various statements on the website is this: "Short-term rental earnings are blowing away the returns seen in any other real estate investment category. Savvy investors are purchasing properties where lodging supply is low, travel demand is high and regulation is favourable. Learn how to identify the perfect Airbnb investment opportunity." Another states: "Our sophisticated technology picks up every intricate data point on every Airbnb listing in the world. Whether you want to analyse short-term rental rates in Mallorca or regulatory impacts in Manhattan, Airdna has the most comprehensive and longest spanning data set."

How strange it seems that an American website should select Mallorca to be one of two places highlighted under "unmatched global Airbnb coverage". Perhaps it was for alliteration purposes - Mallorca and Manhattan. Perhaps not.

El País was clearly taking Airdna at its word. What better data analytics can there be? They must even outdo those used by Terraferida in mapping Airbnb interests in Mallorca. The article's headline referred to the Spanish municipalities most awash with holiday rentals. The original Spanish was "inundado". The translation could also be flooded, inundated or swamped. It couldn't be saturated but it's not so far off. The municipality with one holiday apartment for every eight inhabitants is the most awash of all. Any guesses?

A few weeks ago I came up with an estimate of how many illegal holiday rentals places there might be in Pollensa. On the basis of what El País (Airdna) says, I wasn't far wrong. Around 11,000, though it was probably a bit on the high side. Pollensa has some 16,200 residents - 16,222 according to the 2016 figure. It therefore has more than 2,000 holiday apartments. That is an absolutely staggering number. So much so that I find it almost hard to believe. Based on the most recent figures I've seen, this would mean that around 18% of all dwellings in Pollensa is an illegal apartment, and that's before you add on the licensed villas and houses.

But that's how it's reported, and almost as staggering is the municipality in fourth spot - Alcudia with one for every twelve residents. That would translate to around 1,600.

Four years ago I took part in a public debate about holiday rentals. To my right were Alvaro Middelmann, a one-time president of the Mallorca Tourist Board (among many other things), the lawyer Javier Blas, and a lady from the tourism ministry whose name I now can't remember. She was in something of a minority in her defence of the then Partido Popular's legislative approach to holiday rentals. I asked her at one point what planet her boss, Jaime Martínez, was on. I was in favour of far greater liberalisation of the rentals' market. The tourism ministry and government were not.

If you want to know why I've changed my view, then look at those numbers. I don't believe they are anything to celebrate. Bear in mind that these are just Airbnb properties, though it is quite possible that they have also been on other websites. Or were on them. The figures quoted by El País were for July. There has been frantic deleting since then.

But more than the numbers it is those quotes from Airdna. They encapsulate everything that Airbnb has distorted and every way that Airbnb has allowed itself to be distorted in growing so phenomenally as a business. Savvy investors, short-term rentals earnings, and people still talk about the collaborative, sharing economy? Who are they trying to kid?

Manel Casals is the manager of the Barcelona Hotels Guild. You would expect him not to be a fulsome advocate of holiday rentals, but when he said in an interview recently that the collaborative economy is a ridiculous invention (the translation could also mean comic invention), then he wasn't far wrong.

I have sympathy, and I've said it before, for those apartment owners who had been renting out either legally (by the tenancy act) or not up until the time Airbnb suddenly exploded (and it hadn't at the time of that debate). It might have satisfied the views I held only four years ago if Airbnb had not come along and destroyed the chances of legalising so many apartments. Those chances would have been significantly greater than they now are because of how the government has acted - has been forced to act.

"Analyse short-term rental rates in Mallorca"; it says it all. The collaborative economy wasn't a comic invention. It was a decent one before it became ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 September 2017

Morning high (6.47am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 20 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 22 September - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Rain possible this morning, though that was the case yesterday and none materialised. Otherwise, sunny spells.

Evening update (20.15): No rain. Quite pleasant. High of 25.5C.

A Return To 2010?

Can I take you back to the summer of 2010? It was a World Cup year. Spain won. England didn't. On the streets the locals (Mallorcans or indeed Spaniards) went wild. The English, still smarting from the 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Germans and from the Frank Lampard goal which was but wasn't, had by and large thrown their lot in with the natives. Residents and tourists alike; they were all suddenly Spanish (Mallorcan).

It is worth recalling that summer 2010 was slap-bang in the period of economic crisis. In May of that year I wrote a piece which predicted the end of tourism life in Mallorca. Some had suggested that it would be on 24 September. I opted for 24 July. Why was I so confident? Because everywhere was doom-laden. The end was nigh; two months left, I concluded.

As things were to turn out, 24 July passed without the final day of tourism judgement releasing hellfire and damnation. The locals were still recovering from their 11 July World Cup hangover, but otherwise tourism life had survived this summer apocalypse. Survived, but only just. At the start of the following month, the tourism ministry announced that it was rolling out an emergency plan. It was one aimed in particular at the British. What was the emergency? The number of tourists, that was what. Over the first half of the year British tourism had slumped by eleven per cent. The ministry's emergency entailed forking out 1.5 million euros on getting Brits to book last minute and into October.

The Brits weren't the only ones to have been affected by crisis. But other core tourism markets - the Germans and Scandinavians - hadn't felt the impact anything like as much. Those other markets also didn't have to contend with a highly unattractive pound-to-euro exchange rate. As a consequence, hoteliers were beginning to rethink things. The rethinking was reflected a year or more later. Meliá unveiled the grand plan for Magalluf's transformation, an aspect of which was to be a lower reliance on the Brits and attempts to attract other markets, such as the Germans and Scandinavians.

That summer really was rather difficult. Thomas Cook was forced to issue a profits' warning. It wasn't the only tour operator to feel the pinch. The last-minute bookings emergency campaign that the ministry had in mind was assisted by offers of up to 60% off in September. Even in August you could get 40% off. Certain hotel associations representing resort areas were saying that as much as 30% was unsold in July and August.

If the summer eventually proved not to have marked an end, it had marked a beginning. It was that shift away from a British dependence. All those Brits who had temporarily become Spaniards and had cheered when Andres Iniesta scored with four minutes of extra time left were not to find that their loyalty was being totally unappreciated; just that loyalty was not being taken for granted.

But 2010 was forgotten as crisis eased, geopolitics intervened and there was no more need for hotels to have to close by early September (which happened that year). And so our attention now turns to 2018 and what, where some are concerned, will be another rather difficult summer but for very different reasons. Yet there are predictions of a further record year. How can this be, given tourist tax doubling, higher prices, bad exchange rate (where the Brits are concerned, if not others)?

The record is being forecast because of the length of the season. Building work is going to have to be completed very punctually, as hotels in the main resort areas - Playa de Palma, parts of Calvia, Alcudia - are planning on opening at the start of March, even though the Easter week isn't until the end of the month. The eight-month season, at least in some cases, is with us. Will there need to be a late-summer campaign as there was in 2010? It doesn't look like it, besides which the current government is not one for doing any promotion of a summer variety.

From a British perspective, there will be voices that pooh-pooh the possibility of another record year. True, not all visitors from other countries will be enamoured of a doubling of the tourist tax, but 2018 doesn't appear to be shaping up like a repeat of 2010. And even for the British, their economy, despite Brexit, isn't in the state it was eight years ago. More than anything it is the domestic economy which impacts on consumer decisions to take holidays or not.

Each year we have the same type of debate about tourism - good or bad seasons. Even if 2018 isn't a record and numbers do fall, it will really only be a downward correction on what have been two or three extraordinary years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 September 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 16.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C; 20 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 veering Northeast 4 to 5 in the afternoon.

So, yellow alerts out for probable rain and storm. Showers possible tomorrow as well, less so on Wednesday, with the rest of the week looking generally good.

Evening update (20.15): Well, so much for the so-called storm. Reasonable enough all day save for a slight shower in the afternoon. High of 29.3C. 

Greeks Alarmed About Tourist Saturation

Against the background of talk of tourist limits, control of holiday rentals and tourist "massification", it is useful to note what is going on elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There seems to be a view among those who are rejecting the Balearic policies - tourist tax, rentals' legislation - that other destinations don't have the same issues and will be welcoming floods of more tourists next year: those who will be abandoning Mallorca.

There really does need to be a greater understanding of these other destinations. Take the Greek islands, for example, and the context of Greece's politics, with the Podemos-style Syriza in power, curiously supported by the highly conservative right-wing Independent Greeks.

Santorini is a case in point. It has a population of 25,000. It receives some two million visitors per year. The island's mayor, Anastasios Sorsos, wants the Greek government to declare the island "touristically saturated". Santorini simply can't cope. Its roads can no longer support more traffic. The use of resources has been stretched to its absolute limit.

There is to be a cap placed on the number of cruise ships. The environment ministry is being asked to ban any development away from the main urbanised areas. There is a drive to limit hotel capacities and to prevent there being new businesses that offer tourist services. There is an environmental lobby as concerned as any in the Balearics

Prices are increasing, accommodation is ever more difficult to find for employees and for professional groups, such as doctors. There has to be an end to private holiday rentals, especially those via the likes of Airbnb. They are "wreaking havoc" and not just in Santorini.

Does it all sound rather familiar? Well yes, it does. And the point is that Mallorca is far from being the only tourist destination where issues exist regarding saturation. Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO), has highlighted his concern with growing tourismphobia. He cited Dubrovnik in Croatia as an example because of saturation through holiday rentals and cruise ship passenger numbers.

2017 is supposedly the year of tourism sustainability, a year decreed by the WTO. This sustainability is espoused by political regimes such as those of the Balearics and Greece, yet it is coloured, as Rifai, notes, by populism that generates an antagonism within society. He is stepping down as secretary general. His successor, the Georgian Zurab Pololikashvili, faces great challenges, and one of them is tourismphobia. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 September 2017

Morning high (7.20am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C; 20 September - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 veering North 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

Sun today - hooray! Tomorrow might be rainy - boo!

Evening update (19.00): Good - a high of 26.8C. Yellow alerts for tomorrow - rain and storm.

Promoting Mallorcan Wine

Are you an enotourist? I don't mean are you a tourist in search of a one-time member of Roxy Music, I mean eno as in wine for oenophiles. Enotourism can also be oenotourism, vinitourism or, rather more clearly, wine tourism.

If you are an enotourist, then you may well recognise yourself from this little statistic. When you are gadding around sampling wines, you are also spending in a more healthy manner than the normal tourist (insofar as there is such a thing as a normal tourist). You spend, and you will of course know this, an average of 156.60 euros a day. Moreover, you spend this over the course of 2.65 days.

Aren't statistics wonderful? Although when the Wine Routes of Spain come out with this stuff, it is rather more believable than most tourist spending stats. A wine buff wouldn't be a wine buff if he or she didn't have a reasonable amount of spare disposable to splash out. After all, the enotourist when not on tour wouldn't be picking up a bottle of plonk for 2.50 at the local supermarket. Wine purchasing would require a special trip to a bodega and a well-credited plastic card in order to fill the car boot with a case or several of something distinctly superior to the 2.50 bottle.

Strangely enough, according to the Wine Routes, only 12% of that 156.60 goes on visits to bodegas. But this is just the cost of the visit. A further 19% is coughed up for wine itself. So, slightly less than 30 euros is spent per day on wine. But for 2.65 days, the total outlay is almost 80 euros. Which, one supposes, is a reasonable amount for one tourist to be spending. The only problem is that there is no information as to how many wine tourists there are, which begs a question as to how one can determine who is a wine tourist and who is a tourist who likes wine. Or maybe it doesn't matter.

Let's just conclude, shall we, that wine is a useful niche in the overall scheme of tourism things. And on mainland Spain there are any number of wine routes that can be followed. They are to be found in different parts of the country, the majority in the north and the others down towards Valencia and others in Extremadura and Andalusia. But when one says country, there is part of Spain which doesn't feature. Any guesses?

Seven years ago, the Chamber of Commerce in Mallorca produced a highly detailed report into tourist product niches. Enotourism was one of them. Whereas the report was able to give a number of tourists for many of these niches, enotourism was not among them.

Being able to identify and quantify any niche does help with the marketing, but with wine it is perhaps the case that the tourist is something of all-rounder. One only has to look at what else that 156.60 per day is spent on: bars and restaurants attract the highest spend, while there is also shopping, visits to museum and a sundry amount for "others". Most enotourists don't classify themselves as wine buffs. Wine, one might conclude therefore, is a tourism hook rather than being the sole tourism purpose.

This isn't altogether surprising. A different niche, and a more identifiable and quantifiable one, is the golfing tourist. And he or she spends more on the likes of restaurants than on golf. Which goes to prove perhaps that alternative low-season tourism is one that operates on the basis of a menu of options. Even cyclists, who are erroneously considered as a stereotype, spend money on gastronomy and other interests.

In the case of wine, though, it goes to the core of the government's agrarian slant to so-called sustainable tourism. Wine production is one of the most profitable if not the most profitable use of land. But just how well marketed is wine as a tourism niche? And how much support is there for it from the government? Although Mallorca doesn't feature among the Wine Routes of Spain, there are routes and there are companies dedicated to wine tourism. The government, though, seems to treat wine as it does most other niches. It lumps them together, talks vaguely about tackling seasonality and that's about that.

Wine tourism is important to the wine trade in Mallorca. It is known that it helps to boost wine exports, with Germany the biggest market. Yet the actual contribution to exports is modest, and the price of wine is staggeringly high compared to those regions where there are wine routes on the mainland - almost nine euros per litre, a price not helped by the high cost of grapes. Production will never be at the level on the mainland, bodegas will for the most part be boutique but they form part of an industry that could do with some more coherent promotion.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 September 2017

Morning high (6.21am): 16.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 17 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 September - Cloud, 24C; 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C

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

Could be some more rain around today. Getting better later in the day. Tomorrow looking fine.

Evening update (19.45): There was more rain around today. Quite a bit of it in areas. Sun came out late afternoon. High of 21.1C.

Will Es Murterar Become Another Power Station Ruin?

There is a sight which is distinctly incongruous when one is walking in the Albufera Nature Park. Look in one direction and looming above the vegetation is the chimney of Es Murterar: the power station abuts one edge of the nature park.

It has been there for forty years, an ominous presence looming over the tranquility and environmental sensitivity of Albufera. Once upon a time the coal trucks went through Puerto Alcudia in order to deliver their loads. Since the Bellevue bypass was built, the trucks have been in convoy passing at the foot of the Puig de Sant Marti. I've not personally noticed but I am told that coal dust flies and settles. Even covered, the trucks can allow particles to escape.

And for all these years there has been the Es Murterar roar. At times there can seem to be no rhyme nor reason for this bellowing. Guests at the Lagotel in Las Gaviotas are among those who have noticed it and have therefore complained about it.

There is something else which is incongruous: Balearic energy policy. A region blessed with ample sunlight (as well as other potential sources of renewable energy) can manage a mere two per cent of electricity production from renewables. There are parts of Spain where it is one hundred per cent.

The Balearic government, which has for so long spoken about renewables, now has a clear plan. In the fight against climate change there will be zero emissions by 2050. One trusts that this won't be too late. Much earlier than this - by 2020 - two pollutant groups at Es Murterar will be shut down; basically, this means that half the production lines will disappear within three years. The previous government, that of José Ramón Bauzá, had targeted 20% renewable production by 2020, a goal in line with EU ambitions. Good words and of course nothing happened. It was always possible to hide behind the shield of austerity and economic crisis. Alternative energy costs money and requires investment.

There is also a cost involved with the progressive closure of Es Murterar. The regional government is attempting to calculate it. If the costs are reasonable, says Balearic energy minister Marc Pons, then the national energy ministry will look upon the plan favourably.

A further cost is the one that affects the workforce. The government says that there will be job relocation. It has in mind the photovoltaic plants either planned or under way. One of these is by Es Murterar; others are in Manacor, Llucmajor and Ciutadella in Menorca. The workers don't believe the government. They reckon that there is little realistic chance of relocation. They want a slower process. They accept that coal cannot simply carry on, but the government's timeline is, in the word of the workers, "precipitous". They believe that the plan for Es Murterar is being designed with elections in mind. These elections are less than two years away.

Up to 800 jobs, both direct and indirect, could be affected. One also has to wonder about the impact on the port. Salvem el Moll, which has been agitating about the coal shipments (considering them to be not entirely legal), will doubtless be delighted, but the eventual loss of coal will be bound to have an impact on the port's commercial operations. There again, it is surely a price that not only has to be paid but should be paid. The economics of energy transition can never be wholly benign for all business or indeed all jobs.

Endesa agrees with the workers. The plan is too hasty. As a company it anticipates an end to its coal plants by 2035. It has an alternative - an investment scheme to modify the most polluting groups. The current politics of renewable energy will probably scupper this.

And eventually, what will become of Es Murterar? The roar will be quietened. It will fall silent. No more will the coal trucks rumble along the bypass, inadvertently releasing particles. Es Murterar will then sit there, like Alcanada has ever since Es Murterar was commissioned. Will they be arguing over its future at the end of this century?

Friday, September 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 September 2017

Morning high (6.52am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 16 September - Rain, sun, 23C; 17 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 September - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6.

Rain and storm probable. Improved forecast for Sunday. Tomorrow looking a tad iffy.

Evening update (20.15): Grey but dry until early afternoon, then the deluge and thunder and lightning. Sun briefly threatened and obviously thought better of it. High of 22.8C.

The Curious Advocacy Of Tourist Wealth

How much should the tourist tax be per night? The maximum rate in the Balearics as from next year will be four euros. This is for four-star superior and five-star accommodation. These are the hotels where the rich go, though defining richness isn't easy. There are "well-off" folk who travel five star, but they're not in the rich class.

The Netherlands is a country with a reputation for pragmatism and tolerance. Its capital Amsterdam reflects this, its famous red light district as much as anything. For many tourists, so it is said, the red light district is where they go. If they spend money, then they spend it there. The city's restaurants, it is noted, don't benefit to the extent that they should, which is surprising given the volume of rental accommodation. Though the city is addressing this by restricting the number of days that properties can be available for rental.

Amsterdam, as with other European cities, attracts an enormous number of tourists. Like those other cities (and also with resorts) there are tourists who are valuable to the local economy, those who are less valuable and those who aren't of any value. The latter category can in fact create a negative balance. Their contribution, such as it may be, is less than an approximated cost of having them use services. In addition, they add to a perception or to the fact of overcrowding without giving something or giving enough in return.

There is talk in Amsterdam of increasing the tourist tax. A figure of ten euros per night is being discussed. And it is being referred to as a deterrent tax, though deterrence would owe a lot to how long a tourist stays. Two or three nights? Thirty euros? Would it be that much of a deterrence? Resorts are different. Tourists stay longer in resorts than they do in cities.

Dutch tolerance, where tourists are concerned, seems to have been stretched to the limits. Which is why this tolerance is evaporating. A tourist tax rate of ten euros, deterrent or not, would be discriminatory; it would discriminate on the grounds of personal wealth.

There are parts of Europe, Switzerland is a good example, where tourism is expensive with or without any taxes. If you ever look at price comparisons for hotels, you will often find that Switzerland is, generally speaking, more expensive than other countries. The Swiss have never encouraged a low-contributing style of tourism. Historically it has always been a country for the wealthy visitor.

Switzerland has some relevance to Mallorca. When the founding fathers of tourism at the turn of the twentieth century were seeking to shape their new industry, Switzerland was a model that they were able to consider, as was the French Riviera. Here were places where tourism genuinely existed and they were the preserves of the wealthy of Europe (and the USA).

The Assemblea 23-S, the grouping that will stage the "massification" demonstration, has alluded to those days. They were ones, once tourism started to develop in Mallorca, when only the rich could afford to travel. Only the rich had time on their hands. The rich didn't have to worry about the non-existence of paid holidays. Accordingly, Mallorca built hotels that were for this wealthy class. Yes, there were pensions but by and large, and into the 1950s, the tourism infrastructure was designed for the wealthy European who didn't travel in enormous numbers.

There seems to be a desire, here in Mallorca, in Amsterdam and elsewhere to turn the clock back. That tourism of the rich was in a sense the legacy of the Grand Tour, when only aristocratic young men (less so women) broadened their cultural horizons and paid good money for doing so.

This desire is not solely the preserve of the left but predominantly it is. In this respect it a curious philosophy. The tourism agitators in Mallorca seek to defend (with legitimacy) the earnings and conditions of the working class, though how defensible this would be, were tourism-sector employment to decline, isn't too clear. The island's working class is defended, but what about the working class from elsewhere? There is an absence of brotherhood in the demands of the Mallorcan left. There is also a total forgetfulness. The British working class first came to Mallorca thanks to the British Workers Travel Association, which was linked to the Labour Party. The Holiday Pay Act of 1948 was to help.

Vladimir Raitz, the founder of Horizon, considered tourism in socialist terms. A holiday for the ordinary man, woman and family. A holiday to open up experience of other cultures. A holiday to assist in the pursuit of post-war peace and tolerance.

Those were times when ideals as much as business were important. Times obviously change and they do so in curious ways. A left-wing advocacy of the rich. How odd.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 September 2017

Morning high (6.55am): 17.6C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 15 September - Rain, 24C; 16 September - Rain, 22C; 17 September - Cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 4 veering Northeast 5 to 6 in the afternoon.

Starting out ok, but rain likely in the afternoon. Tomorrow there are alerts for rain, storm and wind. The weekend looks wet, and so does the start of next week.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.5C. Very good but now, in the evening, cloudy and windy.

Remembering The Days of Romantic Travelling

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, romantic travellers and European aristocrats (an Austrian one in particular) discovered the romantic charms of Mallorca. An island hitherto unremarkable in the general scheme of Mediterranean things began to acquire a reputation. Those romantic travellers would arrive by boat, soak in the sight of the Cathedral, appreciate the light and the climate, and be taken by stage coach to mountain retreats, not least those of the Archduke Louis Salvador.

In the mountains those travellers could enjoy glorious vistas. Those who were friendly with the Archduke could visit Son Marroig, the stately pile perched on a cliff top overlooking the Tramuntana coastline. From the lookout, designed to the Archduke's instruction, they, as he did, could contemplate the rock with the hole in it - Sa Foradada - and the sheet of blue which at the horizon competed with a vast canvas of more blue (assuming the weather was ideal, that is).

The Archduke, despite his aristocratic upbringing, understood much of this island. In fact he would have understood more about it than anyone else. The Archduke, in some respects, invented Mallorca and indeed the Balearics. And among the subjects that the encyclopaedic Archduke turned his research attention to was the island's agriculture. He could hardly have avoided it. Agriculture was about all there was.

Mallorca was far from unique in this regard. Agriculture was still a dominant if not the dominant sector for parts of Europe, in particular those which the Industrial Revolution had ignored. The steam train was to arrive only a few years after the Archduke had in the late 1860s. The Industrial Revolution slowly made itself felt.

The Archduke knew about the steam trains, just as he knew about agriculture. His detail was such that he could note the price and output of produce. His inventories were as assiduously compiled as were those by governmental emissaries who were occasionally dispatched to this remote island in an attempt to understand why it was part of Spain.

But the Archduke was interested in more than just monetary values and the weight of crops. He witnessed the agricultural condition and the appalling condition of the farming labourers. There was grinding poverty, wholly inadequate wages, intolerable hours. And there was also pest. When phylloxera struck the vines in 1891 it was just another blow for agriculture. Emigration and the promise of greater wealth and better standards of living deprived the island of much of its agricultural workforce.

Move forward to the late 1950s and Mallorca and Spain were economic basket cases. Mallorca was actually rather better off than many parts of the country, and this owed much to its banking sector. In the fields the lot of the agricultural worker was still far from wonderful. Agriculture had enjoyed but also endured the Franco regime. Enjoyed it because of the stability of autarky that guaranteed the employment required for economic self-sufficiency and the supplies from the cooperatives. Endured it because of a lack of investment and innovation. Self-sufficiency placed a premium on staple crops above more profitable ones. Autarky had been economic insanity. Spain was on its knees before the Americans intervened, Opus Dei technocrats guided the regime towards a different economic model, and tourism (and foreign exchange) were discovered.

On 23 September there is to be a demonstration against the "massification" of tourism. The different groups which have lent their support to this demo have produced a "manifesto". This refers, among other things, to the days of the romantic traveller and the European aristocrats. It implies the existence of an idyll, which was far from the case, especially for the agricultural working class. There is another reference - to the "imposition" of tourism by the Franco regime and by local "caciques", a term used here in broad terms to mean businesses, such as banks.

The image that the Assemblea 23-S, the umbrella title for the demo's organisers, is conjuring up is one of its own false romanticism. It appears to hanker after a past before tourism was imposed on a "predominantly agrarian economy". If so, then its vision is as insane as autarky had been.

It ignores utterly the fact that a Mallorcan development of the "industry of the foreigners", which was how tourism was described at the turn of the twentieth century, owed a great deal to the insufficiency of agriculture. It ignores a further fact that agricultural workers were offered an alternative source of employment by the boom in tourism in the '60s. Yes, big mistakes were made through the environmental destructiveness of so-called Balearisation, but new employment was created and a new society began to emerge - one that was more cosmopolitan, more modern.

Agricultural work was every bit as precarious as work in the tourism sector. It still is. Wages are low, seasonality is a factor, the weather is another. Yet the Assemblea, characterised as much as anything by parochialism, would seem to be willing an imposition of this old economy. Romantic?