Saturday, December 31, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma mayor jeered for speaking Castellano

Palma's mayor Mateo Isern was unable to complete his address at today's Fiesta of the Standard, that celebrates the landing of King Jaume I on Mallorcan soil in 1229, when boos and whistles became too much after he switched from speaking Catalan to Castellano (Castilian Spanish).

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro's treasury department to be investigated

Further to reports some months ago that audits of town hall finances had revealed that some 10,000 euros were missing, Muro town hall has forwarded information to the local equivalent of the DPP which will investigate an alleged embezzlement centred on the town's treasury.

MALLORCA TODAY - Government error on Balearics financing

The Spanish finance ministry has been forced to issue a statement saying that there was an error in the announcement yesterday that central financing for the Balearics was to be eliminated. The announcement caused consternation and were it to be the case would place at risk certain projects, such as the continuing construction of Palma's Palacio de Congresos. The ministry now says that the cut to financing has not been approved. Strange that there should have been any announcement therefore.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 December 2011

A cloudier morning but a good enough day in prospect. At 08:30, temperatures range from 10 to a high of 14 in Puerto Pollensa. Lightish breezes at present and a day's maximum of 16 on the cards. Prospect for New Years Day is mostly sunny and perhaps a bit warmer. The week ahead sunny but with strengthening winds.

Afternoon update: A really superb day with the high breaking the 17 mark and with loads of warm sun.

The Day Today (Or Another Day)

Here's today's quiz question for you? When is Mallorca Day?

Does today's date give you a clue? Well, yes it does, but there again it doesn't. Mallorca Day is today, according to some, but it is also and officially, 12 September. Confused? You've every right to be, as the great debate as to which day should be Mallorca Day is bound up in the mists of time and in the arguments of claimants to both dates.

12 September, in case you are wondering, celebrates the day, in 1276, when King Jaume II took the oath of the granting of the privilege of the Kingdom of Mallorca. If there is to be a Mallorca Day at all, and there has been only since 1997 when the Council of Mallorca decided that 12 September it was to be, this seems a reasonable enough excuse. You might think so, but others would disagree.

Forty-seven years before the oath, Jaume II's father, Jaume I, the Aragon king who came to the rescue of Mallorca, landed at Santa Ponsa on 31 December on his mission (successful, as it was to prove) to drive the forces of Islam from the island. Mallorca Day, therefore, is not 12 September but unofficially 31 December.

Who says so? Primarily, it is various Catalanists, independentists and left-wingers who say so, and you can chuck in some historians, who may or may not be one or all of these things, as well. Were you minded to go searching for information about Mallorca Day on the internet, you would find a website called, which might suggest that it was the official site for the day, except of course it isn't. The domain suffix of "cat" gives the game away, as it is one used predominantly for sites dedicated to Catalan culture and language.

The website does in fact add a bit more confusion to the debate, as 30 December comes into the equation too, so much so that yesterday there was the "traditional demonstration of the Day of Mallorca" in Palma, one of a series of events that start in the middle of December all in aid of the "fiesta of the standard" (which is in fact today) and the parading of Jaume I's Royal Standard.

These events, in different towns across Mallorca, are all run by the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB), the most prominent of the organisations on the island that defends and promotes Catalan culture and language. It is not alone, though, in wishing to change the date of Mallorca Day. The PSM Mallorcan socialists, together with their allies in the general left-wing Bloc, have proposed that Palma town hall adopts 31 December as the official date and gets the Council of Mallorca to make the change.

There is, in the PSM's stance, a touch of good old nationalist rival politics at play. The PSM, nationalists with a left persuasion, take issue with the "imposition" of 12 September back in 1997 by the Council of Mallorca whose then president was Maria Antònia Munar, she of the now defunct nationalists with a right persuasion, the Unió Mallorquina.

This might all seem like a pedantic argument, but historical correctness does have a habit of generating dogmatic attitudes, and such dogma can sometimes become unpleasant.

Last year the object of this unpleasantness was the headquarters building of the OCB anti-Christ, the Círculo Balear, the dogmatically anti-Catalan organisation. It was daubed with graffiti and, true to form, it has been again. What particularly riled Catalanist elements was the decision to the Círculo to take part in the Standard celebration on 31 December, a day very much of Catalanist expression. There was also violence at the 30 December demonstration; four "independentists" who were arrested last year had vowed to return this year.

A question worth asking is whether there is a genuine ground swell of nationalism and desire for independence that the argument over Mallorca Day, the demonstration and the graffiti might suggest. Or is it confined to a vocal but active minority (and there were a mere 1500 demonstrators yesterday evening)? One is inclined to believe that it is the latter, but this year's alternative Mallorca Day has to be considered in the context of moves by the Partido Popular government to promote Castilian over Catalan, moves that don't find universal support and not even within the party itself.

Despite the dogma, there is a very good reason why, assuming there should be a Mallorca Day at all, 31 December should be the date. 1229 was in effect when Mallorca's history began, in the sense that its current-day culture started to be shaped. Prior to then, and most significantly, there was no Catalan language. It took the conquest by an Aragonese king to supplant what was then a version of Latin. 1229 and all that asks questions of current-day attitudes on the right. To deny its significance is historically incorrect, but to accept its significance is to undermine arguments against Catalan.

Any comments to please.

Index for December 2011

Almond growing, decline in Mallorca's - 6 December 2011
Artisans and authenticity - 9 December 2011
BAFMAs: Mallorcan achievement awards - 15 December 2011
Bars and restaurants to offer other services - 23 December 2011
Campanet, town hall problems in - 5 December 2011
Can Domenech and Can Llobera - 20 December 2011
Castilian and Catalan for town and street names - 29 December 2011
Christmas diary, Leonora Madd's Mallorcan - 25 December 2011, 26 December 2011
Christmas spending - 14 December 2011
Cruise ships and environment - 7 December 2011
Fascinating people in Mallorca - 4 December 2011
French tourism and promotional messages - 17 December 2011
Holiday lets: government gets tough - 3 December 2011
Hotels, modernisation and internet - 11 December 2011
Mallorca Day arguments - 31 December 2011
Mancomunidades, Mallorca's - 30 December 2011
Microsoft and film tourism - 10 December 2011
Oil exploration off the Balearics - 16 December 2011
President Bauzá and party differences - 2 December 2011
PSOE and PP divisions and challenges - 18 December 2011
Rural tourism - 27 December 2011
Sand on beaches, loss of - 28 December 2011
Thomas Cook and African risks - 19 December 2011
Thomson's holiday advert - 1 December 2011
Tourism law reform - 8 December 2011, 13 December 2011
Tourism minister and secretary, new national - 24 December 2011
Tourist tax - 22 December 2011
Trinidad, Mallorca and - 21 December 2011
TV Mallorca, fairs and musicians - 12 December 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Spanish Government announces income tax rises

The new government of Mariano Rajoy has today announced that income tax will rise with percentage increases varying according to income. The lowest level, i.e. income below 17,707 euros per annum will, be subject to a rise of 0.75%, that up to 33,007 will be taxed by 2% more and the highest earners, over 300,000 euros will see their tax bills increase by 7%.

Of shorter-term measures, there is to be no increase in the cost of electricity but gas will rise on average by 0.5%.

Another measure, which affects Mallorca in particular, is that central finance for the Balearics is to be eliminated along with that to three other regions, including Catalonia.

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorcan becomes new Spanish tourism secretary of state

A Mallorcan has, following much speculation that a politician from the island would be appointed, been made the secretary of state for tourism in the Spanish government, but it is not Miquel Ramis, as had been widely rumoured. Instead, it will be a woman - Isabel Borrego, one of the deputies from the Partido Popular who was voted into Parliament on 20 November. Borrego will be tourism secretary in the ministry for industry, energy and tourism, which is headed by the former president of the Canary Islands, José Manuel Soria.

MALLORCA TODAY - Language law sparks off opposition

The Balearic Government's proposals for reforming the language law, which would elevate the role of Castilian at the expense of Catalan, have been met with opposition in different quarters. The PP mayor of Manacor, Antoni Pastor, a fierce critic of the proposals, says that there are many others within the PP who feel as he does but are not willing as yet to say so. Santa Margalida town hall has reacted by saying that a new councillor position for language policy will be created, expressly to combat government proposals. The government, meanwhile, is saying that changes to town and street names will not be obligatory but that it will be up to individual town halls to decide. More recipe for confusion therefore?

MALLORCA TODAY - Sant Antoni budget in Sa Pobla cut

Sa Pobla, the centre for the most spectacular and most popular of Mallorca's Sant Antoni celebrations in January, has cut the spend for the 2012 event. Money is still owed in respect of the last two events and, among measures announced by the town hall, local bars will have to pay for a tent and DJ rather than the town hall.

MALLORCA TODAY - Criticism of increased taxes and fees in Pollensa

Opposition groups have attacked decisions of Pollensa town hall to raise or impose certain charges in the town, such as the tax for rubbish collection being increased by 15% and the new fee for the adult education centre (which had previously been free).

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 December 2011

A fine morning, some cloud about but sunny and distinctly chilly, though the temperatures locally reflect the micro-climates. Puerto Pollensa is generally always milder than, for example, the exposed coastline of the bay of Alcúdia with the open plain to one side. The variance is quite marked. At 08:15, just under 5 degrees around Playa de Muro yet just over 12 degrees in Puerto Pollensa. 14 the expected high in all places today, with the outlook remaining fine and for it getting warmer.

Afternoon update: A sunny day but a chilly one, the high just scraping over the 14 mark (down Playa de Muro way, by the way, and was therefore a bit higher than Puerto Pollensa, which does perhaps suggest that the latter is more consistent in its temperature pattern). Quite breezy a times, with some gusts up to 40kph.

Part Of The Union: Mallorca's mancomunidades

A "man community". Depending on your perspective, a man community would either sound distinctly ominous or something close to heaven. However, a man community, in a Mallorcan style, isn't anything to do with men. "Mancomunidad" (substitute the d's with t's to arrive at the Catalan alternative) means a union - and no sniggering in the back rows at the prospect of men engaged in union. The verb "mancomunar" means to unite, to be jointly responsible for or to pool, as in resources.

Pooling of resources is theoretically one essential ingredient of Mallorca's mancomunidades. There are six such unions, of which two, those for south Mallorca (Felanitx and Santanyí) and for the Migjorn region (Campos and Ses Salines), form one, which does rather beg a question as to why there need to be two of them. Anyway, the six (or five) of these unions are now indeed five, or four, as one of them, that for the north, has been disbanded.

The Mancomunidad Nord comprised six municipalities - Alcúdia, Pollensa, Muro, Sa Pobla, Santa Margalida and Artà. Or rather, it had, since 2009, comprised five, as Muro had decided a couple of years back to leave the union, which was somewhat unfortunate as the headquarters were in Muro: in the municipal building in Playa de Muro to be precise.

For fifteen years, this northern union had stumbled along, a coming-together of the uncertain, as there was no great certainty as to what its real purpose was. It did one or two things, like arrange for it to have a director and to devise the odd cycle route, but otherwise, it did very little. In theory such unions sound like common sense, but in the case of the one in the north there was a problem posed by an imbalance between the wealthier and less wealthy towns and between their economies.

Take a look at the six and this imbalance should become clear enough. Sa Pobla, for example, isn't a tourist town, while the others all are, but are so to varying degrees. Artà has comparatively little tourism, and while Muro and Santa Margalida have good amounts of it, neither is as wealthy as Alcúdia or Pollensa. The latter two towns really had no need for a union, and if it were a case of helping out others, it was a bit like Germany giving aid to Spain.

Competing agendas, the consequence of competing needs, meant that the union was never likely to work. But this said, each town has its own internal competing needs, and it is the job of town hall administrations to balance these. In the same way, had there been a will to do so, it might have been possible to arrive at a balance between the needs of the six towns.

Had there been a will, what should the union have been doing? Given the experiences of other unions on the island, the main activities might have involved the sharing of responsibilities for social services or for refuse collection. But was an absence of a will down to more than just imbalances between the towns? A logical outcome of towns working together and of pooling resources would be, as many have argued, that there should be a rationalisation of local authorities. A merger, in other words, or anathema in another word.

Of the different unions, two seem to be pretty active. These are the mancomunidades for Raiguer and for Pla, neither of them with tourist resorts and both of them, in the island's interior, with fairly similar needs. They have, for instance, worked together on matters such as water supply.

Though Inca and Marratxí, of the bigger towns in Mallorca, are members of a mancomunidad (both are part of the one for Raiguer), there are notable absentees: Manacor, Calvia and Llucmajor, each self-sufficient you would assume and each with a tourism economy.

What the different unions suggest is that for the most part towns which have significant tourist industries are among the "haves" of Mallorca or don't derive any great benefit from linking up with neighbours. They also suggest that where there are common interests, such as with the interior towns, the unions can probably work. But even here, one wonders if towns such as Inca would tend to dominate. And this, in addition to rivalries that would arise out of identity with individual towns, makes it questionable whether any rationalisation through merger of town halls could ever be made to work.

There is much to be said for more formal arrangements and for local authority amalgamations, but the experiences with the mancomunidades don't inspire confidence as they have been so uneven and so imbalanced. And there are other examples of union of which much the same could be said.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Prices announced for Mallorca's Real Madrid match

Real Mallorca's home game against Real Madrid, which will take place on Saturday, 14 January, will cost the same as last season's match. Cheapest seats will be 60 euros and the most expensive 130. For children the prices will range from 20 to 40 euros. Tickets will go on sale from 3 January.

MALLORCA TODAY - Criticism of government language law

Proposals by the Balearic Government to amend the language law have brought about criticisms, specifically to do with the removal of a requirement to be able to speak Catalan for workers in the public sector and with the introduction of Castilian names for towns, streets and highways. Criticism has come, for example, from Manacor where the Partido Popular mayor Antoni Pastor has defended the use of Catalan in the public sector. This is further evidence of the split within the PP in the Balearics, led by Pastor, whose criticisms of the government and of President Bauzá and tourism minister Carlos Delgado in particular have yet to receive a response from the government.

MALLORCA TODAY - New health card "pathetic"

Reaction to the announcement of the introduction of the new health card in the Balearics has been swift and damning, the patient ombudsman saying that a justification for the card (which will cost ten euros) that it will control fraud is "a pathetic excuse". Indeed it is hard to understand what fraud it is supposed to actually control. Meanwhile, it appears that though the new card can be bought as from 2 January, it won't actually be issued for a few months as the process of public tendering for the project has to be gone through. Why introduce the card, therefore, without this process having been undergone?

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 December 2011

A sunny morning with some cloud and feeling colder, the high not quite at 11 degrees at 08:30. No sign of the winds that are being warned of for today and tomorrow. The general outlook through the New Year celebrations and into next week is really pretty good with temperatures increasing and there being a good amount of sun.

Afternoon update: Cloud gathered later on but there was still a reasonable amount of sun, but a high of just 14.8. The threat of wind has not materialised and seems to be more confined to Menorca. Tomorrow likely to feel a little colder and then better from Saturday.

Where The Streets Have Two Names

In Pollensa town there is a street which, only a few metres apart, has two street signs. They differ in two ways; they were clearly put up on separate occasions as their appearance is not the same, while the name itself differs. Pius XI and Pío XI.

Pope Pius XI didn't think much of the Spanish Republican movement, demanding that it backtrack on its anti-clericalism. He got his wish when Franco took over.

In that Catalanism was associated with Republicanism, it might seem odd that nowadays the Pope at the time of the Civil War is recognised at all, be it in the form of a street name or in any other way. But Catalanism and the Catalan language don't have to mean the same thing; there were plenty of Catalan speakers who were pro-Franco and pro-Church. And where the Church is concerned, there still are.

The street name reflects the tussle for supremacy between Catalan and Castilian. Pius is Catalan; Pío is Castilian. Having two street signs so close together seems like a compromise, but they are there not because of compromise but because of the changing complexion of Mallorca's and Pollensa's politics in recent times.

As things stand, and despite the two languages both being official languages, official names are Catalan. The Balearic Government intends to change this. Names will be both Catalan and Castilian, and this won't just mean street and road names. It will also mean towns. In Pollensa, therefore, you would end up with Carrer Pius XI being in Pollença and Calle Pío XI being in Pollensa. At least they have a head start in Pollensa (Pollença) as they already have those separate signs.

Official or not, the two languages already mingle. Even where a street may physically have a Catalan name plate (assuming there is one at all), it is more than likely to be known by its Castilian version, or vice versa. Maps tend not to help. Indeed they tend to add to the confusion as they mix up Catalan and Castilian names within one town. There again, this can be the case anyway.

Does it really matter though? To the outsider, i.e. Brits and others, it probably all seems like a fuss about nothing. But it's not as if the use of two languages doesn't occur elsewhere. Take Wales for example. There is a very big difference, however, and that is that Welsh and English are totally different; Catalan and Castilian very often are not.

It obviously does matter to some. There is a sign post for Cala Rajada on which someone has scrawled a T. Cala Rajada or Cala Ratjada? Which is which? I think the version with a T is Castilian, if a Facebook page "Cala Ratjada con T" is anything to go by. I think, but I honestly couldn't care less. The person who operates the page clearly does care, as the page's "mission" is "the historic memory of T".

The government is of course following a line that could have been expected. It wants to "castellanizar" everything, but while there are issues, such as education and the language of teaching, that are important, can the same be said for street names or towns? And what might it end up costing, assuming that official documents and signs have to be re-done? Would this be, in the current economic climate, a wise way to spend money?

The proposed new law wouldn't mean new signs going up overnight. That would be too simple. Individual town halls would have to agree to there being changes and then the Council of Mallorca (and the Councils in Menorca and Ibiza as well) would have to determine the names of towns and of highways that connect towns, while changes to street names would require consultation with the university.

It all sounds like a recipe for chaos, but the government would assume that there won't be too much opposition to its proposal, given that most local authorities are PP-run. But what about those which aren't?

More than what the town halls might think, there is how the public at large might react. Many, by which I mean Mallorcan people, will probably be indifferent to the whole issue. It will just be another example of politicians mucking around, and so they will shrug their shoulders. But there will be those who won't be so resigned to the introduction of Castilian. The regional government, and the same applies to national government, really do have more important issues to worry about. Why go around potentially creating antagonism over something as unimportant? Or am I missing the point? It really is important. With or without T.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - New health card for Balearics to be introduced in January

As previously reported, the new health card for the Balearics, for which patients will be required to pay ten euros, is to provisionally be introduced at the start of January 2012. Its full introduction will be in May. Renewal of the card will necessitate payment for a card that will include patient data and a photo. Early renewal will allow for a 50% discount. A question regarding this is one for British residents who cannot currently hold identity residency cards. As the health card will include a photo and identity information, would they not be able to use the card as they might a regular identity card?

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa attack on tourism ministry over Hotel Formentor

Pollensa town hall's Partido Popular mayor Tomeu Cifre has attacked the tourism ministry over inconsistencies in the proposed reforms of the tourism law which would relax procedures for hotels in terms of permissions for development but which appear to prevent a more relaxed approach to development of Hotel Formentor, the subject of considerable debate for some years and which is currently confined to minimal increase in the number of places.

MALLORCA TODAY - PP fault lines in Mallorca appear

Further to discussion on this blog as to divisions within the Partido Popular in Mallorca and the Balearics, the focus of dissent in the party, Antoni Pastor, the mayor of Manacor, has opened the debate up regarding the party's direction and attitude towards regionalism. He has criticised President Bauzá for adopting the ideas of Carlos Delgado, the tourism minister who is firmly anti-regionalist, and for going against a tradition of regionalism in the local party. It now looks as though Pastor may well run against Bauzá at the next party congress to decide the leader of the party.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 December 2011

A mainly sunny start with only moderate breezes and a high of 13.3 at 08:30. Should remain a decent day. Strengthening winds again tomorrow with a yellow alert out again for sea conditions.

Afternoon update: A reasonable sort of day, not particularly warm despite a good deal of sun, the high having been 14.3.

The Disappearing Sand

The news that Muro and Can Picafort beaches have been losing approximately a thousand square metres of area every year sounds alarming to say the least. Or is it? I confess that being able to conceive of one thousand square metres is something of a challenge. Were it all in one place, then it would be pretty straightforward and far, far more alarming. One assumes, one knows, therefore, that the thousand square metres per annum have been rather more widely distributed or un-distributed, as the case may be.

The loss of this beach area has been going on for some time. Over fifty years, up to 2008, the beaches were divested of 51,000 square metres, which really is very much more alarming. One wonders, though, how it is that there still are beaches, and beaches, moreover, which look in a pretty reasonably sandy state.

One imagines that if one goes further back in time, i.e. longer than the 50-year period that they appear to have been measuring the loss of beach, there was also some loss. Or perhaps there wasn't.

The erosion is down to two things: the wind and a lack of sediment being washed up to replace the dispersed beach. It isn't, or isn't yet, the consequence of rising sea levels, but these are probably only a matter of time.

The wind has always been there and there isn't a great deal that can be done about it. Or rather, this was the case before the Costas Authority, now making a big deal about how it is saving the beaches, hit upon the idea of putting up sand traps. These, for the most part (and they are to be found on beaches elsewhere), are sort of bamboo/wicker affairs. Others are altogether more solid constructions, i.e. of wood, normally right at the back of beaches where the beaches meet roads. The theory behind the traps is simple enough. The sand is buffeted up against them rather than blown by the wind all over cars that have been parked on the adjoining roads.

I went and had a look at some of these sand traps. I could remember when they were originally being put up. The solid ones are still solid enough, but the others most certainly aren't. There does seem to be a major design flaw, as in they are too flimsy to withstand not the sand but the force of nature which drives the sand in the first place, namely the wind. Most of them are bent or broken or simply are no longer there. The Costas do a good job in saying what a good job they are doing in saving the beaches but do a less good job when it comes to maintenance.

The lack of sediment is potentially all the more troubling. Over the fifty years, the Costas reckon that only some 250 square metres have been deposited, which is negligible when compared with the overall erosion. Why would this be though? One answer may well lie with the posidonia sea grass.

It has been proved that posidonia traps sediment and prevents it suffering its own erosion. This, in turn, facilitates its being brought to shore, a naturally occurring phenomenon as the sea grass is broken down and then deposited onto beaches by wave motion. But if the posidonia is being lost (and it is argued that it is), then a replenishment with sediment is affected. At least I think this is how it's all meant to work. Perhaps there is a marine biologist out there who can offer a rather better explanation.

The drive to prevent a loss of beach started earlier than the installation of the sand traps. Five years ago, the dunes began to be roped off and at the same time somewhat peculiar notices began to appear asking beach users to brush sand off themselves as the sand was needed. It seemed a rather odd request, but now it seems rather less odd.

The roping-off of the dunes has gone way further. There is now one designated route through the dunes and forest where Playa de Muro and Can Picafort beaches meet. It is a real shame, as it used to be possible to just ramble wherever you wanted. Nature is now fenced off and has to be admired by looking on rather than being a part of.

Wind, sediment, beach users taking sand home on their towels. One can, I suppose, understand all this. But there is one further factor, and it applies especially to Can Picafort. Construction. Dunes were levelled and were built on. And when did this start? About fifty years ago.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 December 2011

A grey old morning, ominous clouds and a stiff breeze. Not cold though with a high on 14 at 09:00. Not surprisingly, given the clouds, rain is forecast, especially for this morning.

Afternoon update: Though there has been the odd sunny interlude, it has remained mostly grey, the temperature barely rising (a high of 14.4) and there having been some heavy rain with thunder this morning.

Being Boring: Rural tourism

What does rural tourism mean? Simple, you might think. A hotel or finca in the countryside. True, but rural tourism is so widely defined that across the regions of Spain there are no fewer than 80 categories of accommodation that fall under its umbrella, and some of it isn't even rural. This lack of harmonisation is just one reason why rural tourism in Mallorca and Spain as a whole faces a challenge.

A finca in the countryside sounds idyllic. And so it should be. But for owners the idyll is not matched by ideal procedures. When UNESCO declared the Tramuntana mountain range a heritage site, the response among some, for example the quality press in the UK eager to show it was on top of its game and rushing to offer its "top tens" of mountain accommodation, was not matched by that of underwhelmed property owners.

Just one reason for the lukewarm response was the sheer amount of bureaucracy and time that is involved in gaining permissions for re-development. The Balearic Government has addressed the rural tourism sector in its proposed new tourism law by suggesting that procedures which require the involvement of the environment ministry will be relaxed. It also intends to allow for more development of existing fincas on "rustic" land so as to increase the amount of accommodation.

As regards the former, time will tell if this indeed is the case and time will also tell as to what extent agencies other than government, i.e. the environmental lobby, pitch into the rural tourism debate and seek to prevent developments. More fundamental, though, is whether increasing the amount of accommodation will achieve a great deal. Rural tourism has been going through something of a crisis, and one not solely brought about by the economic climate.

On the "Hosteltur" website there has been a scathing attack on the rural tourism sector. Arturo Crosby, a regular contributor, condemned it for being "allergic to change", for having "little imagination" and for quite simply being "boring". Most of the commentators who replied to Crosby's article tended to be in agreement with him.

Not all rural tourism can be tarred with this negative brush, and some organisers go out of their way to provide activities of the type one would associate with rural tourism, such as hiking and biking. But rural tourism faces all manner of competition in making itself more appealing. Its most obvious competition comes from the sun-and-beach package holiday. Last year in July, while other tourism sectors were enjoying increased occupancy, rural tourism was the only one to suffer a decline.

The strength of competition is such that it has placed increasing pressure on prices. Some rural tourism, at the luxury end, can be expensive, but some isn't, and it has had to bring prices down in order to compete, so eroding margins on what is only ever very low-volume business. For rural hotels, there is an added problem that the length of stays is much shorter than that for resort hotels, while there is an issue for the sector as a whole and for Mallorcan rural tourism in particular when it comes to travel agencies.

Unlike the mainland where rural tourism is dominated by the domestic market, the reverse is the case in Mallorca. Mainland tourists do not bother with travelling to the island for this type of tourism, so the emphasis is on the foreign market, but travel agencies are confronted with the fragmented nature of rural tourism, constraints on commercialisation (partly, the legality or not issue) and the confusion of categories. As an example, an interior hotel in a town such as Alcúdia or Pollensa is embraced by the rural tourism tag, when it isn't.

There is also a perceptual problem when it comes to the foreign market. By comparison with France where rural tourism forms a cornerstone of the tourism industry, and has long done so, in Mallorca and Spain there is not the same image.

Tourism promotion, going back to the 1950s, used to give equal weight to rural and sun-and-beach tourism, but the latter decimated rural tourism because it afforded opportunities for shifting tourists en masse. With the help of huge injections of European money (and also funds from the Spanish state), rural tourism has sought a revival since the 1990s. But now there is a situation in which supply greatly outweighs demand, and the Balearic Government wants to add to that supply.

Rural tourism is idyllic but it is also idealistic. Were it marketed more effectively, were the procedures less burdensome, perhaps it could fulfil its potential. But will it ever do so, or is it simply too boring?

Any comments to please.

Monday, December 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa agrees to external audit of town hall's finances

Pollensa town hall has engaged the services of Deloitte to perform an audit of the town hall's finances as they relate to the last administration, there having been a number of concerns raised as to possible "irregularities".

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 December 2011

A mix of blue sky, cloud and breeze on what is a holiday today. A local high of 12.5 at 08:30 and a maximum of 15 anticipated. The forecast for lower temperatures this week now suggests rather different, even if there is likely to be snow on the mountains. Projecting ahead to New Years Eve and New Years Day, the outlook is for mainly sun and a high of 16.

Afternoon update: The temperature has struggled a bit today, just managing 14, the mix of cloud and sun lasting through the day. A bit of rain on the cards tomorrow, which is not surprising given the snow for the mountains.

Leonora Madd's Mallorcan Christmas Diary - II

(Sitting in for me for a second day, it's Leonora Madd, former society editor of "The Countrylady" and now resident somewhere in an imaginary Mallorca.)

Isn't Mallorca simply wonderful at this time of the year.

The association's tombola and dinner dance were both huge successes, and what a marvellous surprise that Captain Portillo should turn up and wish us all a merry Christmas. It was regrettable that Hugo had to leave with the Captain, especially as he had been so assiduous in making the DVDs that he had kindly then donated as third prize. But he was back home by Christmas Eve and said that the Captain is a great film fan.

Some members did of course head orf to Magalluf. What a frightful place. Needless to say, Vivienne Milfman organised the charabanc and the whole affair. Well she would, what with coming from Clacton! The woman has no style, and as for that spiv of a husband of hers.

Of course, it's all lottery money. She was no more than a barmaid, though she insists she was a publican. Not that this should be anything to boast about. The authorities really should have a fit-and-proper person's test before letting in some of the riff-raff that we're getting now. That villa of theirs is simply hideous. Done up like a Turkish brothel. Knowing that crook at Inmobiliaria Chicoancho, it would not surprise me in the slightest if, even with the millions from Camelot, she had paid black. What a relief though that she had gone, as she would have insisted that the Reverend had a karaoke at the carol service on Christmas Eve.

Clarissa rang on Christmas Day. It was just too much to think of her unable to be with us for Christmas luncheon and having to make do with couscous and a bottle of lemonade. And she wouldn't even be watching the Queen! Apparently Mohammed had commandeered the home-cinema system so that he could practise some video or other that he was making.

Giles had insisted on inviting Johnny Utterly and that Russian girl he's taken up with. Daphne will be turning in her grave, and it's only six months since the awful accident when the satellite dish fell on her. Natasha, she calls herself. Claims to be descended from Tsar Nicholas, but what she's doing in Palma, Heaven only knows. In my days at "The Countrylady", all the gals from European royal stock had themselves pied-à-terres in St. John's Wood. Johnny is rather vague as to her line of work. It won't last of course. She's barely out of her gymslip, and he's drawing his pension. At least Hugo and she seemed to hit it orf. Indeed Hugo seemed to know her already, though for the life of me I can't think from where.

The pheasants, and thank you all for asking, were of course the highlight.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 December 2011

The sea is roaring, but there isn't much sign of the predicted winds. Otherwise it is a clear blue sunny Christmas Day with temperatures variable in the area, but up to 14 degrees in parts at 08:45. May not go much or any higher though if that chill northerly really does come into play.

Boxing Day forecast and that for the coming week shows temperatures staying generally low and snow returning to the mountain tops.

Afternoon update: A very good Christmas Day, temperatures not high, the maximum just under 15 degrees and the wind gusting at times to 40kph, but sunny all day and, out of the wind, feeling warm.

Leonora Madd's Mallorcan Christmas Diary - I

(I am delighted that Leonora is standing in for me for a couple of days. Her writing days are rather behind her now. In fact they were never really in front of her, but she does bring her own unique insights into Mallorcan expatriate life. Andrew.)

Isn’t Mallorca simply wonderful at this time of the year.

I have buffed up my stout walking boots and been on many a long trek in the forests with Rufus, our labrador-collie cross. Poor thing, our deranged Mallorcan neighbour tried to blow him up the other day. And all because Rufie had impregnated the frightful man’s bitch. Fancy allowing a dog on heat to be out unleashed. The man is a positive menace. It’s all I can do to prevent Giles taking a horse-whip to the fellow. Not that he doesn’t deserve it.

Giles thought there was something a bit fishy about the wires leading from Rufus’s kennel. We got nowhere when we challenged the man. Not a word of English of course. Giles says he will call Captain Portillo and insist that he arrests him. It is reassuring that we are on such good terms with the Captain, despite the little incident with Hugo, his Moroccan chums and that launch that beached on the western coast a couple of years ago.

It is so wonderful that Hugo has been let out in time for Christmas. He celebrated by going to the gofe and country club and had a truly splendid time, only marginally spoilt by vomiting over Marjorie Bottomworthy’s feet. Well if she must wear Jimmy Choo’s - at her age! - what can she expect. The mad bat should wear something sensible.

Sadly, though, Clarissa will not be coming to us for Christmas. Hugo is distraught that his sister cannot make it and at her having converted to Islam, and this only months since she was a regular at the Sikh temple.

What has happened to Harbhajan we don’t know, but Mohammed seems a decent enough type. Giles had suggested we send him some whisker trimmers for Christmas to tackle that monstrosity of a beard. I had to point out, of course, that Mohammed doesn’t celebrate Christmas, which was a blessing in a way as it saved us the cost of the DHL.

Giles and he seem to be getting on famously. Mohammed is fascinated by Giles’s time with the Ministry, and they are exchanging emails about nuclear installations. At least it keeps Giles occupied. The last thing I need is him getting under my feet when I am busy organising the association’s Christmas tombola and annual dinner and dance.

And then there’s Christmas itself to prepare. Thank Heavens once more for the Captain. I had told Giles that he and Johnny Utterly should be a bit cautious in helping themselves to protected flora and fauna in the local nature park, but did they heed my advice? The Captain was kind enough to intervene after the patrol stopped them with the two small pine trees strapped to the roof of the Range Rover and the pheasants in the boot having gone into rigor mortis. Rufus had apparently been going berserk.

“They will make a fine Christmas feast,” he said. He does speak such wonderful English, and I do so admire a man in green. Giles is a tad jealous I suspect and has been hunting in the spare-room wardrobe for his old TA fatigues. I do, though, draw the line at him wearing his Barbour in bed.

Merry Christmas to all,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa employees' productivity bonuses

Employees of Pollensa town hall will no longer receive automatic, monthly productivity bonuses. Department heads (i.e. specific councillors) will now decide which employees merit such payments which currently equate to about ten per cent of salaries.

MALLORCA TODAY - Health cards to cost ten euros

The Balearic regional government has approved the introduction of a new health card that will be chipped to incorporate patient information and which will also require a photograph. The card will cost each patient ten euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 December 2011

As expected, a cloudier start to Christmas Eve. No evidence of the wind yet, but it is likely to get up later. A high of 15 forecast.

Afternoon update: Sun came through quite quickly this morning, but cloud returned and the day has been a mix of the two with the high just under the 15 mark and a touch of rain about. The wind hasn't been the factor it was forecast to be, or hasn't yet been, but the sea has been quite turbulent.

So Many Miquels: Tourism secretary

You have to be a tad careful when sifting through all the information as it applies to Miquel Ramis, and that's because there are so many Miquel Ramises and more than just one of them are involved with the hotel industry, or have been implicated in cases that have required their presence in front of m'lud, or both.

The particular Miquel Ramis who is the subject here is not the Miquel Ramis who is the founder and president of Grupotel, the ex-mayor of Muro, disqualified from public office for ten years and mentioned in dispatches regarding the ongoing investigations into the affairs of former regional president Jaume Matas.

The Miquel Ramis, for our purposes, is the Miquel Ramis who was, confusingly enough, born in Muro but who is resident in Alcúdia, a former mayor of Alcúdia, a member of the family which is the major shareholder in the Alcúdia Beach apartments in Puerto Alcúdia and who came to an agreement in July with a court in Inca which allowed for cases against him, related to the apartments, to be archived. He is also the secretary-general of the Partido Popular in the Balearics and he is being lined up as the probable secretary of state for tourism in the national government.

A curious aspect of Ramis' continuing involvement with the PP locally is that President Bauzá made such a big thing about there not being any candidates at the regional elections who had any legal cases hanging over them. So much of a big thing did he make of it that this was one reason why there was a split in the party. Jaume Font had been implicated, albeit that his case was archived well before the elections. Nevertheless, Bauzá's stance, along with stances on other matters, was sufficient to suggest to Font that he was better off outside the PP and in charge of his own party.

There was perhaps a hint of double standards in that Ramis was secretary-general at the time of Bauzá's elevation to the PP leadership and beyond. He has recently been a candidate at different elections and was voted into the national parliament as a Balearics deputy. Now he might find himself with added responsibility in Madrid.

The closeness between Bauzá and Mariano Rajoy had led to some speculation that Bauzá might himself have been given a post in the Rajoy administration. To his credit, Bauzá dismissed the idea; it wouldn't have looked good to have walked away from the presidency only a few months into the job.

Nevertheless, the closeness may well explain why Ramis is in the frame for the secretary of state post, and were he to be chosen, there would be a sense of continuity, as the outgoing secretary was the Mallorcan Joan Mesquida who has gone on record as saying that he hopes his successor will also be from the Balearics.

Notwithstanding the little legal difficulties he found himself in, Ramis, widely regarded as having been a good mayor of Alcúdia, would represent an interesting appointment, as it would give the two island tourism regions of Spain - the Balearics and the Canaries - a dominance of national tourism policy. The new minister for industry, energy and tourism, and thus potentially Ramis's boss, is José Manuel Soria, a former president of the Canaries.

Soria, on being appointed minister, said that the Canaries "will have singular attention", but he added that the Balearics would not be forgotten as the islands also need "special attention" because of the importance of tourism.

Though many in the tourism industry had called on Rajoy to appoint a minister for tourism alone, so raising the importance of tourism around the cabinet table, the necessity for a dedicated minister is questionable. So long as the multi-tasking supremo, Soria, has a feel for tourism, which he will have, and there is a secretary-general of sufficient competence and experience, a minister is probably unnecessary.

The question is whether Ramis really fits the bill. In one respect, he does have an advantage over Mesquida, whose previous background in office was that of responsibilities in the Balearics for finance and the Guardia Civil. On the face of it, a combination of Soria and Ramis would look to be positive for the Balearics, but not everyone might agree, as the minutiae of the tourism industry won't allow them to agree.

Ramis has business interests in hotels. Which are the two regions of Spain most subject to the hotel lobby and which therefore are the strongest opponents of alternative accommodation, e.g. holiday lets? The Canaries and the Balearics.

Moving on ... Christmas 2011 -
Time, I guess, to forget all the matters that bother us for the rest of the year. If only for a day or two. A happy Christmas to all the many of you who come here every day or less frequently, and enormous thanks to the many who correspond with me and/or who provide support through appreciation (and criticism) as well as through invaluable feedback and information.

As has become traditional, here is the blog's Christmas song. Not that it is particularly Christmassy, just that somehow it captures a spirit. Plus there are the heavenly stars. Laura Veirs.

Any comments to please.

(Please note: As with other areas of the media, especially the broadcast media, I shall be taking a rest for a day or two but will be handing over to a guest blogger tomorrow. And she may even still be with us on Boxing Day. So I hope you will send a special Christmas welcome to Leonora Madd. Tomorrow - on the blog.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Muro beach has lost 1,000 square metres a year

According to the Costas Authority, beaches in Playa de Muro and Can Picafort were reduced by 51,000 square metres over a 50-year period up to 2008. Since then, remedial action has been taken, primarily the installation of barriers and walkways in the dunes, to counteract the effects of the wind which is one of the main causes of beach loss.

MALLORCA TODAY - Complementary offer rejects tourism law reform

In reaction to the proposal under the reformed tourism law that bars, restaurants and other businesses that comprise the "complementary offer" could extend their activities (see article: "Two Pints Of Lager And A Three Piece Suit"), business associations have been swift to condemn the proposal, suggesting that tourist areas would become like Chinese bazars and that there would be chaos.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 December 2011

Down to six degrees over night under clear skies, a chilly start but with plenty of sun and highs certainly into the mid teens or edging up towards the 20 mark again. The latest forecast for Christmas Day now shows a clear day with sun but not as warm with quite a strong northerly anticipated.

Afternoon update: A really superb day. Sunny if not quite as warm as yesterday, there having been a high of just over 18 degrees. Cloud on the cards for tomorrow together with the strengthening wind.

Two Pints Of Lager And A Three Piece Suit

Yet more from the brave new world of the reformed tourism law. It is not just a law for the hotels, insists the brave new(ish) tourism minister. It is a law that will also help the "complementary offer", the bars, the restaurants, the clubs, the shops. And how might it help exactly? Carlos Delgado has a scheme whereby bars, for example, would be able to sell clothing. What the shops make of the idea, who knows, but one would doubt that they will be over enamoured of it. What will the shops be able to do? Sell beer on draught?

This proposal seems to imply that various businesses which form the complementary offer will be able to provide each other's services and products. It would need to be fleshed out and made clearer, but, as examples, a restaurant, one presumes, might be able to have a deli counter or a bar might be able to flog more clothing than the bar-promotional T-shirts that they currently do.

One reason, indeed the main reason it would seem, for this proposal is to give the complementary offer a means of combatting a loss of business brought about by all-inclusives. In principle, it may have some merit, but isn't there a slight flaw? All-inclusives mean less being spent outside the hotel. Why should a bar go to the trouble and expense of stocking up with shorts and flip-flops, when they probably wouldn't sell them.

A consequence of this might be that the different businesses end up engaging in price wars. Good for the consumer, the consumer that exists, that is, but not necessarily good for individual businesses. More to the point, though, is that the proposal smacks of putting the cart of trying desperately to find a way to compensate for the impact of all-inclusives before the horse of actually doing something about all-inclusives. The problem is, of course, that there is very little that can be done about all-inclusives.

In purely practical terms, would a bar, especially a bar that isn't that big, give up some space that can generate cash through bums on seats in the hope that they might coin in more from flogging clothes or cans of baked beans? The proposal sounds like a sop to the complementary offer that has seen little by way of anything else to emerge from the tourism law reform, and a sop that would be unlikely to achieve much.

Still, you can't blame the government for trying something different, and maybe the proposal might in fact work. If nothing else, it would offer a bar or restaurant the opportunity to diversify if it wished to.

Minister Delgado says that "structural reforms", such as this one, within the tourism sector will help to boost the economy as a whole. Some of the reforms probably will achieve this, but there are structural problems within the sector, of which the growth in all-inclusives is one. All that the government can come up with is to let bars sell clothes and prohibit the taking of food and drink off hotel premises. The latter reform, designed, it is said, to help bars by stopping all-inclusive guests wandering the streets with plastic glasses of lager, will achieve almost nothing, other than to provide the hotels with a massive headache when confronted by uppity tourists who are determined to go walkabout with free Saint Micks in their hands.

If the government really wanted to help bars and so on, why doesn't it do something about all the restrictions and procedures that the bars have been saddled with over the past few years? The proposal does refer to "entertainment", so maybe it is envisaged that there will be some relaxation in respect of music licences or limiters. The government might also look at making gaming legal in bars and at creating the possibility for self-employed workers to actually be able to gain a category of business activity that would enable bars to take them on as bar staff for short periods without all the hassle of entering into contracts and the expense of paying social security. But then, I suppose, there would be a hue and cry about taking away fixed-contract workers.

As much as changing market conditions have made life more difficult for bars, so have all the rules. The government seems content to make life easier for the hotels by changing the rules, so why doesn't it do so for other sectors?

Any comments to please.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - A new festival for Pollensa

With the appointment of a new director for the Pollensa Music Festival, the anticipation is that the festival will embrace other elements of the arts, notably cinema and literature. The concept should be in place for next year, but a question is: where's the funding coming from?

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 December 2011

A much brighter day. Mainly clear skies and sun with minimal breeze and a high just below 15 at 09:00. Christmas Day forecast is still for it to be a bit chillier but also sunny.

Afternoon update: It has been a really fine day, with a high of 19.2. Similar for tomorrow probably, but the winds are going to pick up on Saturday and a yellow alert is already out for coastal areas.

Taxing The Tourist

Might the Balearics revive the eco-tax or create some similar tourist tax? The government has hitherto discounted the notion, but it may well be looking across the sea to the mainland and to Catalonia where a tax is to be introduced in 2012.

The Catalonian tax envisages payments for a maximum of ten nights of a stay, and it will apply to hotels, apartments, cruise ships, camping areas and rural properties - pretty much everything, in other words. Five-star hotels will attract a rate of three euros a night, four-stars two euros a night and the rest one euro. Children under 12 will be exempt. It is estimated that the tax will raise in the region of 100 million euros and the money will be used primarily for tourism promotion.

The Balearics eco-tax was introduced in 2003 by the then socialist government of President Antich and was abandoned a year later by the Partido Popular administration. The tax attracted significant amounts of bad publicity and warnings of the harm it would cause to the local tourism industry. It was unpopular because it was unilateral, i.e. other regions of Spain didn't have such a tax.

For all that the tax was not well thought-out (it was essentially discriminatory in that the hotels were the channel of collection), the principle behind it had merit. In purely moral terms, it is not unreasonable, for example, to expect tourists to contribute to the provision of resources and services, while the application of a tourism tax is a well-enough established practice in different parts of the world.

A counter argument against the tax was that tourists already contributed, albeit indirectly, through their spend that supported local businesses which in turn paid taxes. This was also reasonable and, especially among tourist "veterans" who had been coming to Mallorca for years, there was some resentment at being asked to pay when they had been contributing for so long.

Since 2003 though, one thing has changed and that is the increase in all-inclusives. It might seem unfair to penalise tourists who don't stay in an all-inclusive, but the level of spend in resorts with high concentrations of all-inclusive has unquestionably been affected, with the result that the contribution to the local economy has gone down.

Another thing that has changed is that competition from other destinations has become steadily more intense. A concern that a local tax in 2003 might have put the Balearics at a disadvantage with other parts of Spain would now be one of worries about boosting tourism to other countries. However, and as events have shown, this competition can come with a caveat, one of potential disruption.

The competition argument isn't the strongest, and it isn't one that seems to bother the Catalonian government. Instead, faced with a budget cut to tourism of one-third in 2012, it is looking to the tax to enable it to strengthen its marketing clout in beating off the competition.

A problem for Catalonia, however, is that a tax, were it widely known to be earmarked for promotion, would not necessarily play well with tourists. It would be reasonable for visitors to believe that this was something that they should not have to pay for. Though the Balearics eco-tax was mishandled, if the PR were done effectively, tourists would be more likely to accept paying for the environment or for good works. Promotion, a matter very much for a regional government and its tourism industry and it alone, is different.

More than all this though, there is an issue with the drip-drip effect of added costs to the tourist. To a local tax can be added charges such as those imposed by the British and German governments on air travel. The cumulative effect of the drip-drip would not mean tourists opting for a competitor destination (especially as air duties are universal and indeed higher for longer distances), but it would most likely eat more into the spend once at the destination. On the basis of what Catalonia intends to introduce, a family of four with two teenagers at a three-star hotel would pay 40 euros more. This might not seem a lot, but cumulatively, for the tourism population as a whole, it may well result in spend decreasing even more. What is gained through a direct contribution would be lost from an indirect contribution.

On balance, however, the Balearic Government might be advised to re-visit the concept of a tourism tax, if only on moral grounds.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 December 2011

A grey start to the day with a high of 13 at 09:00. Forecast to be cloudy most of the day with tomorrow and into the weekend sunnier and quite warm but then getting colder on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

With autumn now at an end, the local met office reports that this autumn has been the second warmest in the past 40 years - on average, 1.3 degrees warmer. It has also been a wetter than usual autumn in the Balearics as a whole, though regional variations in Mallorca have meant that the island's rainfall shows no difference to the norm.

Afternoon update: An average sort of a day. Some sun but a fair amount of cloud. Only light breezes and a high of 16.

If Mallorca Were Really Like Trinidad

Where would we be without Wikipedia? Forget the dangers of putting Google into Google and breaking the internet, if you were to type Wikipedia into Wikipedia, the world would come to an end.

Apropos of very little, I happened the other day to enquire about the Balearics in Wikipedia. The most interesting bit was to do with how organisations like the IMF spend their time. You might think the IMF would be dashing across the globe with suitcases of notes to help bail out basket-case economies, but no, it does something altogether more important. And it's not just the IMF. The Spanish national statistics office as well; it's at it. Not content with coming up with useless information on how much tourists spend (or don't), the statistics office, together with the IMF, so says Wikipedia, which cites them as sources, are figuring out where Mallorca and the Balearics are comparable with.

On the scale of pointless exercises, this is one that leans towards the "nul point", but nevertheless I feel it incumbent upon me to let you know that the Balearics are like Trinidad and Tobago and also the Bahamas, while not of course forgetting East Timor.

It's all a matter of size, where T&T are concerned: the same or similar land area to the Balearics. The economy equates to that of the Bahamas and population to that of East Timor (aka Timor Leste). Why the IMF and the stats people bother drawing up these comparisons is anyone's guess. Perhaps it's some sort of work experience task for geography, economics and demographics internees. You wouldn't imagine that the head of the IMF is spending much time calculating the relative land masses of individual island groups, or maybe Christine Lagarde is.

Up to a point, I feel slightly insulted, and that's because I have previously compared Mallorca to Essex in terms of size. Maybe I should go on to Wikipedia and add this information, as it seems more relevant than a comparison with Trinidad. I mean, it's not as though you get many tourists from Trinidad. Essex, on the other hand ... .

But if Trinidad it is, what would it mean if Mallorca were really like Trinidad? Well, for a kick-off there would be more of a Carnival than the half-hearted affairs you normally get and so a bit of a plus point for the off-season tourism. And tourism wouldn't be promoted by Nadal on a boat but by Brian Lara on a sun-kissed, palm-lined beach playing cricket while happy, smiling locals drink milk straight from the coconut. Hmm, sun-kissed, palm-lined; sounds a bit familiar, I suppose, though whether they have the red beetle palm plague in Trinidad I couldn't honestly say.

And thanks to Lara, the Sa Pobla Cricket Club wouldn't have a grass-less field but a stadium welcoming the Barmy Army (more tourism of the drinking class, but, boy, can they put it away) rather than playing host to the All Essex Secondhand Car Dealers Veterans XI.

Apart from Carnival, cricket, calypso and a lot more curry, if Mallorca were really like Trinidad and were genuinely blessed by having one very important natural resource, it would be in a lot better place than it currently is, because, and to continue a recent theme, what has Trinidad got that the Balearics don't and that many would hope it doesn't have? Yep, you guessed it. Oil. Oil and gas. Oil by the barrel load. Oil and gas equate to 40% of GDP. They haven't worried too much if there is the odd refinery on the landscape. Rather than Port of Spain, it's a bit like Port Talbot.

The comparisons that the IMF and the statistics office give out could as easily put the Balearics on a par with Trinidad and Tobago in terms of GDP; it's how the GDP is comprised that matters. But in an uncertain future, what should it rather be? Tourism or oil?

This is not the first time I have, pretty much by accident, stumbled across a Mallorca is like somewhere comparison. It happened back in June (22 June: "The Weaver's Tale") when I looked at Mauritius and its textile industry. And the point about Mauritius was that the government there set out a deliberate strategy to diversify the economy, with textiles forming an important part.

Trinidad got lucky. It had the oil. Tourism is more important to Tobago and both islands benefit from it, but the diversification underlines the fact that island economies, such as Mallorca's, cannot rely so heavily on one industry and one so geared to only a part of the year. If Mallorca were really like Trinidad, it would be Carnival all year.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 December 2011

A generally sunny morning, but some streaks of cloud as well and not feeling as cold as yesterday, a local high of 12.5 at 08:45. The outlook is not changing, so remaining a similar mix as present with maximums over the next few days being 16.

Afternoon update: A warmer day, with a high of 15.3 but only intermittently sunny.

A Tale Of Two Houses

The antiquity of houses in the old towns of Mallorca hides any number of stories and reveals any number of secrets. Though some houses fall into a state of virtual ruin, the desire to preserve them is pursued with a passion for patrimony. Heritage and its maintenance has been elevated to a state akin to almost religious obsession. There is nothing at all wrong with such zeal, yet it can border on the homiletic in that a good heritage is preached, while sometimes practice does not match the sermon.

To get an impression of how, for differing reasons, the wish to preserve can fall some way short of what might be hoped, I give you a tale of two houses - Can Domenech in Alcúdia and Can Llobera in Pollensa.

Can Domenech dates back to the late Middle Ages. Much closer to the current day, in the 1950s it was bought by the Bryant Foundation which became the main focus of excavations at the Roman town of Pollentia. Towards the end of the last century the building was closed before being bought for the town in 2003, and most recently, restoration work commenced prior to the house becoming the headquarters of the consortium which now oversees Pollentia.

The restoration work, though, very nearly ground to a halt. In October, it was discovered that there were certain "irregularities" in the agreement drawn up between Alcúdia town hall, the regional government and the Council of Mallorca, each a party to footing the bill for the restoration. Up till the end of October, only one of the parties - the town hall - had actually handed any money over, which amounted to roughly a tenth of the restoration budget.

The problem lay with the fact that neither the former culture minister at the government nor his counterpart at the Council of Mallorca had the authority or competency to have signed off on the agreement. Work has since restarted, the town hall now having to pay more than had been originally planned.

Can Llobera in Pollensa is about as old as Can Domenech. The original building is reckoned to be from the start of the sixteenth century and it was in the possession of the Llobera family, whose most famous member was the poet Miquel Costa i Llobera, author of the "Pi de Formentor". It too was acquired for the town, Pollensa town hall handing over 1.5 million euros for the building in 2005.

And once the town hall bought Can Llobera, nothing happened. So much so that in September it was closed permanently because it was in such a poor state, part of the roof having collapsed.

A budget to allow restoration had been blocked earlier this year by opposition parties at the town hall who said they had insufficient time to study the proposals. Given the urgent need for work, they then abstained, thus allowing the town hall to allocate funds that had been intended for the building of a footbridge in Pollensa.

But funding still remains an issue, and a further issue is that, the building apart, what is actually inside it is in a state as bad as the building. Documents, including books and photos, all part of what the town hall paid for, are so far gone that they are beyond recovery.

The tales of the two houses aren't the same, but they both raise doubts as to abilities to pursue adequately the preservation of historic buildings. Can Domenech has highlighted, and certainly not for the first time, the bureaucratic bungling that can occur as a consequence of the three-headed monster of town hall, Council of Mallorca and government being allowed to get anywhere near a project. It is one that has left Alcúdia having to stretch a budget it doesn't really have.

Can Llobera is a tale of shocking neglect and profligacy. The town hall was prepared to spend 1.5 million euros on something which it appeared to have no interest in, beyond the publicity that it could have basked in at the time, and no plan as to maintenance. Arguably, it couldn't afford the building in 2005. Now, it most certainly wouldn't be able to.

Patrimony comes at a price, as both town halls have discovered. And for every Can Domenech and Can Llobera, how many other buildings are there across the island that need similar attention (or don't receive it) and similar funding? In a previous article (about the Son Real finca near Can Picafort), I concluded by questioning quite how serious different bodies are in preserving heritage. They are serious in putting preservation in motion, but that's the easy part. It's what comes after that they struggle with.

Any comments to please.

Monday, December 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 December 2011

There was some rain again during the evening yesterday, but the morning is clear and feeling cold with a high of 9 degrees at 08:30. Cloud around for tomorrow and into Wednesday, the forecast for Christmas Day is a mix of cloud and sun and a high of 15.

Afternoon update: A mostly sunny day but a high of only 13.2.

Too Risky: Thomas Cook

"Visitors don't need alcohol when they come to Egypt, they have enough of it at home."

The words are those of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and they were spoken some days ago, around the time that the political wing of the brotherhood was taking around 50% of votes in Egypt's election. The Freedom and Justice Party is said to be moderate, but with a hardline Islamist party having also secured a reasonable level of votes, the results and the utterances might have even more impact on tourism to Egypt than the uprising against Mubarak did.

Egypt will still of course welcome tourism, but whether it is tourism that arrives able to expect a glass or several of cold beer or to stretch out on a beach in a bikini, time is about to tell. And Egypt is not the only country to move towards a more Islamist political complexion - Tunisia and Morocco have as well.

However this complexion is styled, there is no escaping the fact that tourism to these countries is going to be affected. For Mallorca, it again means good news, but given the interwoven nature of political change and the travel industry it isn't necessarily all good news. Why not? Thomas Cook.

Within the business world, there is a whole industry devoted to risk analysis. It is an industry that goes beyond the financial risks that the credit-ratings agencies deal in specifically. It takes in all manner of issues, such as the risk of turmoil and the threat to internal security. These, by extension, mean risks to anyone doing business in a country or even simply visiting it.

Though Egypt, along with other destinations, was stable for many years, it always came with a risk. The Arab spring was the manifestation of that longstanding risk, and the post-Mubarak era is a further manifestation as it gives rise to uncertainty. What most businesses want least of all, as do tourists, is uncertainty. But in Egypt, they now have it.

So where does Thomas Cook fit into this?

The financial troubles at the tour operator have been the headliner that has tended to relegate to the small print of the news columns the company's business strategy, and it has been one founded on a risk, that of placing an emphasis on the newer tourism markets - Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey.

A criticism that has been levelled at Thomas Cook by the hotel industry in Mallorca is that it turned its back to an extent on Mallorca and took business away from the island to the new markets. The reasoning lay, or so it is said, with Thomas Cook's belief that Spain was no longer "competitive", a position that has contrasted with that of its main rival, TUI, which has continued to look to develop the Mallorcan and Spanish markets.

Tourism is and remains a business that demands the minimisation of risk. This is true of most business, but tourism is a particular case; one in which financial prudence sits alongside an assessment of potential disruption and the loss of business. And of the "big two" tour operators, TUI has played it safer.

The accusation that Thomas Cook turned its back on Mallorca is rather unfair. For summer 2012, for instance, it has, through its UK operation alone, 35 hotels and/or apartments which are being marketed on its website under the Thomas Cook name or those of its divisions.

Nevertheless, what the company's strategy will now entail is unclear. As part of its new financing arrangements, it has to shed a whole load of hotels from its portfolio, and it is reckoned to look less than favourably on the three-star sector; quite a number of the 35 hotels are three-star.

This is just one question that is now exercising the thoughts of the Mallorcan and Spanish tourism industry, as is Thomas Cook's treatment of suppliers, for which you can probably read hotels, as it is the secretary general of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation who has spoken of poor treatment. He doesn't, though, believe that Thomas Cook having to lose a number of hotels over the next three years will be a problem as there will be other takers. But who? TUI?

One hopes sincerely that Thomas Cook emerges a stronger business from its current troubles. It needs to, or else the big two tour operators become the "Big One". And if the company ultimately renews its concentration on Mallorca and Spain, then Mallorca and Spain will emerge the stronger. The time for risk-taking has passed.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Small fire in Albufera

Proving that it does not have to be hot for fires to start, there was a fire that affected 0.2 hectares of reed and grass land in the Albufera park yesterday afternoon, helped on its way by the winds.

Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 December 2011

Rain came in yesterday evening, but the morning is bright with some darkish cloud about and a light breeze. Highs edging towards 12 degrees at 08:30 and not expected to go much higher. It will become warmer from Tuesday with maximums anticipated to be back up at the 17 mark by mid-week.

Afternoon update: Mainly sunny all day but feeling chilly in a northerly breeze from the sea. A high of 13.3.

Falling Apart: PSOE and PP

Consistent with the navel-gazing that follows electoral batterings in the UK, defeated political parties in Spain and the Balearics are subject to similar appraisals and predictions of breaking up. Such a forecast, for example, was made in respect of the Conservatives in 1997, and it came to nothing. The impulse for politicians is, generally speaking, to stick with the devils they know and to bear in mind lessons from the likes of the "Gang Of Four" who were very swiftly gobbled up by the alliance that became the Liberal Democrats.

PSOE (aka PSIB) in the Balearics is, like the socialist party nationally, now facing these sorts of predictions. They are also unlikely to come to anything, but this doesn't stop commentators suggesting that the party could break up and that its future is all but behind it.

PSOE, nationally at any rate and in terms of its longevity, might be said to be the natural party of Spanish government. Its origins as a Marxist party in 1879 give it a place in history that is some one hundred years longer than that of its main rival, the Partido Popular. In the Balearics, however, the PP, since autonomy and the first regional elections in 1983, has dominated; it can claim to be the natural party of Balearics government for a region of Spain that has traditionally leaned towards conservatism.

The sixteen years of PP government from 1983 gave the party a further and lingering advantage over PSOE in the Balearics; that of its actual organisation at town and village level. To use a cliché, it is a well-oiled machine that PSOE has never been.

Organisation and history apart, a key challenge for PSOE is that the left and the centre-left in the Balearics is fragmented in a way that the right and centre-right isn't. The PSM Mallorcan socialists and others occupy territory to its left but contribute to the splitting of the left vote.

The PP, on the other hand, has benefited from the virtual disappearance of the nationalist centre-right that was the Unió Mallorquina and from the failure of disaffected PP members to establish a credible alternative: Jaume Font's La Lliga.

It is against this background that PSOE will convene in February to elect a new leader and future presidential candidate. And the choices do not necessarily inspire huge confidence: Francina Armengol, the former president of the Council of Mallorca, an institution riddled with debt; Aina Calvo, the ex-mayor of Palma, where the town hall is similarly deep in the red; Ramon Socias, the curious figure who has been the Balearics delegate to central government and one who seems generally unpopular with the local rank-and-file.

The selection and also the philosophy going forward may be influenced by an event due to take place shortly before. Prime Minister Zapatero is planning a national congress to address PSOE's future earlier in February. Whatever the outcome of this, PSOE locally, with its shortlist of tainted candidates, might do well to pick some new and different blood.

It is a prospect that this national congress may just propel PSOE towards the right that gives some credence to forecasts that the party may break up. It is possible, but, as with Labour, it is unlikely; the desire for power that comes from a recognisable political force is too great.

Indeed, the possibility of a PSOE splinter in the Balearics is not as strong as the possibility of one within the PP or of, at the least, growing tensions within the PP.

In the name of victory at the regional elections, these were understated, but they were there all the same and they are now coming to the fore. The cheerleader of the PP's left wing is Antoni Pastor, who has suggested he might stand aside as mayor of Manacor. If he does, what's he going to do?

Pastor chose not to jump ship and hook up with Font's La Lliga, but some of the dynamics that helped the PP to benefit in May could now be exploited to form a more credible alternative than La Lliga. And these dynamics occupy the ground left behind by the Unió Mallorquina - the regionalist politics of the centre-right, with which many in the PP are sympathetic.

Again, it's unlikely that a new party might emerge, but the tensions are such that opposition to President Bauzá will grow from within his party. At a time, therefore, when PSOE looks to be holed below the line, the local PP could be about to embark on a process that rips it apart.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 1 : 2 Getafe

Though the visitors had the best of the initial exchanges, Mallorca took the lead after nine minutes through a header by centre-back Ramis. Getafe continued to enjoy greater possession, as Mallorca's worrying recent disciplinary record came to the fore - three players booked, and none for foul play - and then the possession paid off, Barrada equalising just before the half hour. Mallorca, though, made more of the ball, having the better of efforts on goal, but to no avail, and Barrada added a second two minutes before the break.

In the second half, Mallorca became more dominant, Getafe sitting back and spoiling Mallorca's efforts, goalkeeper Moyá being booked for time-wasting, but the visitors held on, condemning Mallorca to a home defeat against a side they badly needed to take at least a point off.

The holiday break from La Liga games is probably opportune for Mallorca, but the next two games - away at currently top-four-side Levante over the weekend of 8 January and then Real Madrid at home - are not what a struggling team needs.

Aouate; Cendrós, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Tissone, Pina (Martí 61), Pereira, Castro (Nsue 78); Álvaro (Hemed 46), Victor
Goal: Ramis (9)
Yellows: Pina (19), Cáceres (20), Pereira (21), Chico (54), Victor (58), Cendrós (79)

Moyá; Torres, Lopo, Díaz, Masilela; Rodríguez, Casquero, Rios (Mané 90), Barrada (Gavilán 83); Güiza (Lacen 76), Miku
Goals: Barrada (28, 43)
Yellows: Lopo (31), Masilela (81), Moyá (82), Torres (87)

MALLORCA TODAY - Concerns over Son Serra yacht club

Santa Margalida town hall has said that it has received as yet no notification of any plan from the regional government to expand the yacht club in Son Serra de Marina as part of a government initiative to increase nautical facilities around Mallorca's coast. Residents are worried that an expansion would lead to noise.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 December 2011

The wind that continued to blow through the night has largely abated for the time being, leaving a morning of some sun and some quite heavy cloud with a local high of just over 13 degrees at 09:00. The yellow alert remains in place, however, with the winds shifting to the north and temperatures staying low; 14 the maximum being forecast through to Monday.

Afternoon update: The chill has remained, the high being only 13.4, despite a reasonable amount of sun. The wind has fallen away for now, but there have been gusts of up to 60kph, depending on location.

French Lessons: Promotional messages

What's a ridiculous French number? "Soixante-neuf" perhaps? Not ridiculous, but it has inspired generations of prurient chortling. "Deux" maybe? The number of years of suspended prison sentence that Chirac has received. "Mille-cent-trente-sept?" The year that Charles the Fat died, and ridiculous for no other reason than that the French used to deal in kings with ridiculous names.

The answer is in fact none of these. It is of course "trois-cent-mille". Or indeed slightly fewer than 300,000, the total number of French tourists who travel to Mallorca each year, and a number that hasn't changed since the turn of the century.

At a gathering of directors of different offices of Turespaña, the national tourism promotion organisation, the director for Paris cited the ridiculous number and bemoaned the small number of French tourists and an image they have of Mallorca as being "over-constructed".

The French tourism market is an odd one. You might wonder why the French would want to bother holidaying in Mallorca when they have their own Mediterranean or Atlantic resorts. There again, if you live in Paris, you might just as well hop over to Mallorca as head down to the Riviera. It is a tourism market that also has plenty of history. It was French tourists, for example, who pretty much first colonised Alcúdia in the early 1930s, dropping into the bay by sea-planes from Marseille.

But resorts or no resorts, Mediterranean or no Mediterranean, the reluctant French tourists are a mystery when you consider that they lag some way behind the Italians who also have sea and sun and can, and do, boast about cuisine and wines superior to those of Mallorca (just as the French would). The Turespaña director in Milan says that Mallorca has become a destination "à la mode" for the Italians, or rather "una moda".

The lack of French tourists, who could joyfully take to the beaches of Mallorca and lob Euro-harmony insults at the British (and indeed the Italians and Spanish) along the lines of your deficit is bigger than our deficit, was just one issue that the Turespaña directors had to contend with. It might simply be a case of Turespaña's promotional slogan of "I Need Spain" being more of a mouthful in French ("J'ai besoin de l'Espagne"), but Mallorca's image of being over-constructed is perhaps revealing, especially to a race whose own tourism tends to be understated by comparison.

It does rather depend where in Mallorca you go (or the French go), but the fact that the French might have this image emphasises the fact that promotion cannot rest on its laurels and that it also needs to create different messages for different markets. Unfortunately, on its laurels is where promotion is resting.

The massive cut to the Balearics tourism budget for 2012 and the resultant loss of tourism promotion spend (the total budget will have plummeted by 89% in the space of two years) was way higher than the Mallorca hoteliers federation, among others, had been expecting.

The Balearics finance minister - and note that it is the finance and not the tourism minister - has said that promotion will have to be "much more austere" but also "more distinctive". So distinctive in fact that the tourism ministry is planning on not bothering having its own stand at the Berlin travel fair. Shortage of cash should exercise the creative abilities and make more out of less, but, as the French experience suggests, promotion has to be differentiated (which does mean spending money). It might not be imagery that plays well with other nationalities, but the French presumably need to see quaint, stone-walled cottages and toothless pensioners sitting around a square partaking of some bread and wine - rather like France, therefore.

Meantime, the soon-to-depart national tourism secretary-general, the Mallorcan Joan Mesquida, has had his centimo's worth, warning of the dangers of the Balearics not undertaking promotion. As with the hoteliers, he is pointing to the fact that, though 2012 is set to be another good year for tourism, there has to be greater proactivity in cementing and improving on the gains made in 2011.

And as part of the wider promotional message, the regional government might do well to consider that relaxations to the tourism law to facilitate re-modellings of already over-constructed parts of Mallorca, e.g. to allow for Melià's plans for Magalluf, do not necessarily attract all of the island's main markets. The French, you would imagine, would not be so ridiculous as to buy the message of transformation or to buy a condo. And how much might one cost? "Trois-cent-mille?"

Any comments to please.

Friday, December 16, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia port to receive finance

The Balearics Port Authority has approved an investment plan for 2012 that amounts to 54.6 million euros, 14.5 million of which will be dedicated to work at the commercial port in Puerto Alcúdia.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 December 2011

As forecast, it is quite blowy and likely to get blowier during the day. Temperatures holding up, indeed they are warmer inland than on the coast, 16.5 in Pollensa at 08:30.

Afternoon update: Some sun on what has been (and still is) a very windy day, but not windy everywhere. Puerto Pollensa has had barely a moderate breeze. All to do with wind direction and being shielded by the mountains. On the exposed coast of Alcúdia Bay down towards Can Picafort, on the other hand, there have been gusts of up to 70kph. Temperatures not bad, a high of 17.7 on the coast.

The wind is due to change direction tomorrow but still be strong, a yellow alert in place into Sunday and a northerly wind will bring cooler temperatures, highs of 13 forecast till Monday (along with snow on the mountains), and then something of an improvement from Tuesday.

Tilting At Windmills: Balearics' oil exploration

When, a couple of years ago, I wrote an April Fool about oil exploration in the bay of Alcúdia, I hadn't foreseen that foolish fiction could so quickly come to imitate life. The bay itself may not become dotted with oil rigs operated by my make-believe oil-exploration company, Tonto S.A., but the waters around the Balearics could be the location for rigs and a battle over whether they should be there or not.

On the face of it, oil exploration anywhere near the coasts of the Balearics sounds insane. In terms of a visible blight, assuming they were to be that visible, they aren't much of an advert. Blots on the seascape are one thing, though; the environmental impact of exploration is another. Posidonia, for example, would be harmed, and I've recently written about the damage that is being caused to the sea grass by different man-made interventions. Posidonia is not, though, the only marine species that would be affected.

A couple of weeks ago, the Balearic Environment Commission, which is a part of the regional government's environment ministry, issued a report which identified 19 environmental dangers from exploration. These included the effects of noise and drilling on the likes of turtles and giant squid.

What is interesting is that the Commission, within the ambit of a Partido Popular regional government that one might think would be inclined to wish to pursue exploration with some vigour, speaks with almost total unanimity on behalf of its various constituents - other government departments, the Council of Mallorca and town halls - in being dead against exploration. Tempting though it may be to nuance this as a snub to an initiative driven by a socialist central government, the fact that virtually no one in officialdom supports exploration, and not therefore just the usual suspects of the environmental lobby, suggests that Madrid has got it badly wrong.

The PP is being consistent. Its then deputies from the Balearics, one of them the now president of the Council of Mallorca, Maria Salom, brought a motion before Congress in February this year to have authorisation for prospecting revoked. The parliament's upper house, the Senate, did in fact attempt to revoke the authorisation the following month, only for Congress to reject this.

Oil prospecting between the Balearics and the mainland isn't in fact anything new. There are already well over 100 borings and wells that date back almost 40 years. None of them in the vicinity of Mallorca, at a 150 to 200 kilometre distance, are really that close, but the very prospect of closer prospecting plus the potential shipping of oil in large tankers concern politicians and conservationists alike, especially as the memory of the oil spill from the Don Pedro in Ibiza is still very much alive.

How different attitudes might be, though, were there genuine guarantees of oil riches in the seas near the Balearics, who can tell. It is the lack of such guarantees that makes it easy to reject exploration. But what if there were oil? And lots of it. An economy such as that of the Balearics, indeed that of Spain, with its over-reliance on tourism and construction, cannot afford to just dismiss the possibility. As has been said, and not least by the economics expert Douglas McWilliams at the ABTA Convention in Palma in October, nations that are commodity rich (and this primarily means oil and gas) are the economic winners of the future. The mere fact also that the Spanish Government prepared for a "shock" in terms of oil supply earlier this year by reducing the motorway speed limit should make those who are anti-oil think a bit harder.

The ambitions of the green lobby in Mallorca are that the island should come to depend more greatly on renewables. But the use of renewables remains only a tiny portion of the Balearics' energy provision. A plan to erect attractive windmills along the sea front in Playa de Palma is a nice idea, but it won't create huge amounts of energy. The piecemeal approach to renewables, though, is indicative of an almost total failure of central governmental policy in respect of energy. The drive to a "green economy" has, as a leaked government document suggested, been an economic nightmare, causing energy prices to rocket and jobs to be lost rather than created.

Oil is the antithesis of the green economy and the antithesis of sound marine conservation and, possibly, tourism. But oil might just be an economic saviour. And in the absence of a realistic energy policy, simply tilting at the windmills of oil exploration is no answer.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa asks for tourism law flexibility

Pollensa town hall is asking the regional government to permit the regularisation of holiday homes which, for one reason or another, were not licensed during the process of regularisation which occurred four years ago. Pollensa is highly reliant on tourism that uses holiday homes, but owners of some homes have not been able to license the properties as the 2007 process did not allow for licensing after that date. The request by the town hall appears to apply to houses rather than to apartments.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 December 2011

A cloudier morning and again quite breezy. Not cold, though, with a coastal high of 16 at 09:00. The forecast suggests that winds will reach 45 or 50 kph tomorrow and continue into Saturday when there will be a mountain-top snowfall, the level of which will come down to 700 metres over the weekend with the temperatures falling.

Wind update: The local met office has placed Mallorca on orange alert as of 07:00 tomorrow morning through to midnight with winds possibly reaching 80kph in both the island interior and on the coasts. The alert also applies to sea conditions.

Afternoon update: A high of 17.2 today and a mostly pleasant sunny day, if at times a bit breezy. But where breeze is concerned ... hold on to your hats tomorrow.

The BAFMAs: Awards for Mallorcan achievement

Yes, it's that time of the year. Time for the BAFMAs, the Blog Awards For Mallorcan Achievement. In no particular order, the following are variously well-known and less well-known or were well-publicised and less well-publicised ...

Politician Of The Year (Shared): Miquel Ensenyat and Carme Garcia
Ensenyat, the PSM Mallorcan socialist mayor of Esporles, stood as candidate for the PSM at the national elections. There was little remarkable about this, except that Ensenyat is an openly gay politician in a land where the Church can issue warnings of the danger of voting for politicians who support gay marriage.

Garcia, the "turncoat" of Alcúdia, was also a PSM politician. "Was" being the operative word. She sided with the Partido Popular after the regional elections, despite the wide gulf in political ideology, leading to her being expelled from the party and to her suffering recriminations led by the previous coalition of PSOE and the Convergència. Though her ex-party and the opposition had a legitimate point and though Garcia secured for herself a role as second-in-command to the new lady mayor, her decision could also be seen as a blow for the chumminess of the previous male-dominated coalition which did not have the moral authority to expect her to support it in denying the PP, which had gained eight out of nine seats required for a majority, the right to govern Alcúdia.

Celebrity Of The Year: Tom Hanks
They sought him here, they sought him there. Through their long lenses, they sought Tom everywhere. There he was, at long distance, speaking into an iPhone, or rather there was the back of Tom's head speaking into an iPhone. There he also was just hanging around and doing very little, assuming you could make out it was Tom behind the security and beneath his headgear.

Business Of The Year: Lidl
Disproving the notion that Mallorca is not open to foreign companies, Lidl, exploiting a relaxation in commercial developments, expanded across Mallorca, bringing jobs as well as competition to the supermarket sector.

Event Of The Year: The Inca bullfight
If campaigners sought more encouragement in banning bullfighting in Mallorca, they got it during the Inca bullfight. The promoter caused outrage by taking to the ring to kill the bull after the bull had effectively excluded itself from the fight when it broke a horn. Rules don't apparently permit non-combatants to enter the ring. The gruesome video of the killing of the bull went viral and the video also highlighted and criticised the fact that minors had been allowed into the arena.

Beach Of The Year: Playa de Muro
The extension of Puerto Alcúdia's beach (which was voted Mallorca's best beach on "Trip Advisor"), the beach in Playa de Muro was the target of efforts by the town hall to improve it even further. These included instituting a fine for urinating on the beach, which drew a response from some who wanted to know where else they were supposed to go to the toilet, and a similar fine for a similar act in the sea. It wasn't entirely clear how Muro town hall proposed policing the latter, but with concerns about rising sea levels, the consequence of climate change, a ban on using the sea was probably a wise precaution.

Website Of The Year: Mallorca Daily Photo Blog
Just going to show that wit, informativeness, striking photography and personal dedication count for far more than huge budgets chucked at websites in promoting Mallorca. It deserves an award very much more prestigious than a BAFMA.

Musician Of The Year: Arnau Reynés
While more celebrated musicians took to stages in Mallorca this year, Reynés, the professor of music from the Universitat de les Illes Balears, who has performed in some of Europe's finest cathedrals, brought a tradition of music in Mallorca that is often overlooked to the small church in Playa de Muro and gave a summer recital, as did other leading Mallorcan organists.

Historian Of The Year: Gabriel Verd Martorell
Thirty-five years is a long time for any one historian to have sought to have proved a point, but Verd was still at it, striving, once and for all, to establish that Christopher Columbus was born in Felanitx. In a "solemn" declaration in the town, he claimed that Columbus was the illegitimate nephew of King Ferdinand and that to have had the title of governor general bestowed on him, which he did, he had to have had royal blood. You can't blame a historian for persistence.

So, these are the BAFMAs. No science behind them, no text voting, purely my own choice. But if you have your own nominations or suggestions, please feel free ... .

Any comments to please.