One headline this week has announced that "for the first time the majority of tourists in Mallorca are staying in non-hotel accommodation". The news that Son Sant Joan has been beating records in terms of passenger numbers since May and is likely to continue beating them during the summer has led to the conclusion that these passenger numbers are the result of tourists staying in non-hotel accommodation. The numbers don't tally with hotel occupancy numbers.
Well, whoever would have thought it? Why has Son Sant Joan been getting the passenger numbers it has until now? Not just because of hotels, that's for sure. If there is indeed now a majority of tourists staying in non-hotel accommodation, then this should come as absolutely no surprise. Mallorca cannot possibly have the number of tourists it gets and put them all in hotels because, despite the high number of hotel places (some 280,000), it is impossible for hotels to get anywhere near meeting tourist demand. It's been said time and time again that this is the case.
Nevertheless, in the quieter months of the summer season such as May, visitors could, in theory, all be accommodated in hotels. That they are not should not be a reason for government and hoteliers to attack the non-hotel accommodation sector (included in which is the so-called illegal offer). It should be a reason for asking why this is so. And there are several reasons. Choice, price, quality in some instances, and of course supply, both legal and illegal.
The passenger numbers will, as ever, be used by the Mallorcan hoteliers federation to ratchet up its attack on the non-hotel sector. They will be used by the government to justify more inspections of properties. It says there have been 3,000 such inspections since January. Aware of the need of the political support of the hoteliers, it will do whatever it can to try and demonstrate that it is acting tough.
But the government, and it knows it, cannot and will not eliminate illegal supply. As the level of non-hotel accommodation is as high as it apparently is, then the pragmatic route - one which the government steadfastly rejects - should be the one it adopts. Permissive regulation, therefore.
Catalonia, with its permissive regime, still faces a sizable problem with illegal accommodation. But having taken the decision to permit registration of the hundreds, thousands of properties that it has, it has also taken a very strict approach on accommodation which contravenes its regulation. So, it is permissive but also restrictive in an appropriate way. It has opened up the market to private property owners but it isn't about to tolerate the ingratitude of those owners who do not play by its perfectly reasonable rules. Unlike the Balearics, where tourism minister Martinez talks tough but where he presents little evidence as to what the consequence of the 3,000 inspections has been, in Catalonia it has processed under a half of the 284 actions it has so far taken against illegal properties. Till now it has realised a total of over half a million euros in fines.