"Arrogant ostentation of the super-rich." "These people think they rule the world." "Louts, go home."
The first two of these quotes were words spoken by local people. The third was a slogan on a banner. They didn't come from Mallorca but from Sardinia. They were expressed eight years ago. I had quoted them then under a piece entitled "Careful What You Wish For".
Mallorca has and has had a reputation for being what cliché and convention require calling a millionaire's playground. However, the noughts now need amending: billionaire rather than mere millionaire. For the latter, and even for those who have failed to acquire six noughts to their names, comparatively modest displays of wealth can be found bobbing up and down on Balearic waters at any time during summer. And why not. Here is a bedrock market for the nautical industry. Here is aspiration afloat. There's nothing wrong with it. Mostly, it's all good, save perhaps for the odd sea-grass meadow that is ripped by an anchor or for the garbage that is nonchalantly tossed overboard.
This bedrock market is not in the same stratosphere as the super league. The quotes from eight years ago are echoing. Will there be a barrage of wet sand hurled in the general direction of the super league's exclusive membership? There was in Sardinia. Locals took aim at Flavio Briatore and the dinghies which were disgorging his entourage. Beach invasion Italian style. Now it's beach invasion Mallorcan style. Flavio is not among the invaders, but just as in Sardinia there are the Russians. And there are others, such as Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fourth son of the founder of the United Arab Emirates. He and the up to sixty invited ones have been occupying 142 metres of sea. To put that into context, it is two-thirds the maximum length of cruise ship that Alcudia's port can accommodate. Modest it is not.
Photos of the "privatisation" of a beach in Cabrera have stirred up some outrage. Among those who have taken issue is the bio-outraged director general for biodiversity, Caterina Amengual. The agents of the environment ministry will be pressing for sanctions. Even if they can in fact be applied, they may as well save themselves the cost of administering the sanctions' process. It would probably equate to more than the slightly less than one thousand euros that could be charged. When you're hiring a superyacht for 65 grand a day, this would hardly represent a deterrent.
The usual suspects have been mobilised. GOB says that there can be no repeat of the "beach club" of Cabrera being mounted elsewhere (or even in Cabrera once more). Eco-nationalists Més are demanding that competences of the national Costas Authority are directly devolved in order to prevent similar "privatisation". And then what? Increase the fines to around two grand?
While the poor everyday tourist - and he or she is in penury compared with the superyachting fraternity - is slagged off for having the audacity for saturating the island (mainly Palma), here is this brigade of invaders who are held in thrall (both they and the floating palacetes) by an element of Mallorcan society which delights at its obscene ostentation and at its purchasing capacity; one that allows it to hoover up the contents of emporia along the Born and Jaume III and still have some spare change to hand over for a beachside luxury villa replete with helipad and Olympic-sized pool.
But should these invaders be the recipients of opprobrium? In the case of the odd Russian oligarch taking over beach space and employing goons to keep the riff-raff away (are they tooled up, do you suppose?), then most definitely yes. In general, however, they are a consequence of being careless in what is wished for. There may indeed be wealth to be distributed and all-year jobs to be had - not to be sniffed at, it should be said - but this is the extreme end of the search for the Holy Grail of quality tourism. It is a mainly anti-social class utterly divorced from mainstream Mallorca but one perhaps inadvertently coveted by the island's left-wing. The political left (and right, it should be pointed out) sees virtue only in "quality" tourists, thus excluding a common, working element that might be deemed more characteristic of socialist principles.
What about the everyday Mallorcan? Bombarded with a news diet of touristic saturation, he or she now has to contend with images of a Balinese poolside having been deposited on a beach in the protected nature park of Cabrera. He or she could be forgiven for believing that the island(s) are being irretrievably lost to foreign empires that are on the one hand all-inclusive and on the other all-exclusive. Might there be a barrage of wet sand? Bet they'd fine them more than a grand if there was.
Index for August 2016
Cala San Vicente - 21 August 2016
Education failings in Mallorca - 10 August 2016
Holi colour festivals - 19 August 2016
Holiday compensation claims - 24 August 2016
Holiday rentals' legislation - 13 August 2016
Innovation and technology in Mallorca - 26 August 2016
José Hila in Palma - 5 August 2016
Low Cost Travel Group - 6 August 2016
Low-quality tourism and accommodation - 2 August 2016, 12 August 2016
Mallorca nationalism - 18 August 2016
Mallorca plain and Lloret - 7 August 2016
Mariano Rajoy and government - 22 August 2016, 30 August 2016
Més, Emaya and Palma - 14 August 2016
Moors and Christians, Pollensa - 1 August 2016
Partido Popular and language - 16 August 2016
Plaça Espanya - 9 August 2016
Police corruption and politicians - 25 August 2016, 29 August 2016
Royal family in Mallorca - 8 August 2016
Sant Joan and the seven sins demons - 28 August 2016
Sant Roc - 15 August 2016
Shopping centres - 4 August 2016
Sineu's Much fiesta - 11 August 2016
Superyachts and use of beaches - 31 August 2016
Sustainable tourism awards - 23 August 2016
Tourism sustainability - 27 August 2016
Tourist satisfaction - 3 August 2016
Tourist saturation / overcrowding - 17 August 2016, 20 August 2016