Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tourism economics / Local newspapers / Pollensa Council / Alcúdia Fair

Jaume Matas. Haven’t given him much of a mention here despite his being the leader of the Balearics Government. The other day he made his pitch during the annual state of the Balearics debate in the local parliament. During this he congratulated himself and his government on restoring tourism as the driving force of the Balearic economy. Well, good for him. The figures do indicate that tourism is once more buoyant, and it’s true that the government is quite proactive in getting its message out, but we come back - as ever - to the nature of that tourism, and the degree to which it is bolstered by the all-inclusive with its attendant problems.

I have had cause here to point to some of the oddities of local publications, notably those in English. This is the front-page headline of the current “Euro Weekly” - “Clean Up Or Clear Out”. All very striking. What’s the story? Well it’s about dogs fouling pavements, especially the one at the back of the beach in Puerto Alcúdia. Fine, except that the whole “big story” is based on one lady and her family’s experience. Not even someone well-known, just a regular, ordinary tourist. From this, the paper conjures up a front-page story. Staggering.

Apparently Pollensa town council had a budget deficit for 2005 of some 800,000 euros. Maybe that’s why they can’t afford someone to get the typing right on its Wonder what that - and all the Ç branding stuff - has cost?

Alcúdia Fair is taking place this weekend. It is a popular but curious thing - part agricultural and trade fair, part traditional Mallorcan fiesta, with oddball stuff such as a slot-car championship thrown into the mix together with late-night music events. Despite this diversity, or perhaps because of it, it is one of the best of the local events as so much is packed into a short period of time, rather than rambling on as do some of the main fiestas. A personal nomination would place the Alcúdia Fair alongside the Pollensa Patrona as the two stand-out events of the year.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tourism economics / Mañana / Websites

Happy days - the Balearics, with over 92%, was the area of Spain with the largest hotel occupation in August, Alcúdia registering nearly 97% occupancy. There then, everything’s all ok then.

That was Saturday’s news. Today we learn that the first eight months of this year have seen the best ever tourist numbers in the Balearics, while the number of people arriving by air - to the islands - is up by some 600,000 over last year. Great. Wonderful. What are they all spending?

More poor weather at the weekend, a mini-tornado causing havoc though the north of the island got off relatively lightly compared to the likes of Port Andraitx in the west. But for now, it’s ok. Warm.

Mañana. This word means morning and tomorrow. It is also English for “some time, maybe”; so it is in Spanish. A client who has owed me a fair sum for a year or so (whose invoice might I add was declared and tax and VAT duly paid; he had given me two cheques that bounced) has started finally to cough up. A chap who works at his place joked with me about “mañana”. He thought it was distinctly amusing when I pointed out that the mañana in this case had lasted for a year. Mañana is one thing, communication is another. Getting people to do anything - answer emails in particular - is a nightmare here. It affects all sorts of people. I left an enquiry with my lawyer about something two weeks ago. Nothing. I asked my printer about their invoice. Nothing. Is this now a general malaise or is it just another example of mañana?

Oh yes, update. For those of you haven’t been paying attention, this is the town hall’s extravagantly publicised website which was - until recently - only offered in Catalan. Well now it isn’t, in that it does now offer other languages including English. Quite honestly it is not worth the shout; there isn’t much and what there is suffers from the old problem of poor English or maybe just typos. Accomodation? Yes, one “m” is here. Sevices of interest - whatever they might be - they are there, too, minus the “r”. Poor. For English coverage go instead to (linked on the right here) or

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tourism economics / Fat people

Everything must go! Everything must go!

It would appear that the tour operators (TOs) are offering some real bargains in order to shift holidays for what is - one operator admits - a difficult end of season. Now, this really does not chime with what we were led to believe, making one ever more suspicious of the figures and messages that the authorities churn out. However, there is - or would seem to be - another factor, i.e. the package holiday is taking a knock from the independent traveller. This is what is being “blamed” for a shortfall in the sale of package deals this autumn, and yet not so long ago we were also told that holiday lets in parts of the island were down. What is going on? Does anyone really know? Or are just fed a diet of total bollocks?

The answer to that is almost certainly yes. Anyway to make matters even less ducky, winter tourism is set to be lower than usual, to which one might well enquire what winter tourism. The fact is, and I’ve said it before here, Mallorca is not really a winter destination. The TOs can get people to go to the Canaries for the simple reason that it is warmer.

Another little matter about this season is the fact that all the talk about people abandoning Turkey because of bird flu and coming to Mallorca turned out to be crap as well. They did turn their back on Turkey to some extent but opted for Greece instead.

After the deluge and floods, the weather has returned to something like normal. Very pleasant in fact, though the first duvets of the late summer are now needed.

The obsession in the UK with the national obesity problem is understandable; if, that is, one takes a sizeable (literally) proportion of the temporary inhabitants close by and along the Greasy Mile as being representative. Stupid fat white men and stupid fat white women. Not everyone, of course, but man alive you could be excused for thinking the whole of the UK was about to sink under the weight of blubber if what one witnesses around there is indicative. The other day I encountered a slight traffic problem. Well not slight really, fairly big; in fact fucking enormous. There was a family-sized tub of lard attempting to pedal a trike over the admittedly rather steep little bridge halfway along the Greasy Mile. Could they make it? Could they heck. But when you’re looking to shift several hundredweight of lard it’s not surprising. All one can do as a driver behind this less-than-heaving mountain of human flesh is to stay put at the foot of the bridge and wait for it to finally dismount and push itself over the summit.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weather / Tourism economics / Balearics economy / Open Holidays

More weather. Great downpours have been occurring, the temperature is down to around 20 degrees. The mainland has really copped it in the neck, and some parts of the island have been particularly hard hit. And still there is a general weather warning.

It happens pretty much every year, at pretty much the same time, despite what my neighbour reckons. Was it last year or the one before? Around the middle of September, it rained so hard and heavy here there were things floating along the road outside where I live. It’s depressing in some ways. You know the season is coming to an end, but the awful weather gives it a feel not so much of closing but of collapsing.

But there’s always next year. Here we go, some early 2007 figures. And what do you know, it will be even more of a record year than this has been - allegedly. Thomas Cook are predicting a three per-cent increase over this year, so long as hotels don’t push their prices up too much, which is a strongly coded message from Thomas Cook to them to say that they won’t tolerate higher prices. Five per cent is as much as Thomas Cook will accept as “this year we have reached a limit in demand and capacity”. Eh? If they’ve reached a limit in demand, how will there be a 3% increase next year? Oh well.

(* Quote from the Majorca Daily Bulletin.)

Some general economy stuff. The annual economic report (for 2005) from the bank La Caixa shows that immigration to the Balearics rose by some 16% between 2000 and 2005. Alcúdia experienced one of the highest overall population growths of all - 30% in that period, compared with 11% in Pollensa, 4% in Muro, 14% in Sa Pobla and a pretty sizeable 22% in Santa Margalida (which includes Ca’n Picafort). An interesting bit of trivia. Apparently there are - or were in 2005 - 338 bar/restaurant businesses in Alcúdia and 223 in Pollensa. So, now you know. Also on things economic, the Balearics saw a fall - of 0.1% - in its retail price index, placing inflation at a current 3.7%.

An addendum. The assets of Open Holidays (see 3 September) have been acquired by, also trading as

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Weather / Skin cancer

Selective memory. It plays tricks.

I have a neighbour. She has been living on my urbanisation in Playa de Muro for 40 years. I spoke to her about rain the other day. Oh, no, it doesn’t rain in September. Yes, I said. It can rain very heavily. Oh no, she said.

Last night there was the most almighty storm. It was not the worst. In Alaró in the centre of the island there was total mayhem. One dead.

Selective memory.

Something personal. I saw the dermatologist today. I knew what was wrong, and he confirmed it. They’re doing the biopsy.

Skin cancer.

Only superficial, it is not a big deal. At least I don’t think so. But it might have become so.

There was an unexplained sort of blistering. This then grew a bit and joined with a freckle. The freckle started to grow. It itched occasionally. I knew what it was, and so it was.

Sun. You can’t really avoid it here after all. But to anyone who has a slightly unusual skin complaint, just go and get it looked at. It will probably be as everyday and swiftly treatable as my little melanoma - I hope.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rental accommodation / Tourism economics

The regulations on rental accommodation (last reported 25 August) seem ever more confusing. I spoke with the boss of a company that manages and arranges holiday lets. Not only did I get a copy of the tortuous “law” and accompanying documentation, I also got the view that apartments are not covered, i.e. the regulations are focused on villas etc. Pollensa town hall, it would appear, has said (to this particular company) that apartments are not included, or at least that they cannot rubber-stamp aspects of the regulations as they might apply to apartments.

This is not surprising; the documentation makes reference to “vivienda unifamiliar aislada”, which literally means cut-off (i.e. stand-alone) single family home. To apply and certify such property there are various hoops that owners need to go through, and being an owner is signiifcant. If one is not the owner - e.g. of a whole block of apartments but of just one - no application can be made as the regulation requires a statement of such ownership.

My view is that if an apartment owner cannot comply with requirements in the documentation, this does not mean he or she can just turn a blind-eye; on the contrary, the inability to comply may mean that apartments simply cannot be offered as holiday lets - period.

There is then also the issue as to how all this might be enforced, as responsible technicians from the Ministry of Tourism need to enter properties and check on quality/safety aspects.

God knows what all this really means. It strikes me as a bureaucratic nightmare.

More back-slapping on numbers through the airport. Not only did Palma register more than 3 million passengers in August, it is set to see a similar number in September. This is being interpreted as more excellent news, with high hotel occupancies. Maybe, but the visitor spend is still key. You can have all the passengers in the world, but if they don’t dosh up sufficiently...?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Taylor Woodrow / Language / Crime

Taylor Woodrow. A well-known name in the construction industry. They are building on what was the Garbi hole in Puerto Pollensa that caused so much amusement back in April. They have a slogan, an ungrammatical slogan. It is: “We build in Spain since 1958”.

Now, setting aside any attempt at possible post-modern grammatical irony, how can they come up with something so wrong? English grammar, and English language, is sometimes subject to flexible usage (for flexible, read wrong, as in the use of the present perfect by football managers, players and pundits - “He’s crossed the ball, and the boy’s put it in the back of the net” - when they should be using the past tense for a completed action).

Strictly speaking, the slogan should read: “We have been building in Spain since 1958”, i.e. the present perfect continuous to imply that they will be continuing to do so. Bit of a mouthful admittedly, so the abbreviated “Building in Spain since 1958” would be acceptable.

The answer to this lies - I assume - in that Spanish grammar has been applied. While there is a continuous usage in Spanish, the expression of actions begun in the past and continued in the present is done with the use of the present tense. Hence, literally in Spanish, it would read: “(Nosotros) edificamos (or construimos) en España desde 1958”. A twist here is that in one of the Spanish past tenses - there is more than one - “edificamos”/”construimos” is the same, so it could also read “we built”.

Either way, it isn’t correct. Maybe there is some attempt at irony here after all, or at least an attempt at being funny. Or maybe someone’s just ballsed up.

Well, what was I saying about crime? The Balearics has the third highest level of crime among regions of Spain. Now, much of this is as a consequence of the huge influx of people during the summer. The argument being made here is that Madrid needs to recognise that the all-year population (of around one million) is a red herring when it comes to the crime problems of summer. Hence, central government is being lobbied to provide greater funding for police and Guardia Civil.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Guardia Civil / Parking / Language

Well, my thanks to the Bulletin for some interesting stuff today.

Firstly, collar-felt time. Collar-felt time big time, laddy. Not your average Joe crim, but the head of the Balearics Guardia Civil who - allegedly - has been siphoning off Guardia funds for building works that have never been done. He was duly sacked yesterday. I’m not saying anything; not another word.

It is rare indeed for me to find anything of note in Riki Lash’s musings, but I have to go along with him when he attacks the on-the-spot fines for tourists (and also those fines for foreign residents) who don’t understand road warning signs. He argues that car-hire firms should give information as to what these signs and symbols mean. Fair enough, methinks.

There is also a letter from a lady who received a parking ticket in Santa Ponsa. The deal was this, it would appear: the hire car was legally parked with a piece of paper on the dashboard stating day and time of parking. Yet a police officer still slapped a ticket on the car. The curiosity about this is that the driver had to write out the time on a piece of paper. This sounds remarkably similar to the system in operation - after a fashion - in the parking area by the marina in Puerto Pollensa. Here one is meant to write out the time, parking being limited to an hour and a half. And yet I seem to be the only one who does this. The last couple of occasions I’ve parked there, I’ve looked at other cars. No notes about times. Yet there is still a sign (not immediately obvious it must be said), explaining that this is indeed what you need to do. Frankly it’s a daft arrangement. Why not have a machine that issues a ticket? Or at least have large signs explaining what to do. Then there is a practical point. What if you don’t have something to write with? Nuts, I reckon.

The writer of the letter suggests she won’t be coming back. An over-reaction? Well maybe, but I have some sympathy. I once watched an incident involving some German tourists in Alcúdia. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what they were meant to have done wrong - it was that they had turned left where they shouldn’t have - but the police officer was pretty abrupt. “You pay now!” They really did look quite upset, and I couldn’t blame them. I don’t really blame the police officer either; he was only doing his duty. But - and moving to a different point - his language was not good enough to communicate in a half-pleasant fashion. Consequently, the encounter was highly negative for people who looked like they wouldn’t say boo to a goose (i.e. very decent and up-standing) and who also might have thought twice about returning.

It is the case here that any significant dealings with the local plod require a translator for which the tourist has to pay. I don’t know that this is right. In a tourist area I believe that there should be sufficient numbers of police officers who can speak at least English; and some German would come in handy, too. Any language trainers out there?

Forgot to mention that - weather-wise - August was officially cooler than average, which will come as no surprise. September has seen a return to warmer and more humid weather, though - as yet - there are no signs of the occasional massive storms that can gather around this time of the year.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Open Holidays / Tourism economics / Beaches / Smoking

A bit more trouble on the apartment/villa front. Though applications for the correct certification are expected to come flooding in by the 26 September deadline, one company - well-known in Pollensa especially for marketing this sort of accommodation - has gone into administration. Open Holidays had the administration filed on 31 August. It rermains to be seen as to what the future may hold, though it is easy to imagine that the confidence of both property owners and those renting will have taken a knock.

August hotel occupancy in Mallorca stood at 95%, so the hoteliers say, an increase of 2.5% over last year. The number of people visiting the Balearics in total has risen by just over half a million during the first seven months of the year. Oh well, there you go.

Beach problems in Puerto Pollensa. The strip along the main paseo (Anglada Camarassa) leading to the pinewalk is one of only two beaches in the whole of Mallorca to have been declared deficient according to the weekly analysis. The pong is rumoured to be caused by sewage from one of the hotels. Yuck.

The deadline for premises to adopt smoking measures has passed. In the Balearics, those bars/restaurants etc of less than 100 square metres do not need to physically separate smoking and non-smoking areas. Those of greater size do, with the creation of, for instance, a wall. However, the authorities appear to be taking a softly-softly approach, and there is some talk of other means of “separation” being used, e.g. air curtains and extractors.