Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Diamonds And Pearls: Losing Mallorca's industrial treasures

The good news about the tourism industry continues. In August, hotel occupancy in Mallorca has risen by seven per cent, compared with 2009, while September is expected to witness a two per cent increase. It's just as well that the industry is giving some reasons to be cheerful. Other industries make you want to weep.

Economic diversity in Mallorca is essential, but the contraction in sectors other than tourism is alarming. Over a period of five years, industrial activity has declined by just under 30%, a far greater fall than anywhere else in Spain. This reduction has affected more or less all the island's smaller industries, ones traditionally associated with the island - pearls, marine, footwear - as well as those that are less traditional, such as chemicals. You name it, it's on the way out.

It's those stats chaps again. The national statistics office has recorded the fall in the production index and has shown that Mallorca's island geography is not totally to blame for the slump. The Canaries haven't suffered anything like the same scale of decline.

Isolation is a factor, though. It is estimated that because of transport costs alone, it can be 30% more expensive to produce locally, and then you have the costs of going the other way. The call has gone out for help in boosting exports, but it is not clear how this might be done, other than through local management of ports and the airport, as is being suggested. Quite how this might benefit in cost reduction, I'm unsure, as there are also the higher costs of local production associated with land. If you have ambitions of being a light manufacturer in Mallorca, then you probably need your head examining, or you should at least consider an alternative location. Industrial land costs almost twice as much as the Canaries and six times as much as in Aragon, a mainland province within shipping distance of the island.

This high, prohibitive almost, cost of land is attributed in part to speculative developments and property acquisition. Go around Mallorca and you will find industrial estates in most towns. Some, such as in Pollensa and Can Picafort, are under-occupied. The Alcúdia one is completely unoccupied, but that's because they haven't sorted out the electricity supply. In Inca, they are planning to build a third industrial estate, this for a town of under 30,000 people. On the larger estates in Palma, units are being abandoned because the costs are simply too great.

Why are all these industrial estates needed? The answer is that they're not. But built they nevertheless are, with a suspicion that someone might have profited illicitly. And they all come with a mix of usage. The new Inca estate has provision for a percentage of land for entertainment purposes; you might recall the talk of a theme park there. It is this sort of provision, as well as that for large car showrooms and banks (which can afford the higher rents) that is one reason for driving up the cost of what is then limited land for industrial purposes. This is not the whole story, however. Over supply would suggest that costs would be lower, but they're not. It's a familiar tale where Mallorca land for residential purposes is concerned. Greed is probably one element, and the Mallorcans are renowned for it, on top of which is the fact that units and land on industrial estates are bought by speculators who have no intention of renting them out at what might be affordable levels for smaller businesses.

Clearly if industrial activity slumps to the degree that it has and may continue to, and if nothing comes along to replace the old factories, then there is an employment problem. Decline of manufacturing may be compensated by an increase in services, but the question then is, which ones. Mallorca needs an economic strategic plan, one that has been necessary for years. But it is no nearer getting one, and all the while the traditional industries and small businesses fold or shift out of industrial units with their inflated price tags.

"Diamonds and Pearls". His finest moment?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Index for August 2010

Air-conditioning - 5 August 2010
Air-traffic controllers' strike - 4 August 2010
Albufera information centre closed - 18 August 2010
Alcúdia corruption accusation - 17 August 2010
Alcúdia power station - 19 August 2010
AlcudiaPollensa.blogspot.com - 29 August 2010
All-inclusives in Puerto Pollensa - 3 August 2010
Balcony diving - 22 August 2010
Beach and sea, calm - 28 August 2010
British market, promotion aimed at declining - 6 August 2010
Can Ramis building, Alcúdia - 10 August 2010
Carl Cox, event tourism and - 7 August 2010
Climate change - 23 August 2010
Ducks tradition, Can Picafort's - 8 August 2010, 17 August 2010, 19 August 2010
Fires - 25 August 2010
Football replica shirts, British bars and - 11 August 2010
Industry, rapid decline in Mallorcan - 31 August 2010
Land development and policy - 13 August 2010
Lilos - 24 August 2010
Literature, Mallorca and - 26 August 2010
Majorca Daily Bulletin - 9 August 2010
Muro golf course - 13 August 2010
Petrol stations - 20 August 2010
Porto Cristo: the correct name - 2 August 2010
Prostitution in Magalluf - 27 August 2010
Puerto Pollensa's swimming pool - 16 August 2010
Statistics in July, tourism occupancy and spend - 30 August 2010
Theme park, Inca - 15 August 2010
Topless sunbathing - 1 August 2010, 2 August 2010
Tour operators' profits - 12 August 2010
Town halls have to repay - 21 August 2010
Traffic police - 14 August 2010
Weather, unusual summer - 18 August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Probability And Logic: Tourism occupancy and spend

A good friend of mine from university days went on to become a government statistician. I once spent an afternoon lounging in a villa pool, having him explain to me the meaning of certain mathematical symbols. I can't say I was significantly the wiser as a result, but I had at least tried to attain some understanding.

All mathematicians, like chess players, are mad. This stems from having a world view determined by logic or equations and having to deal with the rest of us who are determinedly illogical. Even the act of getting up in the morning is an equation, where E equals the effort of shifting yourself from under the duvet, T is the time it takes to have a shave and eat a bowl of muesli and x (or maybe x-squared) is the probability of being hit by a meteorite when you step out the front door.

So when statisticians present us with their figures, we are inclined to believe it is all the work of crackpots. (And, yes, I know there is a difference between maths and stats, but you'll just have to accept they're the same for now.) Equally, because none of us have the faintest idea how they ever arrive at the figures, we dismiss them as mathematical mumbo-jumbo.

There have been some good statistics lately. For this July, by comparison with the same month last year, hotel occupancy rates in the Balearics have risen by 10.1% and tourism spend has also increased - by 12.5%. We might dispute the former, but at least we can appreciate that the calculation shouldn't be that difficult. The latter, though ... well of course we say it's crap because we saw a restaurant with hardly a soul in it the other day. We resort to our anecdotes and subjectivity, because we have no other way of questioning the men with wild, staring eyes and electric grey hair who inhabit the statistical other world.

And so it was also with the editorial in "The Bulletin". Who was spending all the money, it asked. "I don't really know and nor do the people who have complied the report," came its own answer. It's not for the paper to try and find out; it is only a newspaper after all. The answer, one of them, lies with the mysteries of the statistician's science, such as regression modelling, which for the paper would mean ever more of a regression into a Janet and John mode of journalism or a stock photo of Naomi Campbell.

One thing Mallorca does quite well, along with beaches, cold lager and pouring oil on bread, is the study of tourism. The university in Palma is world class when it comes to research into the economics and statistics of the industry. It's this academic rigour which translates itself into governmental research and statistics. We might not believe the figures, and governments are not unknown to massage figures, but the science, be it academic or governmental, is generally robust. Academics, for example, can't just pluck numbers out of thin air, as their published work is subject to independent peer review.

In Palma they have found out who spends the money. There is research there into the use of statistical modelling to ascertain - by age, by nationality, by professional grouping - who spends what. What you get with statistics is the attempt to give as realistic a snapshot as possible within the parameters of the probability models applied. They are never completely accurate, but nor are they fiction. Were they, and some might say the latest occupancy and spend figures are made-up propaganda to give a feel-good lift to the tourism and wider economy, then why have previous figures been negative? But because we don't understand the methods, and because academics and governments are generally lousy at explaining them in simple terms, if at all, we fall back on our anecdotes and consider these to be the truth, when they are nothing of the sort.

There is a problem, though, with the figures in that they are too general; they don't, for example, distinguish between different resorts, hence the not unreasonable scepticism we may feel. One is reluctant to say that July's figures indicate a real recovery - and the predictions before the weather in the UK went belly up was that August's wouldn't be as good - but they are cause for some hope.

There is another, simpler way of looking at the July figures. 10.1% rise in occupancy; 12.5% rise in spend. The two may not match, but they are not so far apart. Logic might suggest that one would lead to the other, though for the statistician the 2.4% difference would - in all probability - not be logical.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Expat Life: AlcudiaPollensa.blogspot and perceptual gaps

"I'm surprised anyone talks to you." Eh? What?

It's a perception thing, you know. It's what people think you write or think what you might write. I wouldn't talk to me if I did write what people thought I wrote or might write. But the above was said to me the other day, if joshingly, by a local bar-owner.

This blog will be five years old in a couple of months. There have been over 1500 entries. I'm struggling to think of any occasion when I have slagged off a local individual or business, except obliquely; or any occasion when I have broken a confidence. There are things I know, but they won't appear here.

No. One moment. There has been the odd occasion, like with the "Sun, Sea and A&E" lady, but there was that perception thing again, as in had it been read carefully it would have been clear that it was a piss-take, hardly for the first time, of "The Bulletin". I have no reticence in rubbishing something which affronts me with its Palmacalvia-centricity, mistakes and rotten English. And it's the media. Like politicians, political parties and town halls, it's there to be shot at.

I've known this perception thing before. When I was at university I became the one who was most closely associated with a scurrilous publication that was eventually banned when the local police threatened an obscenity charge (and this was just a few years after the "Oz" trial). The only reason why I was thus associated, and I was neither a member of the particular college from which the magazine emanated nor one of its editors, had to do with a higher profile on campus than others. I was personally responsible for only one of the many controversies that the magazine spawned.

The perception thing was also evident when this blog was commended in "PC Advisor". "Thoughtful and witty descriptions of the expat life." The quote needs to be seen in context, but I don't know that the blog has ever been about expat life, other than occasionally specific pieces. And the perception thing blends into the profile thing. You might take that quote, you might take that surprise at anyone talking to me as evidence of high profile, of hanging around bars and hanging on all the gossip and then churning it out - here. Both the perception and the profile are inaccurate. What can also surprise is when I say that I am an habitué of very few bars, and certainly not for the evening piss-artisting, have never been inside many and have never met or had anything to do with so-and-so expat who does, on the contrary, have a high profile.

The perception thing is wrong because the blog is detached. It is this very distance that creates a diversity of subject and an absence of pressure to somehow act as reportage of this "expat life". It is, essentially, observational. A part of but also separate. It is the observation and the diversity which, despite times when I have wondered about stopping, keep the blog going. There simply is no end to what you can write about. Were it about "expat life", were it about the local who's doing this, who's doing that, then it wouldn't have legs, not long-running ones. People would not only not talk, they would also, in all likelihood, be somewhat aggressive. But more fundamentally, I have, despite that perception thing, no interest in being a conveyor of tittle-tattle, a slagger-off of who's been slagging with whom. That said, there is a file of what I presumptuously call the blog's basement tapes: stuff that has been written but which has never appeared. Even these pieces don't name (though it might be possible to assign a name), but they are very much darker or more off-the-wall.

There have been recently, as there have been in the past, some highly satisfying compliments both of the blog and of HOT!. I even received a letter, remember them, from someone who had enjoyed the newspaper. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I don't become self-indulgent, such as with yesterday's piece. I had thought of consigning that to the basement tapes. And then I got a compliment about it (Glen's), as similarly I had one a couple of weeks back from Derek who referred to the more poetic stuff being inspiring. But the danger is I end up taking myself seriously, which would never do. And I might end up understanding who the hell it is I'm writing for.

It's this very unknown, among all the thousands of you who come to this blog, that make it as worthwhile as the compliments. The unknown also as to which pieces might interest more than others. The unknown as to who will be in the inbox on a given day, saying they have been following the blog for this or that length of time. The blog is self-indulgent. By definition, I suppose, most blogs are. But as to people not talking to me, I don't think so, because I guess most don't know what the blog is about, other than by some fault of perception. And I couldn't help. Because neither do I.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Still Waters: The beach and great heat

When Africa blows northwards. It's not the sort of scirocco or "xaloc" that can whip up gales, but a sharp and engulfing Saharan electric blanket of wind that lashes the interior and which, mysteriously, leaves the beach and sea serene and becalmed. When Africa blows northwards, the hundred mark is nudged and sometimes tipped over.

Serene. When Africa blows northwards, the beach and sea are an s-word of the sublime, the soporific, the sensational, the sensuous and sensorial. Contrast this with when elsewhere blows, and the sea is all of a "t", turbulent, tumbling and troubling. Our moods are determined by the senses, and the beach and sea play games with us. Surf is up, and it leaves us agitated, buffeted by movement into fretfulness or a pressure towards activity. Waves bring noise and turmoil. The "ventus" of marine energetics creates a hyperventilation of both mind and soul. We cannot rest or relax.

Serene and still. Much as we might pit ourselves against force, much as we might even enjoy doing so, when the sea ceases to move we are consumed by the dream-world consciousness it creates, a sensorial state of being heightened by the sensuousness of the sensational drifts from blues to greens, of the sheer statics, of the caress of discreetly lapping water on the sand. Of all colour combinations, no others hold greater symbolism than the conjoining of the largely imagined blue and yellow of sea and beach. They are imagined, because they aren't quite that simple. And only when all is serene and still - on the beach - do we really begin to appreciate the complexity of colour that gives rise to this imagination.

There are times, as there will have been times these past couple of days, when Africa has blown northwards, when the chatter and babble of the beach evaporate. It is a soporiferous and collective will of quiet, one induced by the barely audible lullaby of waves and the mass hypnosis of observing a sea without movement.

Wrapped in this colossal heat, but soothed by the maternal and gentle strokes of breeze, we are aware as to how perfect, or rather perfection, came to be a word, and if it's the case that it is one we strive to attain or at least be party to, then when Africa blows northwards and the beach and sea play a quiet game of somnolence, we might just have realised it.

Playa de Muro, late August.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pros And Cons: Whoring in Magalluf

Pros and cons. Not many for, plenty against. Pros and cons. Prostitutes and to-be or ex-convicts, about to be again. Magalluf is suffering an invasion of bodysnatchers and snatches; the snatch snatches the body of a pink pot-bellied pig of a tourist, lagered and vodka-ed up, egged on by a whip-round of scrunched-up notes from his braying companions. The con pockets the cash; the wretched whore, dragged out of a slum in Senegal, has to mop up more than just the vomit. There's a further snatch, too - the wallet.

Magalluf. Shagalluf. It's always been a place for tarting. Paid or unpaid. The streetwalking of the resort has, though, become street running and hassling. The tarts are terrorising tourists, so it is said. Residents have had enough. They've begun attacking cars "associated" with the prostitutes.

The mayor of Calvia (Magalluf is a part of Calvia, in case you didn't know) is being criticised for being on holiday at this time of moral crisis. What's he going to do? Open a mission for fallen women? The police have been doing their best, but there's only so much they can do. Like the lookies, detain a prostitute and try and fine her, and see where that gets you. She won't be able to pay and there'll always be another one to offer business.

The prostitution problem is, apparently, causing tourists to "boycott" Magalluf. Are they really? According to "The Bulletin", they are. "British families are staying clear." It may not have meant to have done so, but in reporting that this so-called boycott is "fuelling a rise in demand for package holidays in the north east of the island", there was a sense of its being pissed off that elsewhere on the island might derive some benefit from the presence of slappers on the Maga strip. The north east, let's call it Alcúdia shall we, gains, while the paper's southern heartland of interest suffers. The paper's lamentable insouciance where matters others than the incestuousness of what we should really call its home market is exposed yet again. Would there be the same level of reporting or indeed concern, were the reverse to be the case?

If demand for holidays in the north has indeed increased because of Maga's whoring, then it should be encouraged. But let's not indulge in this schadenfreude for too long. Magalluf was successful in getting rid of the timeshare scratch-cardists, and they shifted their attentions to the north, resorting - at times - to an aggressive form of hassling employed by the prostitutes. There is little to choose between them. The scratch-cardists may ultimately mug you of thousands if you happen to get sucked in, but that's your decision; you're a willing if unwitting victim of pickpocketing. It's not quite the same with the prostitutes: they aren't all on the game, they're just gangs of muggers. It doesn't matter if you have your trousers down; they'll lift regardless. "The Bulletin" wants plod to run the whores out of town. Good for it, but rid the Magalluf streets of prostitutes, and they'll find somewhere else to go.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How We Got Here: Mallorca and literature

Before the unexpected scorched earth policy a few days ago abruptly interrupted my train of thought, I had been reflecting - as you do while lying on the beach - on Great Works. My companion, literary-wise, was Jonathan Meades, a favourite of mine, as some of you will know, as he has been name-checked here more than once. Though not for the faint-hearted or for one disinclined to drag a dictionary and thesaurus to the beach, I had come across an old essay by Meades in which it was possible to decipher the names of great authors in the English language. It was these, the manufacturers of Great Works, which began to make me wonder.

Mallorca, and don't we just keep being reminded of it, proclaims a prodigious cultural heritage, one exaggerated often enough that we might start to believe it to be so. The poetry of the island might be said to support a literary culture, but it is parochial, a tradition continued via the pompous poetic introductions to most local fiesta brochures. And one says pompous, assuming anyone other than a local can understand them. Mallorcan poetry does not cross linguistic barriers. Indeed within the island's whole literary oeuvre, few names, let alone their works, have crossed into anything like a wider consciousness. And of these, one, Ramon Llull, was born almost 800 years ago. With one or two exceptions, such as Llorenç Villalonga who probably does deserve wider recognition for his twentieth-century novel on the decline of the Mallorcan nobility, one great author every millennium or so doesn't exactly constitute a rich tradition.

The literary heritage, and indeed other aspects of the arts culture of Mallorca, owes as much to non-Mallorcans as it does to those native to the island. But even here, it is a heritage by association as much as it is by work that is Mallorcan by content, if at all. As a refuge for the arty, the island, certain parts of it at any rate, is a matter of record, yet Mallorca has not lent itself to Great Works. And it was this absence that started to make me wonder.

Perhaps the two best known foreign literary figures with a clear Mallorcan identity are Robert Graves and George Sand. Graves, though he lived on the island on and off for nigh on sixty years, was too busy paving the way for Derek Jacobi to find international acclaim as Claudius to attempt a Mallorcan Great Work. Sand, holed up with Chopin in the shivering, tubercular hell of Valldemossa, gifted the world a winter in Mallorca, a book slavishly read by inquisitive Germans and largely ignored by everyone else. It is the very paucity of writing that has given rise to prominence being given to a minor thriller-ette by Agatha Christie and the absurd notion of invoking her as a promotional tool for Pollensa.

Into this barrenness has emerged pop literature. One hesitates to describe it as a movement; it is more of a crawl, with just a hint of the opportunist, a nod in the direction of Peter Mayle here, Ruth Rendell there, TV rights and a production unit somewhere else. If it has a cultural veneer, it is one polished to reflect the superficiality that can too easily be assigned to Mallorca. This is but one problem with the island and any pretence to the Great Work. The lack of depth is analogous with the lack of history. The joke with the cultural heritage is that Mallorca doesn't have a history, outside of its own insularity. In European terms it hardly merits a footnote. Nothing of note has ever happened in Mallorca or to it. Jaume I, you might argue, but he was a part of a process that climaxed in Granada 263 years later. The Civil War, you might say. Well, you might, but so you could about anywhere in Spain. Other than aspects of the period that would rather be forgotten, such as the Guernica-bombing Condor Legion being based in Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca's Civil War was not out of the ordinary, while Great Workers - Hemingway, Orwell - have done the subject of the war rather well.

But hang on. Go back a bit. Insularity. Mallorca may not have the potential for romanticised violence as other Mediterranean islands - Sicily and the Mafia, Corsica and its terrorism - but what it does have is an obstinate remoteness. Historical events may not lend themselves to a Great Work, but historical context most certainly does, and moulded into this context are the poets, artists, the polymath Llull, the families and the landed tradition.

Great Works are also great stories, of which the Spanish language has spawned translated crossovers with worldwide appreciation - Cervantes, Marquez for example. Villalonga wrote in both Spanish and Catalan; there is no reason why his epic "Bearn" should not be better known (it is available in English). Just as there is no reason why Mallorca shouldn't lend itself to current-day Great Works, in Catalan, Spanish or English. It is the nature of a land apart that holds the key, a land that today finds itself caught in the conflict of internalising, as symbolised by those fiesta poems, and a Europe, Spain even, it once had little to do with. That's the Great Work. Just one. How it got here.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fire, Fire: Balearics ablaze

Pour on water, pour on water.

Ibiza has been burning. So has Mallorca. A couple of afternoons ago, there was a plume of smoke to be seen rising somewhere past Can Picafort. Lazing for a while on the beach, there were suddenly bits of burnt debris drifting on the wind and settling on the sand. Some people started to get into a bit of a panic. There are those moments on a beach when you become aware of everyone looking at something. And there it was. Another cloud of smoke. Quite a bit closer. At which point I thought perhaps I ought also to panic.

Legging it back from the beach, I had visions of a conflagration. Burning houses and exploding cars. Nothing of the sort. It was a fair distance away. By Albufera, en route to Muro town. The burnt stuff was flying about, however. Loads of it, charred confetti, toasted ticker-tape. Seemed a pretty extreme way of finally putting a halt to the golf course, ventured I, but no one seemed to appreciate the joke. As far as I'm aware, the fire and the course were, and are, unrelated.

A Canadair fire-fighter was in full flight, passing low over Albufera and putting on its water-gathering show for those on the beach who hadn't panicked. The air was distinctly smoky. Two fires going off simultaneously, and the wind strong, it smelt like a giant barbecue but later became indistinguishable from the regular summertime whiff of torched sulphur that rises out of the Albufera swamp.

The other fire, in fact between Son Serra and Petra, was altogether more serious, if not on an Ibiza scale. The boys in green are taking rather more interest in this than might normally be the case, as the fire was on finca land belonging to the chief prosecutor for the Balearics. All three fires seemed to have been started either by accidental negligence (believed to be the case in Ibiza) or deliberately.

Mallorca does burn, but rarely dramatically. The Ibiza fire is the most significant on all the islands since 2006. Each year there are minor fires, such as those on the Sant Marti mountain in Alcúdia, invariably the result of a discarded cigarette but little more than a spectator sport for those watching the water bombers.

A campaign was launched last year, usefully of course only in Catalan. You will still see the posters around - "ni 1 foc al bosc" (not one fire in the forest). It was intended as a reminder following the loss of 23 hectares of Balearics woodland to fire in 2008: the Ibiza one alone has affected 400 hectares, the Son Serra fire, 140 hectares, not all woodland, but the two fires show the scale of what have been abnormal events.

There are dense woodlands on Mallorca, but the island is not a Corsica, which is essentially thick forest on high mountains surrounded by flat plains of coast, some within furnace distance of forest. I was once caught up in a Corsica fire. The island burnt a treat, and the police were hunting a German "pyromaniac"; Corsica used to attract some strange fire-starting, lunatic tourists. But what Mallorca does have in common is the mistral (mestral in Catalan) and other winds; it is the mistral that tends to cause as much havoc as the fires themselves in Corsica and southern France.

One other difference is that the Canadair pilots do not have hero status in Mallorca as they do in Corsica. I watched the plane fly into the smoke of Albufera and then lost sight of it for a while. Only when it suddenly roared over within touching distance was I sure it was going back for more water. In Corsica, pilots sometimes don't come back. The fires there are an entirely different beast, the planes diving into valleys of thick smoke, pilots flying blind; it's trees or cables that normally cause them to crash.

The fires of the Balearics have been serious, but rarely, if ever, will they be truly catastrophic in a Corsican style, even if the Ibiza one is being described as a "natural disaster". Not one fire in the forest. There have been three - in so many days. That's bad enough.

Yesterday - Tears For Fears: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq81h_tears-for-fears-laid-so-low_music

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Laid So Low: The lilo

Somewhere in the south of France, there must be a repository which collects items of former beach plastic from northern Mallorca that manages to make landfall; they recycle it and turn it into Subbuteo players for the French national football team, preferring their vocal dumbness to the mental dumbness of regular "Les Bleus".

When I was a boy, the lilo was the equivalent of the then football. So heavy that it would brain you, assuming, that is, you were clouted across the head with it, a feat in itself given that it required a forklift to move it. The lilo of old was indestructible, vulcanised rubber that never ever bounced off to the high seas, as no wind was strong enough to shift it. The antique lilo was also like the Ford Motor Company - any colour you liked, so long as it was a muddy, indeterminate blue.

The current-day lilo is like Ant and Dec - lightweight, unavoidable, carried as a pair by every tourist heading beachwards and as multi-coloured as an Hawaiian worn in an Australian jungle. So ubiquitous, so numerous have lilos become, that there is no longer any room on the beach for their owners. Hence, unattended, the merest breeze springs up, and off bounds the lilo in the direction of Marseille, closely pursued by a tumbling beach umbrella.

The conventional lilo has been joined by contemporary variants: the corporate lilo, a Nokia mobile on water; the cutesy cartoon animal lilo, a smiling dolphin or a grinning dinosaur lilo; the risqué, anatomical lilo, a large condomised penis with a comedy, floppy bell-end of a head rest. Actually, I have made this last one up. Or at least I think I have.

A surprise is that anyone asking for a lilo locally gets what they think they are asking for. Lilo is also a brand name for fashion accessories. A scarf is not particularly buoyant, nor is it particularly comfortable for lying on. And "lying" is important. Where does the word "lilo" come from? No, not Lindsay Lohan. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was adapted from "lie low", which by the same logic of etymology would make "lido" a derivative of "lie down", which it isn't.

Every morning and every afternoon in summer, there is a full regimental procession of lilos marching in formation across the roads of Alcúdia, Muro and elsewhere and making camp on the beach. Every colour under a Mallorcan sun, but it's what the lilo isn't that suggests someone's missing a trick. Like the football shirt, why not carry your club or country's colours with lilo pride? Or your favourite footballer? Maybe there are such things, but I can't say I've seen them. The possibilities are endless. Matching Ant and Dec lilos. Floating on the water with your crotch or arse in Ant's face. Or maybe it's Dec's. The bar lilo, the restaurant lilo. The trouble would be that, having forked out on the bobbing merchandise, it would soon take itself off and bounce away across the waves, leaving a bawling small child and an angry parent watching 20 euros or so of inflatable Nicholas Anelka making steady progress towards the Riviera, which would really hack the French off, if not the Subbuteo recyclers.

Making a now intermittent appearance. "Laid So Low". Who was it?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going To The Beach: Days of drought and tsunami

A major report into the effects of climate change on Mallorca has been released. Don't worry, I want go into detail. You can guess at much of it anyway. Prepare to meet thy doom some time soon, and if you happen to have a property near to the sea, then best to check the small print on the insurance policy or get the sandbags in sharpish.

The latest report (from the university in Palma and something known as the centre for scientific investigations) should send shivers through anyone who has anything to do with Mallorca. Well, it would do were it not likely to make you feel even hotter than at present. It's hard to shiver at 30 degrees. It will be even harder when that 30 rises and rises.

None of what is now being said is that new. We already know about rising sea levels and temperatures. But there are some newer concerns - extended periods of drought and a greater propensity for severe hurricanes and tsunamis, neither of which would be good news were you to be lying on a Mallorcan beach, reading this (which is unlikely I admit). A prediction of a 20 centimetre rise in sea levels and 20 metre losses of beach and coast might have you gathering up the lilo and heading for Inca. All of which would be bad enough, but it is the time frame that should really give the shivers. Forty years from now.

Presumably, there won't be a day in 2050 when the sea suddenly decides to rise and when the beach slides into the Med. Were, for example, one able to say that 17 April, 2050 would be the day, then one could plan accordingly, i.e. by doing nothing for at least three decades. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to happen in this way. (What am I saying, unfortunately?) Because the rise and the loss will occur over time, this makes them seem rather less threatening, which also means doing nothing. And that's the nub of the issue. Is anyone actually doing anything?

The Costas are one department of government which is up to something, much to everyone's annoyance. It may act as an eco-Terminator trampling over illegal buildings and blasting the Don Pedro hotel, but maybe even it is not as bonkers as many would have it. "Hasta la vista." Perhaps it should be: "That vista, the nice one of the sea and that nice beach?" "Oops, there goes the beach, and watch out for those bloody great waves."

Then there's this trifling matter of drought. Rainfall is predicted to decline by almost a quarter. It has been said by certain enviro-ists that Mallorca has overstretched itself in terms of resources. And water is one of them. Who'll fill all those pools in future? The balcony divers should be warned.

Greenpeace and the United Nations are just two bodies who think it might make some sense to plan for the day when 25 metre waves and the loss of coastline occur. Though sea rise and beach disappearance will be, or should be, gradual, there is, worryingly, the chance that beach could indeed just go - on a given day. And this is because of the possibility of earthquakes in the Med which would produce tidal waves.

Mind you, there might be some benefit from all this. The agonising over certain local matters would subside, even if the waters didn't. Pedestrianisation in Puerto Pollensa? Don't worry about it. There won't be a Puerto Pollensa. Golf course in Muro? Forget it and invite back that company with an idea for an aquatic theme park. There wouldn't be plenty of fresh water, but there'd be plenty of another type of water for them to help themselves to.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking A Dive: The balcony boys

"Authorities warn over hotel jump craze." "Hoteliers demand action over 'jump' craze." "Man hurt in balcony fall." "Medical staff slam 'hotel jump craze'."

Four successive days, four successive and similar headlines, even down to the number of "crazes". Crazy. These front-pagers all come from "The Bulletin". While media in the UK were apparently bad-mouthing Mallorca because of the "craze", the local hacks of the press were doing their best to make sure that no one failed to know about it, even to the extent of producing what was basically the same story and of headlining with nuts stuff like "medical staff slam". Well, they weren't about to approve of it. "Balearics big up balcony battiness." "We're all bonkers, say the batty balcony boys." The paper even managed to include a question about the balcony diving in an interview with the Spanish ambassador to the UK. What's it got to do with him? For the record, he puts it down to cheap booze. He might have added idiocy and stupidity.

The annual ritual of people falling out of hotels has been taken to a new level this year, thanks to the variant on audience-surfing or stage-diving. Rather than a sea of people in an audience, there is, hopefully, a small sea of a pool to break the dive. The trouble is when there isn't, and the medics and hotel staff have to scrape up the mess.

Of course, no one much would know about it were it not for You Tube and for the press taking a delight in the batty balcony boys. And it is a delight, because it's "news". While balcony diving has suddenly caught on this year, the balcony has long presented a huge temptation to the half-brained tourist, determined to lose the remaining half in a fall. Ever since hotels decided on having adjoining balconies, nutters have attempted to climb from one to the other. Some years ago, I was in a bank. A chap with plaster on a limb, who looked as though he should have been in the bank wearing a balaclava and holding a sawn-off shotgun, explained the circumstances surrounding the plaster. Just about. It was hard to decipher the mix of Mancunian and Martian that he was speaking. It was all a laugh, though. Five in the morning, crashing onto a balcony below. Hilarious.

Why is the press getting so sanctimonious about it all? If some tosser wants to play at being Tom Daley and makes a big thud rather than a bigger splash, then it's no great loss. Not very pleasant if you happen to be on a sun-lounger as some customer of Moron Holidays slams into the beer on your table, but at least it's something by which to remember the holiday.

The "authorities" are planning on a shock and awe campaign to highlight the dangers of balcony-ing. What a brilliant idea. Bring even more attention to it. Just as campaigns to persuade dypso-nympho teenagers in Zante to not take on industrial quantities of industrial alcohol fuelled the tendency, so we might expect ever more tanked-up Icaruses flying into the sun and pool, or concrete.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We Want Our Money Back: Town halls have to repay

Let's say you are the head of a major European country which unfortunately finds its economy being held together by a flimsy piece of string and short of a Roberto or two. What do you do? Raise taxes? Yep, can do. Cut investment? Sure, why not? How about asking for your money back? Sounds a bit of a wheeze. And who should you ask for your money back? There are a few targets. Why not go for local authorities? What a splendid idea.

Mr. Bean's bean-counters in Madrid have come up with a cracking scheme to trawl back some badly needed moolah to fund the central government's drinks cabinet. That money we gave you, you now being a local authority; that money we gave you in 2008. Well, we want you to hand it back. Not all of it. That would be greedy. Just some of it. For example, that which you failed to collect in taxes. Yes, we know there's a recession on and that you might yourselves be turning out pockets of old coats and jackets in the town hall wardrobe in the hope of uncovering the odd euro or thousands, but we're brassic as well, and we're bigger than you.

The local authorities of Mallorca are none too impressed with this latest initiative. It might demonstrate initiative on behalf of an improvising central administration, but mayors are not about to applaud. And it's not just the mayors. Oh no. The Council of Mallorca. Them as well.

The funding in 2008, as with any funding, is meant to be partially balanced by what the local authorities drag in. The government, you might be surprised to learn, doesn't just hand the cash over willy-nilly. Nevertheless, the town halls find the demands for repayment slightly lacking in logic. While on the one hand the government has doshed up for projects under its so-called Plan E system, and made a song and dance about how wonderful this all is, on the other it's taking money back.

One has some sympathy for the mayors who say that all manner of projects will have to be stopped in order to boost central coffers. However, sympathy can be stretched. Take, for instance, Inca town hall. Under this payback scheme, it's liable to have to fork out a touch over 600,000 euros. Strange. Haven't we heard about 600k before when it comes to Inca? Oh yes, so we have. The 600 grand over-spend on the local swimming pool. The government doesn't presumably just pluck figures out of the air. Of course not. It might, though, take a cursory glance at the books and work out that there might just have been some inefficiency when it comes to the spending of its money. Take also the Council of Mallorca. It's in for a little under five million. Sounds reasonable if one takes account of what it has managed to fritter away or had "borrowed" by certain politicians. Remember, for example, the four hundred grand on a Catalan campaign. Yep, that was the Council's money. Or maybe it wasn't.

No, to be honest, I don't know that I do have much sympathy. Not all local authorities are staffed by wastrels and crooks, but if the Zapatero drive is a control and responsibility initiative dressed up as a financing one, then maybe it should indeed be applauded.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, August 20, 2010

That Petrol Emotion: Petrol stations and loyalty

Low down the list of tourist must-do's would be a trip to a petrol station. It would be an essential in order to find a way of moving an overpriced hire car from A to B, but as to being a cultural must-do, then hardly. Nevertheless, the petrol station is something, or has become something, of an economic and social metaphor for Mallorca.

Petrol stations are under threat of closure, the consequence of decreased traffic, in particular the heavy vehicles for construction. While car rentals are, in August at any rate, topping out at 100% supply, consumption has generally declined by up to 10% over the last year. To add to the lower revenues from petrol and diesel, the petrol stations have also had to contend with the vagaries of untypical summer weather. More rain around has meant cars being washed naturally and has led to up to 20% loss of business going through the car washes.

Earlier in the season, petrol station owners, in some areas, were complaining about a fall in tourist demand and having to rely on local business. This demand has increased, now that high season is here, but the regular, repeat custom is the bread and butter, one that must sustain the petrol stations during the off-season.

However, there has been a change in the style of many petrol stations, one that threatens the repeat, local business. Petrol stations, some at any rate, were part of social life. One, my own, was a place where, like the supermarkets can still be, you would wait while the customer before you or some old boy who just happened to walk in for no obvious reason, exchanged views as to the state of the local goat market. Not that you could buy a goat, though one suspects one might have, at some in the past, been able to do just that, along with a litre of diesel.

What you got was, yes, frustration at having to spend several minutes listening to something largely indecipherable, but also service that was akin to that during the grand days of motoring in England. Like the barber might ask if anything for the weekend was required, so the pump attendant might ask if anything for the engine was needed, and then provide it.

Well actually, it was never really like that in Mallorca. But the petrol station was friendly. I used to be given a bottle of cava at Christmas. It's not like that now. Change of ownership, a revolving door of staff, the fall in revenue and the prevention of any unnecessary additional loss through "shrinkage" - the use of pre-payment. Along with all this has gone a knowledge as to who the customer is, one who gives regular, repeat business. I don't want to be spoken to in English. I don't want to have to show ID if I use a card. I don't want to pre-pay, even if I understand why. But it feels like an affront, as is the ID. They knew me before. It was never asked for.

Maybe it's a case of being more business-like. Perhaps. But the regular business the petrol stations crave should be a mutual arrangement. My loyalty to my particular petrol station is being undermined by a more distant customer encounter. No attempt, it would seem, has been made to try and understand who the "regulars" are.

There are aspects of business in Mallorca that do service very well and that haven't looked to distance themselves. Banks, despite the growth of remote, internet banking, are a prime example. It is this closeness that, while maybe old-fashioned, counts for much. The petrol stations are counting on their regular business, but they are doing their best to lose it and in the process shift away, ever more, from a natural, albeit quirky service that was once the case.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Old King Coal: Alcúdia's power station

In passing yesterday I mentioned that GOB is wishing to have the power station (Es Murterar) in Alcúdia closed. It isn't so much the closure of the station as putting an end to carbon emissions. The power station runs on a mixture of coal and oil.

GOB has a strong case. By any environmental standards, including those of plain, layman common sense, the power station is something of a nonsense. While the environmental arguments have raged for ages regarding the building of a golf course on one side of Albufera, they are as nothing compared with what goes on on another side, i.e. at the power station.

If you drive along the road to Sa Pobla, past Murterar, you will see the grass verges stained with coal dust. To the back of the station are whole "fields" of ash which is used, decreasingly, in the making of cement. Lorries that move the ash and the coal from the port are in regular motion. There is something that is particularly absurd in having these filth-generators shuttling along the roads of Alcúdia every three minutes.

GOB is calling for, and is apparently getting some support from industry, the elimination of the coal and oil firing and for its replacement by renewables, wind farms most notably. It is not the only ecological power that has been attacking the power station and the use of coal. Greenpeace have, in the past, tried to disrupt the shipping of coal to the port.

Whether the wind alternative makes economic sense will doubtless be open to scrutiny as will the feasibility of changing the generating source. What it might all cost and who might pay for it are other questions. But, for once, GOB are likely to be able to call on widespread support, politically, from business and from anyone who believes that the emissions can make little sense, especially given the location of Murterar.

More on ducks
Well, pity a poor old duck in Albufera which finds itself covered in coal dust. It needs to go and have a swim in the clean waters of Can Picafort. The fallout from Sunday's shenanigans continues, "The Bulletin" drawing attention to the fact that Can Picafort council is not taking the actions of the illegal duck tossers lightly. Unfortunately, there is no Can Picafort council. Ho hum. But what of Santa Margalida council?

While it is obliged to set plod off in pursuit of the miscreants, it is open to question quite how determined Santa Margalida town hall is. "The Bulletin" would have it that its actions are "another example of how the local authorities are cracking down on local custom involving animals". Of course they are. The same actions that inspired the sympathetic Power Rangers poster for the 2008 fiestas, that prompted the head of fiestas to declare, after this year's tossing, that "there always have been ducks and always will be" (and he wasn't referring to rubber ducks) and that suggested to the town hall's delegate in Can Picafort that he should be photographed with duck supporters.

The town hall opted for rubber ducks only reluctantly and only after it had been fined for allowing the live ducks to continue to be used. Its attitude now is equivocal. "The Bulletin" devotes little attention to matters Can Picafort or northern, and it's a shame that when it does it can manage to get things wrong and to fail to understand what the situation really is. Poor.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer's Off: Albufera's information centre

'Tis the season to be closed. A while ago we had the museum in Alcúdia shut because of lack of staff. The swimming pool in Puerto Pollensa you know about. And to add to this we also have the information centre in the Albufera nature park. It has in fact been closed since the beginning of June.

The "centro de interpretación", as opposed to the reception, which remains open, is intended to offer audiovisual information, posters and other material related to the flora and fauna of Albufera. It is also intended to allow visitors who have coughed up for the "tarjeta verde" (green card) the chance to hire bikes and binoculars. There have been, apparently, complaints from tourists who, card in hand, find neither an information centre nor a bike.

So why is it closed? Good question. It would seem that it's all the fault of the tourism ministry or maybe it's the fault of our old mates the Fundación Balears Sostenible which is meant to run the centre. This is the same foundation which, to the horror of the new director when he was installed, was found to have somehow managed to have "leaked" the minor matter of three million euros. It's not the fault of the environment ministry which blames the tourism ministry which in turn blames the foundation which in turn blames political reasons. And on and on we go. The environment ministry staffs the reception centre and wants to be allowed to run the information centre. Not to be left out, enviro watchdogs GOB have attacked the foundation for its management of the centre, which does rather suggest that the fault does indeed lie with them. (GOB, incidentally, is wanting something else closed - the power station in Alcúdia, but this is a whole other story.)

The foundation is not directly part of the tourism ministry, but it is linked and is meant to be being wrapped up into an über-agency. Its main purpose in life is operating the green card, something that is likely to be abandoned through lack of interest, except to a few saps in Playa de Muro who get one, only to find it's of no use. You may recall that the money the card was planned to raise has been singularly unforthcoming, partly because hotels have, allegedly, been pocketing it all.

What we seem to have here is a case of too many cooks unable to gather the ingredients to make a broth. Why does it appear to be so difficult? Albufera, and all aspects of its management, should be under one authority alone. But no. We get competing bodies who conspire to balls things up. It's a metaphor for much of Mallorcan public administration.

Underlying this is the fact that nature parks such as Albufera, bird-watching and wildlife are all supposed to be part of tourism diversification, especially in the north of the island. The tourism bods keep banging on about it, but they - and other agencies - can't even organise a look-up centre in a watery briery. So what chance, therefore, of any of this "new" tourism succeeding? Very little, if Albufera is anything to go by.

Meanwhile. Tenuous link, I suppose, but Albufera houses the local Alcúdia/Muro weather station. And weather has been a tad unusual this summer. Forget all the pony you may come across about excessive temperatures, as it is usually pony. The official take from the Met boys is that there have been no real heatwaves this summer and that the highest temperature - anywhere on the islands - has been 36. So no repeat of last year's 42.7 (Sa Pobla) or Albufera's high in July last year of 39.9. But it can still crank up again.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dirty Duckers: Alcúdia corruption and Can Picafort mischief

If you had been inclined to think that all the corruption hoo-ha had gone quiet because of the summer hols, you would have been incorrect. Investigations are ongoing and they have just got very much closer to home. Home, in this instance, being Alcúdia town hall. There was I saying that, Can Ramis apart, Alcúdia was a less turbulent administration than others. I should know better.

As part of the IBATUR (Balearics tourism agency) case, there is a sub-investigation, one that involves a company called Trui. No, not TUI. Trui. You don't need to know the ins and outs, and you are probably not interested anyway, but there may be some painful truths coming out of the Trui troubles. Painful, that is, for the town hall, the Unió Mallorquina party (yep, them again) and ex-mayor Miguel Ferrer, himself a leading figure in the UM.

To cut to the chase, as reported in "The Diario", anti-corruption prosecutors suspect that money from the town hall was used to fund the UM's electoral campaign in 2007. Fingered in all this - potentially - are Ferrer, who was mayor at the time, and his right-hand man, Francesc Cladera, who - it is being alleged - could have arranged for payments, in black, from the town hall's coffers.

Coming on the back of the opposition Partido Popular's desire to re-open the case into alleged irregularities in respect of the Can Ramis building, things have suddenly become murky in what had been, so we had thought, the clearer waters of Alcúdia politics.

And while on the subject of water, and moving on from yesterday's swimming pool fiasco, the annual mischief in Can Picafort duly resulted in a few live ducks going for a dip in the sea during the duck toss on Sunday. Did we ever expect that they wouldn't?

The local press found both residents and the head of fiestas "surprised" by the level of police vigilance for the event. Not sure they should have been surprised. The naughty boys have been extracting the Miguel for a few years now, and the Guardia seemed determined to prevent any more Carry On Quacking. The police presence was at a level, so it was said, for the royal family putting in an appearance. Helicopters, a sub-aqua team plus the beachside patrols. And still they let some ducks go.

It is all utterly ridiculous. The event has always been ridiculous, but the ban was and is ridiculous, as is what has replaced it, i.e. rubber ducks. The thumbing of noses to authority is ridiculous, but so is the response. What can we expect next year? Submarines rather than a sub-aqua crew? Might be right given that subs used to launch dummy torpedoes at the towers on the beach, such as the one in Can Pic on which the naughties had graffiti-ed a "pope", announcing their intention to flout the duck law again. Maybe they should just ban the whole thing. Or stage it in a swimming pool instead. Assuming one can be found that's not been closed.

I asked a born-and-bred Can Picafort resident whether he would be attending the "suelta". No, he said. He used to, and used to be one of those who swam after the live ducks. But what was the point now? He's right. There is no point. It's plain daft, but it always was plain daft, which is why of course it should continue.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Going Swimmingly? Puerto Pollensa's pool

The first of March last year. I posed a question. Would there be another "fiesta" when Puerto Pollensa's swimming pool was closed? There was one back then to mark its opening (in fact its re-opening). It might have been more apposite had I asked whether there would be another fiasco.

They should have known that it was tempting fate. They should have known to have kept quiet about the whole thing. They should have known better than to inadvertently draw too much attention to the fact that the pool was a botched job with a roof on the wrong way round and a company that couldn't operate it. But no, they went ahead and had a fiesta, publicising the grand opening with a bizarre poster featuring kids in the open air in summertime. This was the start of March, don't forget. And there was, finally, a roof as a roof is meant to be - on the right way round.

It was tempting fate. No good could have come of it. The pool is closed. Again. This time it's because someone's forgotten to pay the electricity bill. Well, we know who hasn't paid the bill. The company that has the concession to run the pool, Algaillasport. The electricity supplier has cut them off, and won't be uncutting them until the company has handed over 20 grands worth of unpaid bills, which equate to nearly seven months of non-payment. Endesa seems to have been uncommonly patient.

When the agreement was drawn up with the town hall, the company had bargained on forking out 1,500 euros a month. They underestimated to the tune of a mere 100%. Hardly a drop in the deep end. And now they're treading water with the town hall but hoping they can come to another agreement which will enable the pool to re-open - again.

It might be easy to suggest that this is all another example of how any project that comes anywhere near the town hall drowns under the weight of incompetence. But this wouldn't be fair to the town hall, if only because it is not the only administration with a dodgy swimming pool. Santa Margalida's was shut for two years and still manages to leak water. Alcúdia's simply never met the spec, which has resulted in changes to the agreement with its operating company. In Inca, the pool went over budget by 600 grand.

Having a local pool that happens to be closed isn't so bad when there is the sea. The town hall can't cock that up, though they can of course cock up the arrangements for the maintenance of the beach and the provision of sunbeds, which they managed to do so well this year. And then there is next year and doubtless a further round of failing to come to an adequate agreement. But the pool should be open. There again, it might not be.

* Acknowledgement to the report in "Ultima Hora" for some of the above.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Theme For An Old Theme Park

Would you go to a theme park in Inca? Would you go to anything in Inca? The market brings in plenty of visitors, but it is a generally unlovely town, stuck in the centre of the island and filthy hot at the height of summer. Nevertheless, an old theme is to be revisited - that of a theme park.

This is the sort of thing that Mallorca could do with more of. Whether Inca would be the right location, or whether it would be the right sort of theme park; well, these are legitimate questions. The mayor of Inca is to make representations to a Danish company which had previously been interested in a theme park development on the island.

The story of the theme park goes back a number of years. In 2002, a plan for a park in Inca was halted on environmental grounds. The same company, Theme Park Group, turned its attention to a potential development in Calvia, one that caused an almighty great enviro stink. It, too, was abandoned. There was talk of its being revived, but this time in Campos where, you might recall, there has been yet another eco-controversy surrounding yet another golf course. Moreover, it would seem that the company at one point had an option to buy the Son Bosc finca in Muro, the site of the golf farce. Could you imagine the uproar that would have caused? It's a great shame they didn't buy it. The sport alone from the warring parties would have been wonderful to behold. A theme park in Muro would have made far more sense than a golf course, but not of course to the enviro-ists, various tree-huggers and bee-eating birds.

That the Inca project has resurfaced has to do with the creation of a third industrial estate on which there is to be provision for entertainment. It may also have to do with a shift in attitude at the Council of Mallorca under the land plan. The boss of Theme Park Group once asked whether Mallorca wanted a theme park, the answer to which seemed to be no. But now there might be a yes.

However, the report on Inca's new interest from "Ultima Hora" refers to 50,000 square metres of land on the industrial estate being given over to entertainment. Now just think about this. If you are familiar with the Bellevue complex in Puerto Alcúdia, that stands on some 200,000 square metres of land, sufficient to put up a decent-sized theme park perhaps. But on a quarter of the land? That doesn't give you much theme or park. Unless the report is wrong, it is hard to see how the company would be interested. When it was talking to Inca before, it had in mind some 900,000 square metres. This was reduced substantially, by a third, when the Calvia alternative arose, but this would also have stripped the theme park of an aquatic element.

A theme park has to be on a grand scale. And grand scale is pertinent when you consider the colossal "Gran Scala" in the desert near Zaragoza, a development that would have Mallorca's hoteliers salivating in anticipation, far more so than a damn golf course here or there, were something similar to be created on the island, which it wouldn't be. (Gran Scala, when and if it is finished, is due to occupy more than 20 times the land area of the original Inca theme park plan.)

Mallorca can ill afford to turn down the sort of projects that Theme Park Group had in mind. The smaller Calvia development would have represented investment of almost 200 million euros and the creation of 3,000 jobs. What the original Inca one would have entailed, Heaven only knows. And we are unlikely to ever know, just as it seems unlikely that the company would accept something as mini as Inca now wants.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Breathe More Easily? Traffic police

Here, especially if you have just polished off a decent bottle of red and are about to uncork a second and then intend to drive home, is something that might make you think twice about switching on the ignition. You know all those controls. You know the ones. The chaps in green, arms folded and staring menacingly from under the shade of a tree at a roundabout. They do actually do something. Not all just light up a fag and chat to their mates. Oh no.

During the first six months of this year, Trafico collared, get this, over one hundred per cent more drivers in Mallorca for drink-driving offences compared with 2009. This offence inflation does rather concur with what I was told some while ago that Trafico was one arm of the government being deployed as a revenue-generator. "Excuse me, sir, would you mind blowing into this, and do you have six hundred readies available in the event that ... ?"

I have never quite got it with all the controls. If you want better driving, then might the police not be better served, as in the UK, hanging around in bushes with a speed trap or cruising along the roads about to blue-light a speeding Seat? The thing is that they do this as well. And there are, by the way, some unremarkable vehicles which look as though they have been picked up for a song from a car auction spluttering along the main roads, their only distinguishing features being a couple of antennae stuck on the boot; antennae not designed to aid better reception for RNE radio or to act as mobile WiFi. They are speed cops.

The numbers of traffic plod have been increased, and so - one has the impression - have been the controls. Fines, for a government reduced to using a torch to hunt down the back of sofas for any lurking billions with which to bolster a bankrupt economy, are relatively easily-generated national or island dosh. Part of the thinking one might imagine, and they could of course be right, is that most drivers will have fiddled their tax returns, so they might as well cop it in some other way, via the traffic cops.

However, not everything is rosy or light green in the world of the traffic police. They're none too impressed with current pay. All those fines, and the government's trousering the moolah for itself. As a consequence, while the first six months might have produced some record bounty, the second half of the year might find the piggy bank less than flush. Plod has been more inclined to do nothing or just tick off a Jaco-m'chico tanked up and oozing a smell of Saint Mick combined with the gallon of Hugo Boss in the neck area. Trafico is its own bit of the Guardia, and this is another slight bone of contention. Traffic plod don't earn as much as others. They're not allowed to go on strike, so they're being less assiduous in pursuing lagered-up drivers. But don't, for God's sake, let this be taken as a hint that you should empty the local bar and head off for a good burn-up down the local carretera. Oh no. I, for one, actually applaud what they do. Oh sanctimonious me. Drink and drive? Nope.

In case you're wondering, the legal limit is 0.25 milligrams. Fines for exceeding the limit are 600 euros plus four points on the licence, but sanctions can of course be greater, depending on the levels and the offence.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Mother Of Development: Muro, Ullal and land policy

The ongoing farce that is the Muro golf development shows no sign of pulling its trousers up from around its ankles and closing or keeping open, once and for all, the bedroom doors through which the two sides chase each other - the developers sniggering as they lay another trap and rile the environment ministry which would most likely prefer to take a horse-whip to the unfaithful miscreants.

The bee-eating bird has flown or has, at any rate, completed its procreation, and the developers have once more sent in the diggers. They're over there! Where? Over there! In march the agents of the ministry, brandishing an order to stop them. It's an area of bird protection. On no it isn't. Oh yes it is. Though the developers dispute the protection area order, they have skulked off, for the time being, leaving the 'dozers dozing in the summer heat. The government has "paralysed", for the time being, the clearance work. (Incidentally, given that the bee population is threatened and that its demise would represent an ecological catastrophe, why are we so concerned with this damn bee-eating bird? Let it fly off and nose-bag some worms. But I digress.)

The way in which the developers promptly resumed their developing once the bee-eater had finished its was like a bunch of naughty schoolboys, blowing raspberries at the back of the class while the teacher's back was turned. Right then, who did that? Not us, sir. Oh yes, it was. And of course it was. The developers have been despatched to the head's study for six of the best, or would be were anyone sure that they had done anything wrong. They say they haven't. Perhaps they had thought that the August hiatus would have meant they could plough up great tracts of finca without anyone noticing because they're all on holiday.

The whole thing is a farce, in the same way as much other land conversion is farcical in that necessity rarely appears to be the mother of development. As I have asked many times, has anyone ever actually made the business case for the course being needed? Environmental issues notwithstanding, the biggest beef of opponents is that the course represents private business interests over all others. It's the same beef being given a good larding where the projected Ullal development in Puerto Pollensa is concerned. Are the houses and apartments really necessary? Maybe they are. Or maybe they are just a case of private interest prevailing. No one has much objected to Lidl's supermarket rising up from the asphalt of what was Karting Magic in Puerto Alcúdia, but is it really necessary? Eroski would say not, and are apparently going to close at least one of their supermarkets. All good in terms of competition, but is it the right sort of land conversion?

Ullal, Lidl and others all fall under a general land plan for Mallorca, one overseen by the Council of Mallorca which could, one supposes, still block Ullal, though it seems unlikely as it has, in effect, released the land. The golf development, on the other hand, isn't a facet of this land plan as it is an issue for the regional government. Which all begs the question as to who is overseeing developments and as to whether there exists sensible, joined-up policy. And talking of sensible, the demolition of the Don Pedro hotel, which is covered by the land plan and which has been approved by the Council (which refers to the hotel's "infamous invasion" of beach), is supposed, along with the demolition of the Rocamar in Puerto Soller, to lead, in return, to a new hotel being built. Where? In Cala San Vicente? In Puerto Pollensa? In Soller? No. In Sa Rapita. On the southside of the island. Go figure.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Under-Cooked: Tour operators' profits down

The tour operators are facing significant drops in their profits, Thomas Cook issuing a profits' warning. The reasons are not too difficult to work out. Like all other parties in the tourism industry this year, the tour operators have not been immune to economic pressures and the totally unexpected. The good news in all this is that there are some remarkable bargains to be had, "The Guardian" reporting yesterday that anything up to 60% off can be expected once the school holidays are over, while 40% off this month can be obtained. The less good news is destinations that are on offer, the Balearics heading the list.

With TUI, Thomas Cook and others suffering falls in profit, a question that has to be asked is what this might mean for next season. There was some indication that tour operators' prices had risen this year in the expectation of a better year, one that has failed to materialise. Price rises in 2011 might be on the cards, but they would be folly, especially for some destinations, including Mallorca and the Balearics.

The island's hoteliers have come to the end of their contract arrangements for next year: they can expect no or only a one per cent increase in their own prices. One per cent is the maximum that the tour operators will give them. Yet, you have a situation in which certain hotel associations, such as the Alcúdia-Can Picafort one, are saying that up to 30% of places have been left unsold in July and August this year; some hotels have reported far worse.

But go further behind all this, and one finds a rather mysterious situation, or one that is being alleged by hotels in Puerto Pollensa. Against the background of a potential rise in all-inclusive there, hotels have accused the tour operators of not selling holidays to Pollensa, the operators claiming that hotels are sold out, when they are not. The hotels also reckon that the tour operators have been diverting clients, who would have booked in Puerto Pollensa, to hotels elsewhere.

Without knowing the precise nature of the contractual agreements tour operators might have with different hotels in different resorts, it is hard to comment on this. If what the Puerto Pollensa hotels allege is true, and they say it is, albeit that "sources" preferred to maintain anonymity when this was reported on a few days ago in "The Diario", might this be interpreted as a bit of pressure to conform with a tour operator desire to change the status of offers at certain hotels - to all-inclusive, in other words?

In the same Guardian article, a spokesperson for travelsupermarket.com says that there will be a "bloodbath" of last-minute deals in September and October. If the tour operators are going to get so badly burned this year, might we be facing a different sort of bloodbath, that of hotels not being contracted with? It is already the case that individual hotels are making pre-emptive strikes, effectively removing themselves from under the tour operators umbrellas and going for independent, direct bookings in a far more aggressive fashion than has been the case until now. It may be that others have to do likewise. What they can expect as revenue from the tour operators will not increase in real terms; indeed it is down this year in many instances. And to what extent will they be willing to take the tour operator shilling in return for offering something - all-inclusive - that many are loathe to?

2011 is going to be a lively year. It could also be make or break for many hotels, assuming they are not already broken.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wear Your Shirt With Pride: Football returns

England play Hungary this evening. On Saturday, the Premier League kicks off again. Rarely have two football occasions been greeted by such a lack of enthusiasm. By me, at any rate. Not so by the local Brit bars. There is at least one that counts the number of England matches through the tourist season; days when it can expect a full house and empty barrels come the end of the evening. It won't be the only one.

The dependence upon football, England or Premiership, seems a bizarre way of running a business. But it's not so bizarre when one witnesses the hordes that take to the bars when Saturday (or Sunday or Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday) comes. Has anyone ever attempted to measure the level of "ancillary" business that football creates - the takings in the bars of Mallorca and elsewhere?

One wonders, though, at the enduring capacity of footy to entice tourists into parting with good money to demonstrate affiliations with teams unworthy of the price of a pint of Saint Mick. During the England game against Slovenia, I started to contemplate the peaks of beer buying during a match and the average pint consumption per punter. I never arrived at a scientific figure, but the peaks were rarely troughs and the consumption seemed massive. There are a lot of cold drinks imbibed in the name of ... in the name of what?

Come the day of a match, the football shirt is ritually removed from the hotel or apartment drawer. Wear your replica shirt with pride. In England's case, it's the last thing anyone should be admitting to, let alone donning. Affiliation? Ah yes, a team run by an Italian, increasingly being exposed as an idiot, and populated by numbskulls such as Potato Head. Premier League and affiliation? Ah yes, to whole African tribes and a European dribbling diaspora handed fat cheques by representatives of superpowers, past and present. Rod Liddle in "The Sunday Times" at the weekend raised the possibility of Premier matches provoking nuclear attacks. To the USA and Russia, we must now, in all likelihood, add China, to say nothing of the threat of Islam.

Why does anyone care any longer? My own team, Spurs (who it might be said were to blame for a movement towards football fan alienation when they grabbed footballing aliens - Villa and Ardiles), do at least have an English manager and a smattering of English/British players, but it's not the club of Greaves, Mullery, Gilzean and the rest. Yet, curiously, alienation has never quite caught on, despite the hopelessness of success for any club unprepared to spend the equivalent of an African nation's GDP on ... on an African player, and despite the not infrequent references to the size of those cheques and the disproportionately lamentable performances they pay for.

It's all due to marketing, one presumes, a process that can result in a red-cheeked English child walking the streets of Alcúdia in a Messi shirt. Why? The only good reason I can think of is because it's not a Rooney shirt. Marketing, constant and exhaustive media coverage, the 24/7 outpouring of inanities and also, just as important, the weird tribalism of football, one that is not just reserved for the English. Wear your replica shirt with pride. It's a statement, one of lurking confrontation and of territorial bravado, like a dog urinating against a lamp-post. When England played and I hacked along to the bar, I felt under-dressed not wearing an England shirt, akin to turning up in jeans at a wedding and finding everyone else in morning suits. The replica shirt sends out a message not just to supporters of other clubs, it does so also to Johnny Foreigner. Once upon a time, a foreigner in a foreign land was advised to keep his head down, unless there was a pith helmet on top of the head and he was running the foreign land. Not now.

One can understand the Blackpool supporter turning up at a bar with an orange torso and a bright pink face. An affiliation to the totally lost cause. He's likely to be bought drinks out of sympathy. He also knows that this season will be his only opportunity. But for most of the others, it's an exercise in compliant manipulation, in the pressure to affirm a marketing concept rather than a football team, in tribalism disguised as support, symbolised by the replica shirt and shouted over the constant chasing of yet another pint. Not, though, that the bars will be complaining.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

White Elephants: Can Ramis in Alcúdia

Of the local town hall administrations, Alcúdia tends to enjoy greater harmony than the others. There are not the shenanigans that arise in Santa Margalida, not the controversies of Muro, such as the golf course, not the close to fist fights of Sa Pobla and not the seemingly daily criticisms of Pollensa's poor mayor Cerdà. However, there is one matter in Alcúdia that stubbornly refuses to go away and which has returned as a brickload of contention.

To remind you, Can Ramis is the new building by the market square. It cost, in the end, a whacking great two and a half million plus euros (a figure I think I'm right in saying includes the cost of redoing the square next to it). It was meant to have cost more than a million less. To say that the building is unattractive is an understatement; it is an abomination. When it finally opened towards the end of April, there was a singular lack of fanfare. You could understand why. A rotten building, delayed, vastly over-budget and not doing what it was intended to. A grand, official opening was the last thing that was needed, except as a way of exposing some sheepish and embarrassed expressions. There was no grand opening.

The opposition Partido Popular has been on the Can Ramis offensive for some time. In 2008, the party issued a "denuncia" in respect of what it claimed were irregularities. The accusation was "archived", but the PP, as reported in "Ultima Hora", intends to get the case re-opened.

Other than relocating the tourist office, which was envisaged under the original plans, the building has two exhibition areas which are of questionable value given other display areas in the town, and an office for the town hall's markets and fairs department. The town's service agency, EMSA, is meant to be moving in at an additional cost of 30,000 euros. Can Ramis is therefore ending up as overspill accommodation for the town hall. The main feature of the construction, some sort of bus station, along with a waiting room and a café all failed to materialise. In the case of the café someone came to the conclusion that it wasn't necessary, given the number of bars nearby. Why it was ever thought necessary, who knows.

The thrust of the PP's accusations centre, one understands, on what happened to the original budget, which was spent even before the actual construction of the building started. There are other questions that arise in respect of Can Ramis. Who approved the design? When was it clear that there would be a change of use? And was there consideration given to a re-design when this became clear?

Can Ramis, you would have hoped, would have been a symbol of civic pride. It is anything but. It is unlovely and, as the PP point out, under-utilised; not quite a white elephant but a sickly elephant calf. It was a mistake, and a ridiculously expensive one, to boot.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pax Bulletinis: British community and newspapers

The British Ambassador to Spain has been visiting Mallorca. You could hardly have missed this if you had read "The Bulletin" on Saturday; not one, not two, not three, but four pages devoted to Giles Paxman - Paxo Minor, he is the younger brother of Jezza. How to fill space and fail to influence people.

The ambassador pitched up at the offices of "The Bulletin" to hand over a commemorative letter, albeit that it is two years early; the paper celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012, but this didn't stop a small orgy of self-congratulation, the always beaming British Consul on hand to enjoy a toast. Oh, that he might venture northwards to meet British businesses. He could take a leaf out of his boss's book: Paxo the younger will apparently be meeting such businesses in Benidorm. But that's not what I want to talk about.

The letter commends the paper on its achievement and on playing a "very important role within the British community". It will be an achievement, but you have to wonder for how much longer.

According to the audited circulation figures supplied by OJD (Oficina de Justificatión de Difusión), the paper's average net circulation declined by 11% from 3,839 copies in 2008 to 3,405 in 2009. Economic hard times may partially explain this, but there surely are other factors, such as ease of buying British papers and the internet.

When the paper started in 1962, and for many years thereafter, it was not only a visionary move to publish it but it was also "very important". British papers could not be bought easily, and there were few alternative sources of information, especially for the Brit who resolutely refused to learn or read Spanish.

None of this obtains now, other than the Brit still steadfastly avoiding the native. What actually is the point of the paper now? One that uses translated pieces from "Ultima Hora", stuff from the internet (sometimes verbatim), can verge on the unintelligible (we all know what) and is rarely if ever contentious or provocative, except to a few who engage in arguments regarding British or arcane international politics or when a letter-writer raises a vaguely controversial point. The word "lightweight" too easily comes to mind.

Perhaps when the paper's nickname is used - and I assume everyone knows this - there is a sense of unfairness; too high a level of expectation. Look at those circulation figures, and work it out for yourselves. This unfairness also masks genuine affection for the paper, despite its idiosyncracies. But this affection stems in part from the fact that it is something of a bygone age. In the same stable as "The Bulletin", the Catalan paper "dBalears" has been commended for its visual style. It, "Ultima Hora" and the German weekly, "Mallorca Magazin" all have decent websites, replete with additional advertising possibilities. None of this applies to "The Bulletin".

And is it genuinely "very important" within the British community? I would like to say that it is. It was, but I doubt that it now is. Too often, for example, one hears the gripe that it neglects parts of Mallorca away from Palma or Calvia. Some of you will know that I did have a brief association with the paper. It was intended to create more of an emphasis on the north of the island. I also spoke to them about how to enhance the brand name of the paper, and it's a strong name, despite the mickey-taking nickname; nigh on fifty years lend the brand enormous credibility, or should do, but they fail to in a way that commands real respect. I came to realise I was wasting my time. There was seemingly little interest in either the northern community or in something a bit more innovative. It's a great shame. It could still be "very important", but it's hard to see how without a radical re-think.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Aw Phooey: Duck nonsense in Can Picafort

The decks of Carl Cox quietened, the people of Can Picafort can return to more traditional fiesta matters, namely ducks. A week from today the annual duck liberation will take place. The duck liberation front (DLF) is on the move once more. It wishes to liberate real ducks and not stupid rubber ones, to have swimmers pursue a quacking, flapping Donald and not a mute bath-time bobber.

Although the ban on live ducks is ridiculous, and it is when it is placed in the context of the treatment of other animals, the pro-duck lobby is equally as ridiculous: in its sheer pretentiousness and self-importance. It argues in favour of a tradition, but the tradition itself is pretty stupid: toss some ducks into the water and then see who can be the first to catch them. All a bit of fun but ultimately pointless.

The DLF, and I've made this up by the way, has issued a video as part of a warning that live ducks will feature once more this year. For sheer pomposity, it takes some beating.

The duck tossing goes back some 75 years. Quite why it ever came about, who knows. It was officially banned in 1999, but it took fines issued against Santa Margalida town hall for the ban to complied with. These came from the agriculture ministry. One fancies that the town hall has never quite accepted the ban. That it sanctioned the fiesta poster in 2008 which featured children with Power Rangers masks (as worn by the DLF when letting live ducks go the year before) suggested either just a streak of humour or a sympathy with the DLF cause.

What can be sure is that this year there will be more security and more scrutiny of what happens on the sea in front of the hotel Mar y Paz. And what can also be sure is that there will be huge numbers who turn up in the anticipation of the ban being flouted once more. It's now become a game, a new tradition as much as the one of chucking ducks into the sea.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Load Of Cox: Why event tourism marketing is wrong

There will have been some weary souls wending their way from Can Picafort this morning. Dawn will have dawned before the decks were put to sleep. Decks and not ducks, for once during the Can Picafort fiestas.

The Carl Cox extravaganza was far from being the first time the DJ had played Can Pic. But the buzz that it created suggested that it could have been. The buzz was perceptible. Cox got people talking in a way that the fiestas rarely get people talking. Partly this was because of rarity value. A question should be - why is it so rare? So rare for international performers to head north, to the north of Mallorca.

The tourism ministry's teaming-up with the promoters to push the Elton John-Andrea Bocelli event in Palma spoke volumes. Spoke volumes for Palma and southern-Mallorca-centricity. Spoke volumes for the fact that if the event cannot be sold out, it might indicate that Mallorca cannot stage a big gig. Spoke volumes for something "safe", something not so much middle-of-the-road but lurching along in the slow lane or coming to a halt on the hard shoulder. And no one has been speaking in loud volume about the event. It has no buzz factor. Carl Cox, on the other hand ... .

A justification for the belated promotion of the Elton John show is that apparently tour operators have been calling for events around which they can mould packages. It's a reasonable enough point, but it ignores the fact that there are "events" which can, or could, form the focus of packages. It also ignores the fact that whatever tourists might be attracted will end up in or around Palma.

What it also ignores is an underlying cynical aspect to such events. Ancient "stars" and the punter will roll up, hopefully coughing up three figures for something that presents Mallorca as a venue for the old hat. The island needs none of this. It needs to project freshness, newness. Tourism and event tourism is going down an antiquated drain inhabited, down, down, deeper and down by other geriatrics - Status Quo, for example.

The tourist market is anything but homogeneous, but this is largely how it is conceived by those who should know better, namely those charged with tourism promotion. It is straight-line thinking. Elton may not conform to all definitions of straight, and a current push for the pink tourist may suggest a broader appreciation of diverse markets, but there remains a lack of innovation and niching when it comes to an appreciation of lifestyle and age-group demographics as well as a lack of "branding " for individual resorts or areas. Segmentation is performed on national and geographic lines - Brits, Germans etc. - rather than on personal motivation.

Carl Cox is not leading-edge in the dance world, but he's as close as it comes in Mallorcan terms. He is also a "name", one that should be shouted very loudly in connection with Can Picafort. There is no reason why a youthful market cannot co-exist alongside the generic family market: witness Magaluf, for example, with which, through BCM, Cox has been closely associated.

All the resorts (and their towns) lend themselves to specific marketing, that which goes beyond the normal and bland. Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa, for example, should be by-words for high sophistication and culture, as evidenced by the Pollensa Music Festival. But it should be a music festival of "real" international importance, as should other events. Can Picafort should be a by-word for dance, for a more youthful market. Don't stop at one event - Cox at the Auba. Do it through the season.

You'll say, ah but they can't afford it. Up to a point, they can't, but there are cover charges for the likes of the music festival and Carl Cox and, as importantly, there is the colossal squandering of money that goes on. Santa Margalida town hall, as with Pollensa town hall, should not have to underwrite its events. It should be done centrally, and when you have the tourism promotion agency in the Balearics (IBATUR) currently under investigation for - get this - forty million euros of questionable spend, you can understand the amount of money that sloshes around and ends up in the wrong pockets that could be used to create highly dynamic, local events and highly dynamic, local marketing.

But they won't, because rather than bolstering the resorts, the spend will end up in Palma and on the crocodile rock of Elton. I don't dislike Elton, I don't dislike Andrea Bocelli, but I couldn't care less about either of them appearing in Palma. Carl Cox on the other hand ...

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Desperation: Promotion to the British market

The Balearic Government and the Spanish tourism promotion agency, Turespaña, are combining to spend one and a half million euros on a campaign to attract last-minute British tourists. This comes in the context of an 11% decline in British tourism this season. The campaign will be a pure selling one, rather than one with "image" in mind.

The fact that this campaign is being launched now raises questions. Why wasn't something done earlier when it was clear that the British market was down? Why does it take the admission of poor numbers from the UK to convince the government and others that concentrating on "image" promotion is largely irrelevant? What will these poor numbers mean in more general terms?

The answers to the first two questions can be explained, in part, by the turmoil at the tourism ministry and the lack of cohesion in respect of marketing this year and by an erroneous belief that spending considerable amounts of money on celebrities, i.e. Rafa Nadal, to appear in adverts that get shunted to obscure outer reaches of television will have any impact. The third question is more complex.

There was a decline in British tourism last year as well, and we know why. It may be a short-term decline, but hoteliers and tour operators cannot afford to wait for the short term to end. In other words, they cannot afford for 2011 to be as Brit bad. They cannot afford for occupancy figures to be the same, or worse, than those which have been admitted to in certain instances: occupancy rates as low as 25% or little better than 50% in specific hotels in both Puerto Alcúdia and Puerto Pollensa, hotels with a high reliance on the British market.

What is becoming clear is that some hotels are looking to lessen this reliance or get rid of the British altogether. It isn't only the stronger of the established markets, German and Scandinavian, to which they are turning; the new markets of eastern Europe are being eyed up with ever-increasing desire. What one may well find is a distinct shift in terms of tourism demographics, both geographically and socially. Take, for example, the experience of Cala San Vicente. It has seen the influx of an economy-class Polish market. If the Don Pedro does finally get knocked down, or even if it doesn't, there's plenty of space over in Puerto Pollensa, space that could just as easily be made all-inclusive, as with the relatively small Don Pedro (fewer than 150 rooms), space that could be taken up by non-British markets.

Whether this latest promotional campaign will have any effect, who knows. Whether any of these campaigns have much effect, who knows. This one sounds like a case of desperation promotion.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.