Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Media Markt opens its first Mallorca store

The giant German electrical-goods retailer Media Markt will open its first store in Mallorca tomorrow night (1 November) at one minute before midnight. The store is in the entertainment centre Ocimax in Palma.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia bullfight promoter fined

The promoter of the Alcúdia bullfight during the Sant Jaume fiestas has been fined 6,001 euros for allowing under-16s to attend the bullfight. A fine has also been issued for the same reason in respect of the Palma bullfight.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida pool will be converted to multi-use

Santa Margalida's indoor swimming pool, beset by problems caused by water leakage, is not now to be demolished. It will instead be converted to a multi-purpose sports facility for local schools. The town hall is looking at acquiring a site elsewhere in order to build a new pool.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): Puerto Pollensa 15.
Forecast high: 20 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West and northwest 3 or 4 then 5 and locally 6.

A fair bit of rain overnight - and a much warmer night as well - so a damp morning but the sun is out. Though there is still an alert for rain, the threat is probably now gone. The forecast for tomorrow - a holiday - is for a mix of cloud and sun with a high of 21. 

Evening update (18.00): Well, the forecast for today wasn't that accurate. It looked as though the worst of the weather had passed by earlyish morning, only for there to be dark clouds most of the day, bursts of heavy rain and a strong wind. Today's high, 19.7 in Pollensa. Things should be better tomorrow and Friday.

Out Of Town: Mallorca's retailing

When I entered the world of proper work, the location was Wembley; an office right opposite the stadium. For twelve years, before relocating the business to Yorkshire, I witnessed the decline of Wembley as a commercial centre and especially Wembley High Road. The year before I had started work, something very significant had happened - Britain's first standalone, out-of-town shopping centre had opened. Brent Cross.

Some few miles away, Brent Cross had advantages that the High Road didn't. Apart from its new shops, it was sited by the junction of the A41 and the A406 North Circular Road. It was easily accessible, despite the heavy traffic, and parking was simple. The High Road was constantly logjammed and there was nowhere to park. Never exactly attractive anyway, it took little time for the High Road to become even more of a sorry sight as shops closed and trade dwindled. The High Road clung onto its Marks & Spencer, despite rumours that it was going to close almost as soon as Brent Cross had opened, but finally lost it in 2005.

There have been other Wembley High Roads, as town centres in Britain have been affected by the growth of out-of-town shopping malls. The arguments in Britain - economic, environmental, impact on local communities - are now being had in Mallorca. Relaxation of planning by the regional government paves the way for more out-of-town complexes and for the concentration of retail power in the hands of large companies, some of them multinationals.

Comparisons with Wembley High Road and other British town centres are possible only up to a point. Density of population is a reason why direct comparisons can't be made, another is the layout of town centres - in Britain, this is typically much more open than in Mallorca's old towns. A further reason is that local communities in Mallorca tend to be much closer than in Britain. This does ignore more rural British towns where the communities may be close, but as a general rule, it is probably fair to say that Mallorca's town communities are much tighter.

This closeness does, however, have its drawbacks. Retail parochialism in Mallorca's towns breeds a lack of competitiveness, a not always high regard for service and often a lack of variety, the latter a peculiarity given the sheer number of "locales". Planning requirements mean that where new builds have been undertaken there have to be ground floors for units of some form or another. They have led to an over-supply of shops and bars. Moreover, the layout of many Mallorcan towns brings with it a disadvantage as far as access and parking are concerned. 

The consequence of this is that the total economic benefit to Mallorca's towns is spread thinly. The turnover in "locales" is evidence of the over-supply, low levels of demand and more often than not ill-conceived business ideas. Towns in tourist areas, and Alcúdia town is a good example, can support a number of "bangle-and-bauble" type shop, but even then one has to wonder why there are as many as there are.

The associations representing small retail businesses are right to warn of closures that would come from an expansion of out-of-town facilities and a growth in the number of hypermarkets. In bringing the association for petrol service stations on board to fight the regional government's new commercial laws, Afedeco and Pimeco are highlighting the degree to which market liberalisation on the Balearics is about to follow that of Britain many years ago; the service stations are worried about supermarkets selling petrol.

Rationalisation of the retail sector would inevitably follow, and it is hard to envisage town centres not becoming like mini-Wembley High Roads. It is a development that many would bemoan, and not just small shop owners. But for all the sorrow that would be expressed regarding the breakdown of local communities and their shops, most of those expressing their sorrow would probably also be shopping out of town, as they would already have been. It's not as if the trend would be that new, given the existence of centres such as Al Campo's. 

The fear of retailing dominance by the large supermarkets, multiples and multinationals in out-of-town parks echoes that of the increased concentration of power of the hotels if they go ahead and include secondary activities within their grounds. These secondary activities strike me as unfair competition, but I don't feel the same about liberalisation of the retail sector. It needs modernising and it needs to be more competitive. If out-of-town hypermarkets mean both of these, then so be it.  

Any comments to please.

Index for October 2012

Actors, celebrity tourists and pets - 19 October 2012
Albion Classic Motorcycle Tours - 29 October 2012
Alcúdia town hall e-government - 12 October 2012
All-inclusives and complementary sector opposition - 10 October 2012
Autumn in Mallorca - 8 October 2012
Balearics public sector investment - 3 October 2012
Bauzá and Balearics tourism - 13 October 2012
Cats in Mallorca - 26 October 2012
Cemeteries and dark tourism - 28 October 2012
Christian theme park in Inca - 9 October 2012
Complementary sector and tourism law - 5 October 2012
Council of Mallorca - 22 October 2012
Coup attempt of October 1982 - 21 October 2012
Cruise ships and expectations too high - 20 October 2012
Cultural tourism - 17 October 2012
Expatriates and Spain's troubles - 1 October 2012
Galicia/Basque elections - 23 October 2012
Health minister resignation - 25 October 2012
Hotel leasing by tour operators - 29 October 2012
Human towers - 15 October 2012
Important and influential Mallorcans - 4 October 2012
Juan Manuel and the university bomb plot - 7 October 2012
Out-of-town retailing - 31 October 2012
Playa de Muro cycling and seasonality - 14 October 2012
Pollensa secretarial appointment - 6 October 2012
Pop songs about Mallorca - 30 October 2012
Puerto Alcúdia market - 27 October 2012
Ryder Cup and Britishness - 2 October 2012
Social media, technology and tourism marketing - 18 October 2012
Spain national day - 11 October 2012
Tourism in the 1930s - 16 October 2012
Tourist statistics - 24 October 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma cemetery graves not being paid for

Further to the recent article about "dark tourism" and Palma cemetery, it appears that the cemetery has problems with non-payment. Over 6,000 owners of graves or niches have stopped paying the municipal tax for their upkeep. If the tax isn't paid, then the graves will revert to the town hall.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): Pollensa 11.
Forecast high: 22 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): South 3 strengthening 5 by midday.

Another cold night and the morning is not particularly warm but the sun is out, though may not be out for very long. Alerts out again for rain and storms from midday into tomorrow morning.

Evening update (18.15): A day of threatening clouds with a high of 19.3. The yellow alerts stay in place so rain and storms can still be expected. 

Gaiety And Mirth: Mallorca pop songs

Strange to report, but I can't recall ever having mentioned Petula Clark before. It's not as though one would, let's be honest.

Many of us will mostly remember Petula for her Tony Hatch phase in the 1960s, but she had been around a long time before issuing the sound advice to not sleep in the subway, darling. She had great success in the 1950s, a period of her career with which I was mercifully unfamiliar until the other day. Thanks to a discovery by Mary Lawrence (on the Bonygraph Forum), I am now aware that in 1955 Pet had a hit song which got to number 12 in the UK chart. Its title? "Majorca".

My initial thought on this masterpiece being unearthed was that there might have been something behind it, as in it was some sort of promotional effort by pre-mass tourism Mallorca to put its name on the map. It doesn't appear to have been. From what I can gather, it was originally a French song to which English lyrics were added by one Johnny Lehmann. And what lyrics they were. "There is no place on earth with gaiety and mirth like you find on Majorca, isle of love." "Their wealth is meant for sharing." "Once you've known its spell, you'll never say farewell, 'cos your heart's in Majorca, isle of love."

You wouldn't be able to use "gaiety" in quite the same way nowadays while their (Mallorcans') wealth may have been meant for sharing in 1955, but I am not convinced that it is now. The bit about knowing its spell, corny though it is, probably would still chime with many today though.

When Petula was singing about the isle of love, Mallorca would have been largely unknown to the record-buying public. Go forward ten or fifteen years and everyone would have heard of it but for different reasons to Petula's romantic ones.

Yet no one had burst into song about Mallorca again and it is surprising that so few songs have been devoted to Mallorca. I spent an admittedly short amount of time on Google trying to find some and came across hardly any. However, there is always Ivor Biggun and "The Majorca Song".

Also known as Doc Cox from the "That's Life" programme, Ivor painted a very different picture of Mallorca in 1987. "To the land of sun, fornication and fun." "Buenos knockers, por favor." "She was topless, I was legless." "She swallowed my pina colada." "Olé, olé, olé ... I think I'm gonna be sick." If Petula might just have been doing a song promo for Mallorca in 1955, Ivor most certainly wasn't. What is odd that it took as long as it did for there to be a song like Biggun's.

I thought that there had to have been some musical tributes to Mallorca by Spanish acts, but they aren't that obvious either. There was one by an act called Los Mismos which, in their 1968 gear, featured a female singer who had spent far too long with her hair in curlers and two chaps with beardy looks that had been knicked from the Mamas and the Papas and floral jackets knicked from ... the Mamas and the Papas. I'm not sure what they looked like in 1964 when they released on the Belter label a belter of a song entitled "Puente a Mallorca", but so much of a belter was it that I don't recommend you bother listening to it. Los Mismos, and you'll begin to understand why you might give "Puente a Mallorca" a miss, scored a major Spanish hit with "Supercaligragilisticoespialidoso" in 1965.

Otherwise, there really isn't a great deal that amounts to a body of musical work with Mallorca as its theme or with the island in the title, though who of course can forget the Eurodance anthem "Mallorca" by the German group Loft from 1996. Plenty of us, I daresay. So successful was it that it failed to chart anywhere, though remarkably it has nearly two million views on YouTube.

Loft were about as far away from Petula Clark as you could get. Forty years had intervened, but forty years had failed to bring forth a genuine musical celebration of Mallorca. A further sixteen years on and there still hasn't been one. So it is about time that there was. I'm sure that David Guetta could be persuaded to put some dramatic house electropop together and slap Mallorca on the label. Or what about Coldplay? A stadium-arm-waving emote by Chris Martin looking meaningful and running along some velvety white sands as Rihanna emerges from a turquoise sea.

Whatever a Mallorca pop anthem for the modern day might be, one thing's for sure, it wouldn't have a line about gaiety and mirth.

Any comments to please.

Monday, October 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): Pollensa 13.
Forecast high: 18 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 4 easing to East 2 to 3 and then South.

A bright morning after a really quite cold night in parts (6 degrees in Sa Pobla). Sunny today but cloud coming in in the evening, bringing a cloudy and rainy Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures moving back up though. It will become windy again midweek, but mostly sunny into next weekend.

Evening update (18.30): A high of 18.7 on a calm and sunny day. Tomorrow afternoon and evening still looking ropey. 

Leasing Hotels: More tour operator power

It has slipped under the radar, but the announcement by the Mallorcan hoteliers federation that tour operators have been negotiating new types of lease arrangements with the island's hotels demands rather more attention than it has been given.

Tour operators have always entered into contractual arrangements with hotels that grant them exclusivity, and sometimes these arrangements have gone beyond the mere guarantee of custom to the hotel. What is different about the arrangements that are now being sought is that tour operators will in effect lease hotels lock, stock and barrel for seven-year periods. They will assume responsibility for employing and paying staff and for managing hotels and paying suppliers. In return, hoteliers will receive a fixed sum that will be determined by the specifics of the agreement.

The hoteliers federation says that for hotel owners such arrangements would previously have been unthinkable. It doesn't go on to say why they would previously been unthinkable, but the advantages to the hotel owner that will come from such arrangements seem pretty clear - the guaranteed sales and marketing clout that come from exclusivity but without the costs and hassle of administration.

Tour operators which are entering into these arrangements are the big ones, TUI for example. Another is Alltours, which has also been buying up hotels. Purchase of hotels by foreign tour operators and now these new leasing arrangements shift ever more the control of Mallorca's hotel and tourism industry offshore. It may be the thought of this that had made the leasing strategy previously unthinkable.

This control is the logical conclusion of a process that has been ongoing for years. Once upon a time, the hotels held the aces in the holiday distribution chain. Notwithstanding partnering agreements between hotel groups and tour operators that in some instances date back to the 1960s, it used to be the case that hotels could demand more or less what they wanted because of the relative weakness of tour operators. This situation has now changed; it is the tour operators who have the power.

Reasons why tour operators are adopting this leasing strategy include the fact that they won't need to engage in the annual round of price negotiations, assuming, that is, that their fixed payments to the hotel owners don't become an issue. Another reason is that the tour operators will be in a better position to commercialise the hotels; commercialise them to their own ends, be they markets or style of hotel. If ever confirmation were needed that it is not the hotels and not the regional government to which complaints about issues such as all-inclusive should be referred but to tour operators, here it now is.

It doesn't follow that the four-star hotels in different resorts which will come under these leasing arrangements will automatically be all-inclusive (they may already be; the hotels have not been identified thus far), but the degree of control that tour operators are now seeking is surely no coincidence, given the liberalisation as to what hotels can offer that is contained in the new tourism law.

With leasing as well as with hotel ownership, tour operators are moving further towards a model of vertical integration of the holiday process. And with more vertical integration comes less direct financial benefit to the destination - Mallorca, in other words. The tourism spend statistics that include a good chunk of spend on hotel accommodation bought through a holiday package are now, unless the tourism secretary of state really does change the basis for measuring these statistics (as she has said she will), about to become even more ridiculous than they already are, as leasing would take out the contribution by tourists on local hotel spend.

And what might leasing mean for the length of time that hotels are actually open and for employment? Terms may well vary, but if the tour operators are going to assume costs of employment and for suppliers, one might imagine that they would be paying close attention to when they can maximise their returns. This said, the arrangements might be beneficial as the tour operators will promote the hotels they lease to their maximum and so extend the periods that they are open.

We will find out fully what this leasing will mean in other ways. Might hotels become branded under tour operator names, for instance? Even if they are not, there is a clear trend happening, which is that Mallorca's tourism industry is being taken over more and more by foreign companies. Is this a bad thing? There is no reason why it should be. And by committing to seven-year periods, which will probably be renewable, the tour operators are sending out a positive message - of confidence in the Mallorcan holiday market.

Any comments to please.

Albion Classic Motorcycle Tours

(This is an article which appeared in "Majorca Daily Bulletin", 28 October.)

There are all sorts of passions that we all develop when we are young and which we never lose. For Hugh Birley, one of these passions was motorcycling. From the roads of rural Essex on a BSA in the 1970s to the roads of rural Majorca on a BSA in 2012, the passion still burns, and strongly enough for a new business to emerge - one that combines classic motor bikes with classic Majorca.

Some years ago, Hugh Birley had the idea for a fantasy business. It went under the name of "Hughie's Bike Barn And Fishing". The fishing doesn't feature, but the bike barn does - a unit on Calvià's Son Bugadelles industrial estate. This is The Albion Works, the workshop and operational centre for Albion Classic Motorcycle Tours. Note the word "classic". The bikes in the Albion collection are classic British iron (BSA, Norton, Triumph, Vincent) and classic European style (BMW, Ducati, Guzzi): classic bikes from a classic era of motorcycling - the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s.

"I understand bikes from that era," says Hugh. This is an understanding which is important, as it is essential to what Hugh is seeking to achieve: the building of a business that brings together a deep appreciation of classic bikes and their engineering, the popularity of motor biking culture and history, and a classic Majorca of its natural world, its traditions and its own culture.

Building businesses is something else that Hugh Birley understands. From an early  career in the music industry, he went on to make the Lexis PR consultancy one of the leading names in the world of marketing, developing the company to the extent that it employed well over a hundred people. "It was a lot of fun and I loved it. It was also hard work."

Fun and love are now going into Albion. Having sold his interest in Lexis, it might have seemed as though it was time to put his feet up, but no. Well acquainted with Majorca for some 30 years, Hugh and his wife found that they were spending more and more time on the island - they now live in Palma - but Hugh was looking for something to do. It was time, therefore, to live that old fantasy business of the bike barn. Time for Albion Classic Motorcycle Tours.

Albion is for anyone qualified to ride a motorcycle but especially for the biking enthusiast and connoisseur with knowledge of older bikes or a biker who is familiar with contemporary machines and their technology but not with bikes from a previous era that will mean learning some new techniques. Hugh takes great satisfaction, for example, in teaching the skills of kick-starting a bike.

Albion is very much a hands-on and personal business. Hugh conducts tours with his guests and passes on not just strong and intimate knowledge of the bikes but also of Majorca. "There is a chance for people to see parts of the island that they never normally see." Hugh's interests in the natural history of Majorca as well as its culture are as important as his interest in bikes. He is working on developing a programme that will unite biking with specific events during the year, be they natural events, such as the blossom, or traditional, e.g. fiestas, and with local gastronomy and produce. There is an association, for instance, with an olive-oil producer who provides tastings, while food and wine are very much a part of an Albion package - "excursions and epicurea".

Fundamentally though, Albion is about the biking experience and the setting for this experience. "There couldn't be anywhere better for motorcycling than Majorca. There are wonderful roads, such as from Valldemossa to Andratx or Pollensa to Sóller." Wonderful, I ask, bearing in mind the slightly hairy nature of some of Majorca's roads. "Challenging," Hugh replies. "The roads offer a mix of camber, gradient, different curves."

It is the relationship between rider, road and machine that intrigues me, as I confess it is not something which had occurred to me. "You can get a completely different experience from using a different bike. I have had clients who want to do the same roads but with different bikes, so as to see how they handle and how efficient, for instance, the brakes are in determining how to approach and take a corner. It's all about working and acting in a positive relationship with the machine. Mind you, it couldn't be anything else or you would fall off."

If the roads provide challenges, they also provide amazing views. "People are stunned by the scenery." In this regard, no, there is nowhere better for motorcycling than Majorca.

What, though, of other challenges? Had establishing Albion been plain sailing? What about insurance, for example? "It was incredibly hard to get responses from Spanish insurance companies. Finally I got one, and it was then that I put the collection together and shipped the bikes over. Unfortunately, the contact had by then moved to another office, and the company said they could no longer insure the bikes." Back to square one and without an insurer, Hugh was rescued thanks to personal contacts of his lawyer.

One other stumbling block had to do with the application for historic number plates for the bikes. Without going into too much detail, one aspect of this application requires a certified engineer to inspect the bikes and verify age and authenticity. This happened. However, Hugh found himself caught up in a fraud case which had nothing whatsoever to do with him but which had everything to do with the engineer. Thanks to the tenacity of Rebecca Evans at Mallorca Solutions, the situation was resolved, another engineer was brought in, but the business had been set back by six months. Albion finally opened for business in June this year.

The heat in July and August, Hugh accepts, means that Albion is unlikely to be a high-summer business, but it will otherwise be an all-year business. January, for example, is typically dry and sunny. It is a month which, in accordance with an Albion philosophy of combining motorcycling with local culture and landscapes, has fiestas and the first blossom to attract a winter tourist. Despite criticisms of air connections in winter, Majorca still has a good network of air routes, and Hugh sees Albion's key markets as being Germany, Holland and Scandinavia as well as the UK. For northern Europeans with months of dark winter, Majorca offers a perfect opportunity for motorcyclists from countries with strong biking cultures to take to the roads during those long northern European winter months. 

While Hugh wonders whether Majorca truly wants a load of tourists in winter - and he has some sympathy with this - he believes more could be done to attract off-season tourists. "There are opportunities to promote cultural tourism much harder in the low season, but without destroying the wonderful local continuity." Albion, in its own way, is doing just this, given Hugh's respect for Majorcan culture.

The summer months, July and August excepted perhaps, also offer opportunities. Already this year, Hugh has forged relationships with the yachting community. "There are captains and crew who have bikes back home but not classic bikes. They know very little about them." So, the chance beckons for motorcyclists based in Majorca in summer to try something different. And not of course just those within the yachting community.

Doing something different is very often a good starting-point for a business. Albion is different. There really isn't anything like it, and not just on Majorca. A good business, though, requires a good business brain. Hugh has a clear business model to follow and a clear idea of the building of the Albion brand, and he is undeterred by the economic situation. "Lexis was started during a recession. It helps you to focus on what matters. If it succeeds, a business founded in a harsh economic climate is in great shape to take advantage of growth when it comes." 

Focusing on what matters means different things. For Albion, it is the classic bikes, classic Majorcan landscape, gastronomy and culture, an intimate understanding of local roads and routes and of motorcycling and motorcyclists. It is also about, as Hugh says, "treating people properly" in creating an experience at the end of which "you would go away and say that was fantastic".

For more about Albion Classic Motorcycle Tours, visit

Sunday, October 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 0 : 5 Real Madrid

Higuain after eight minutes, Ronaldo on 22 minutes, Madrid were doing what Madrid would have been expected to have been doing. Dominating. Hemed had a header go wide, Martí had a shot go wide for Mallorca. Other than this, Modric got himself booked, the only negative for Madrid during a stroll in a Palma park in the first half. To be fair, Madrid were not totally dominating, but Mallorca were finding it hard to make any headway, and in the second period, Madrid seemed content to just do enough before Higuain added another with 20 minutes left, killing the game completely, and Ronaldo added to the drubbing with his second five minutes later. And to rub things in, sub Callejón, a tormentor of Mallorca last season, grabbed a fifth just before the whistle. Madrid up to fourth, eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, and Mallorca down to eleventh with eleven points, having managed not a single shot on goal.

Aouate; Ximo, Geromel, Conceiçao, Bigas; Nsue, Fontás (Pina 45), Martí, dos Santos (Arizmendi 60); Victor (Fernández 78); Hemed
Yellows: Bigas (54), Conceiçao (56)


Casillas; Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Essien; Modric, Alonso (Albiol 80); Di Maria (Callejón 74), Özil, Ronaldo; Higuain (Morata 78)
Goals: Higuain (8, 69), Ronaldo (22, 72), Callejón (90)
Yellows: Modric (24), Alonso (67)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2012

No Frills Excursions

Have you remembered to put the clocks back an hour?

Morning high (8.00am): Pollensa 12.
Forecast high: 18 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 7 backing and easing to Northwest 6 and 4 by the later evening.

The forecast proved to be extremely accurate, the rain and wind wind arriving in the early evening and then the thunderstorm. Very heavy rainfalls, the Pollensa area taking the brunt of the storm with rain of up to 80mm. The morning is quite sunny and today will be breezy, though easing later on.

Tomorrow should be fine but temperatures still low (19 maximum). Tuesday looks bad in terms of rain but getting warmer. Wednesday also likely to be a bit wet.

Evening update (18.00): Getting dark now at six in the evening, though not completely dark. A day of chilly weather. Highs of 14 and 15. Periods of sun but a good deal of cloud and a cold wind.

Dark Tourism: Cemeteries in Mallorca

How many significant cemeteries would you say there are in Mallorca? If you reckon one or more than one, then I'm afraid you would be wrong. According to the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (and trust me there is such an association), there are none. Which is a pretty poor show when there are apparently more than 150 significant cemeteries across Europe, 19 of them in Spain.

Since 2010, the European cemeteries route has been mentioned as part of the Council of Europe's cultural itinerary, itself a mark of quality in cultural terms. Of Spain's 19 significant cemeteries, some are where you would expect them to be - Granada, Barcelona, Bilbao and other major towns and cities with a distinctly cultural side to them. Others are in places you might not expect to find them; Lloret de Mar, for example, which boasts a modernist cemetery created at the end of the nineteenth century.

Cemeteries might not be the first thing you think of as being a tourist attraction, but they do have a lot going for them thanks to their architecture, landscaping and social values as well as religious associations. They are also part of a wider tourism movement, the umbrella titles of which are dark tourism, morbid tourism or death tourism. To put it bluntly, death, disaster and destruction are all attractions. Some of the more visited dark tourism sites include New York's Ground Zero and Paris's Pont de l'Alma tunnel (where Princess Diana met her end).

The impulse to visit such sites is not driven by some perverse desire but simply by curiosity and fascination, a point that has been made by two professors at the University of Central Lancashire, Philip Stone and Richard Sharpley, who are experts in dark tourism. The university has its own Institute for Dark Tourism Research and part of what this institute does is to consult on "the appropriate development, management, interpretation and promotion of dark tourism sites, attractions and exhibitions".

Which is all very interesting, though whether there would be a great deal to consult on in Mallorca, I don't know. I'm inclined to think there would in fact be very little; Mallorca doesn't have a great history of death, disaster and destruction. There have been and are some examples: famine, battles, the great Palma earthquake of 1851 (not that this was that great compared with some great earthquakes), Civil War burial sites, but little that is really up there in the macabre stakes. So, Mallorca's dark tourism, were there to be any, would need to rely on the island's cemeteries, none of which, as yet, are deemed significant.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of candidates. Sóller's cemetery has been there since the early nineteenth century. It is as much a park as it is a cemetery, but what is intriguing about Sóller's cemetery is that it offers a social history of the town, of the most notable families and of those who returned to die and to be buried, having gone off, mainly to France, in search of fortune or having been involved in the export trades that helped to make Sóller one of Mallorca's richest towns in the nineteenth century - oranges and olives.

Palma's cemetery, dating from a similar time as Sóller's, has more to commend it in that there is more of a flavour of the macabre. It has catacombs and a wall for the dead of the 1918 flu epidemic, a monument for Franco's brother who was killed in a seaplane crash and who had overseen the development of Puerto Pollensa's military base the year before his death. There are also the tombs for the March family, the most famous member of which was Joan March, Franco's banker, whose death in a road accident in the early 1960s still has something of the mystery about it; was it really an accident?

I have no idea how a cemetery qualifies as being significant. One way may be to join the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe. Perhaps the Sóller and Palma cemeteries should consider joining if they haven't already. As part of the drive towards cultural tourism, they would add a rather different type of attraction or be better known as an attraction. It could be that they come under the Spanish network of cultural routes. This was founded earlier this year and one of its cultural itineraries is a cemetery route. But Mallorca can often suffer in attempts at developing cultural tourism because it is remote from the mainland. Mallorca needs to get its own cultural route, of which cemeteries would be a part, as might be any other dark tourism that is lurking and of which we might be unfamiliar.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa votes against Christmas bonuses

The most recent session of councillors at Pollensa town hall has voted against Christmas bonuses being paid to councillors and some others employed by the town hall. These bonuses aren't really bonuses as such as they are an additional monthly payment at Christmas time, a common system in Spain. The Partido Popular councillors didn't side with the motion but it was carried anyway.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

The Market That Isn't: Puerto Alcúdia

On 7 April ("When The Market Came To Puerto Alcúdia"), I concluded by suggesting that the then new weekly market in the port would need to have a reason for people to go to it instead of or as well as the old town's market. It was hard, back in April, to see what that reason might be. It is even harder now.

Interest in the market has dwindled that much that yesterday there were only four stalls. The square in which the market is held, Cas Vicari, isn't enormous, but four stalls are lost in its size. They looked sad, two fruit and veg stalls opposite each other in the centre, the flower stall that occupies one side of the square, and a fourth stall with a mixture of some veg and some olive oil; a stall that hadn't quite worked out what it was.

It would be wrong to say that there were no customers when I wandered past. There were a few, very few, people but whether they were buying, who knows. Without wishing to be unkind, just honest, the market has been a total and utter flop. The town hall should put it out of its misery. Whether it will is another matter. Two months after the market had opened, by which time the initial number of 26 stalls had already been halved, the town hall's councillor for markets, Carme Garcia, was saying that the market needed two years so that people could get into the habit of using it. The habit will be difficult to acquire if there aren't any stalls.

The problems with the market are many. It is in the wrong place, there is now a sign but it is still not well-known, it has its old-town competitor and it doesn't really know what its purpose is. It has been referred to as a vegetable market, but only so many stalls can make a go of selling fruit and veg (two and a half on yesterday's evidence). When it opened, however, there was a variety of stall - toys, bags and belts, clothes, pots and craft as well as the local produce. All of these have disappeared. The old-town market and markets in other towns attract far more people that make having a stall worthwhile.

The town hall said that not everything in the port should be located on the Paseo Marítimo, the promenade. Part of the reason for the market was to revitalise both socially and economically the port so that it was not just a tourist area. In this, it has been a complete failure.

Markets don't have to rely on tourists in oder to thrive, but to do so requires a prominent location, an extensive array of different stalls and a local population that has a need. Alcúdia's old-town market, even in winter, seems to satisfy these requirements. The port's doesn't. The old-town market is even more successful in summer (and much larger) precisely because of tourists. The town hall has got the port's market badly wrong because it has been unwilling to pay to rent space on the Paseo Marítimo. All the reasons it has offered for the market being where it is are just spin, and spin that is easy to see through. It should have been accepted from the outset that to be successful the market should have been capable of attracting good numbers of tourists.

However, tourists aren't necessarily attracted by fruit and veg. If this was all that the old town's market had to offer, then it wouldn't be a must-do for tourists who go for the atmosphere, the bustle, the great range of stuff on offer - some of it tat but certainly not all. Personally, I still believe the town hall should have gone the whole hog and had the market, in summer at any rate, right slap bang in the main tourism centre and not in the port. I suspect I know why they wouldn't do this, however. The stallholders in the old town would be up in arms. For the same reason, I suspect this is also why the port's market is what it is and where it is.

It is difficult to see the market surviving very much longer. It is all but dead on its feet as it is - the four feet of the four stalls. It's a shame. Markets fall into the category of a "good thing", but they are a good thing only if they have atmosphere and variety. The port's market has neither.

Any comments to please.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): Pollensa 20.
Forecast high: 23 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 4 or 5 backing west and then north 7 by this afternoon reaching gale force 8 by the evening with waves up to six metres.

A pleasant enough morning with sun but also some quite thick cloud over the mountains. This evening the various alerts will kick in for rain, wind and storms (yellow) and sea and coastal conditions (amber). So, a rough night ahead, the rain passing by tomorrow morning. The outlook after what should then be a reasonable day tomorrow, if windy, is for a good Monday and then more rain on Tuesday. Temperatures dropping tomorrow but recovering to 20 degrees on Tuesday.

Afternoon update (18.00): Some significant cloud building up as the weather closes in as forecast, there just having been a shower. Not a bad day otherwise. A high of 24.5 (Sa Pobla).

Friday, October 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning highs (9am): Playa de Muro 17, Puerto Pollensa 19.
Forecast high: 24 degrees.
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Predominantly southwest reaching 5 or 6.

A mix of sun and cloud with some possibility of rain this morning, clearing away to give a mostly sunny day. Winds picking up from the south and veering westerly tomorrow setting off the yellow alerts for rain, wind and storms and an amber alert for coastal conditions with snow predicted down to 800 metres later tomorrow. Temperatures on the coast due to fall to highs of 18 on Sunday.

Afternoon update (17.45): Quite windy at times. A high of 25.3 (Pollensa); lower values elsewhere. Latest news of the weekend ... the rain predicted for tomorrow should mainly be in the evening and overnight, the yellow alert for rain and storms is only for tomorrow, so Sunday should be finer if also a good deal cooler. Sea conditions are due to be particularly rough this weekend with waves of up to six metres by tomorrow night. Winds on land could reach up to 80kph, accompanied by rain and storms. 

The Gratitude Of Cats

Recently, I read a piece by Kevin Connolly, the BBC journalist based in Jerusalem, in which he spoke about the sheer number of feral cats in the city and about his run-ins with the cat population that inhabits his bins.

There are a great number of cats in Mallorca as well, most of them living near to me. The word about bins has clearly spread from Israel, as the local moggies spend most of their time underneath the communal bins, on top of them (when they are closed) or inside them when they are open.

The variety of cat is enormous in that colours vary greatly. Indiscriminate and promiscuous breeding has created a catty colorific cornucopia, though the more humble and simple black version appears to dominate cat land. On one street one afternoon I encountered a small platoon of blackness. It was engaged in collective sitting and staring, separated more or less equidistantly from each other. It made no noise, just observed in a suspicious and supercilious fashion.

One of the neighbours has long provided a form of haven to the cats. I have witnessed her expenditure on Nibbles and whatever at Eroski. Some say she is a bit of a nuisance because of the provisions she provides. At least the cat snacks are on her own land, though.

A town hall, Capdepera, has introduced a system of fines for feeding animals in the street, by which it means - predominantly - the feral cats. It's ok to feed them if you have permission, though how one gets permission, I honestly couldn't say.

Thoughtful and generous humans do leave trays of food out for cats or simply take the lids off tins and place them in the vicinity of bins, the cat communal areas. Rather like the cat woman, I imagine not everyone approves of such thoughtfulness.

The thing with the cats, though, is that they are such bloody ingrates. Give them a spot of lunch and then try and engage them in a bit of human-feline bonding and they scarper. Not, in truth, that bonding which involves touching or stroking is probably advisable. God knows what's lurking in their fur.  

There is also an issue with allergies. One that I have. Cats and I don't go together terribly well. Which leads me to the story of the cat in the garden.

It appeared some time during the summer. It was from the black-cat platoon in that it was part of its progeny. Possibly. It was only a kitten but it was, after a couple of days, very much less ungrateful than the normal feral variety.

It had positioned itself under a hedge. It looked, as much as I could make out by flashing a torch, to be unwell. It was in fact injured, if only temporarily. It couldn't put one of its back legs down properly.

As cats do, it engaged in a considerable amount of mewing. You couldn't just ignore it or neglect it, and so it was fed and watered, its leg got better, it ran around, it mewed constantly, it wanted to come inside the house (which it did and had to be chased out), it would wait for the door to open in the morning and its feed to be prepared, and I wondered what the hell I was going to do with it. The allergy issue was confirmed by its proximity.

A solution, so I thought, was to take it to a refuge. Which I attempted. Having driven to one, I found its gates shut. No one answered the phone. I could have left the kitten but that would have been heartless, and I know full well it would have run back into the car anyway. So it had to come back, and proceeded to crap in the carrier I had borrowed about halfway into the return journey, which really wasn't very pleasant at all.

I tried to make contact with the refuge, only to get a reply which said that because I have an association with another refuge (which I don't as such) that I should speak to them instead. Even in the animal-welfare world, there seem to be petty rivalries. Oh, so you can give that refuge some publicity (which I hadn't), well forget about coming to us.

Anyway, I did try the other refuge. They don't take cats, so they said. Only dogs. Sorry, doesn't like much of an animal refuge if it's only for one type of animal. Might be better to say it was a dog refuge, and then there could be no misunderstanding.

No luck with the refuges, it looked as though I was stuck with the kitten and with having to put up with it crapping under hedges. This was at the height of summer as well. But as chance would have it, I just happened to mention the kitten to another neighbour. He came, he looked, he borrowed the carrier that I had borrowed (which had been hosed down by then) and he took the cat away. Next door. His small nephew appeared delighted by the gift.

I am pleased to say that the kitten has now grown. It has lost its one-time scrawniness. It appears perfectly healthy. However, it seems also to be the neighbour's ratter. As with many houses, this is a house primarily for the summer, one that is visited perhaps only once or twice a week when it isn't summer. I assume it has feed if not regular human company, so now that summer has passed, the cat has remembered where it once used to live. The one thing you can say about it, though, is that it, unlike other local cats, is obviously grateful. What the hell do I do with it?

Any comments to please.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Mesquida blames problems with appointments for resignation

The story of Antoni Mesquida's resignation as Balearics health minister moves on. There are now more than just personal reasons behind his departure, Mesquida attacking obstacles put in his way for making appointments that have come from within his own Partido Popular party as well as from outside. He has said that he is "sick" of the pressures but accepts that he made a mistake in taking on the ministerial job.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Number of hotels closed in winter increases

After the months of high hotel occupancy, October is ending with an increased level of hotel closure - up some three points to two-thirds of hotels that are part of the Mallorca hoteliers federation. The general level of closure over the winter season until April is also up. In November, some resorts will have no hotels open at all, e.g. Can Picafort.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa agrees to express licences for minor building works

Pollensa town hall is to simplify procedures for approving licences for building work that is technically simple and inexpensive with the intention that approval should only take a couple of days. Such licences would mostly apply to interior work but also to pavements.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Can Llobera deteriorates further

The house of the family Miguel Costa i Llobera, Can Llobera, bought by Pollensa town hall in 2005 continues to fall into disrepair, the town hall not having received the go ahead from the Council of Mallorca for a switch in funding to perform restoration work, the process for which was started last year.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2012

Chillier this morning - ranging from 14 upwards at 9am - expected to be mostly cloudy (which going on yesterday probably means the opposite) with highs in the low 20s. Tomorrow things go wrong - rain anticipated as it will be through the weekend, the level for a snow fall on the mountains down to 1000 metres. Temperatures by the coast still reasonable but distinctly cooler on Sunday.

Afternoon update (18.00): Up to 23 today. Tomorrow, some rain expected in the morning and then Saturday ... well Saturday is kitchen-sink time. Yellow alerts for rain, wind and storms, and an orange alert for coastal conditions. Snowfalls may be as low as 700 metres.

The Ministry Of Unhealth

What on earth is going on at the Balearics health ministry? To lose one health minister may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose a second one within three months looks like carelessness.

I can't think when I have used Lady Bracknell before in referring to a ministerial merry-go-round in the Balearics. Or can I? Ah yes, the tourism ministers who were regularly passing through the revolving door with a corruption exit (except Ferrer, the last of the Unió Mallorquina fun tourism three in the last government, who had to go because the whole of the UM was shown the door).

There is nothing like the same reason as to why the Partido Popular has lost Carmen Castro and now Antoni Mesquida in unseemly short order. There is a same reason, but not the same one as with the tourism ministers. This same reason is personal. Mesquida has followed Castro in citing personal reasons. Oh pull the other one.

President Bauzá says that he doesn't believe that Mesquida has walked as a result of budgets. Which probably means that this is exactly why he has gone. He has been replaced by Martí Sansaloni Oliver. Any bets on how long it is before he develops personal reasons? Hmm, not sure, he has been the director general for pharmacies and budgetary control. Which sounds as though he might be just the person Bauzá has been looking for.

There are all manner of odd things happening health wise. None of them really to do with health as such. Pensioners from the IB-Salut public health agency in the Balearics did a sort of sit-in protest this morning in a meeting room at the health ministry. They are upset at the loss of up 40% of their monthly pension, which sounds as though they have good reason to protest.

The pensioners are one thing, another is the ongoing row about allegations regarding President Bauzá and his pharmacy business. PSOE is now demanding to know how much his pharmacy has billed IB-Salut for over the past few years. This sounds like one for the pharmacy and budgetary control expert who has now been parachuted into the health minister's job. Good luck, Sr. Sansaloni.

It is of course just possible that personal reasons are the genuine reason, though the equation of same ministry and three months apart does make one slightly suspicious that they might not be the reason. Moreover, there isn't really a great tradition of citing reasons other than personal ones for resigning, not just in the Balearics health ministry but also in Spain as a whole. How about Esperanza Aguirre, president of Madrid? Now no longer president of Madrid. With a tearful farewell, she resigned in September (personal reasons and a previous serious illness), seemingly set for quieter days with family and being retired to graze. Then, lo and behold, barely 48 hours had passed and she was getting her feet under the table with a nice little earner at the Turespaña national tourism agency.

It all points, I'm afraid, to hints of a lack of transparency. Mesquida's resignation will be seen as being for any reasons other than personal. There really needs to be a bit more fronting up and telling it how it is, but lack of transparency is a Spanish way.

Meantime, the Balearics health ministry, subject to major cuts, heavily in debt lurches from one crisis to another. If it isn't a minister resigning, it is a hospital director. It is a most unhealthy situation.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida and ash waste landfill

The row over the planned movement of ash waste from the Es Murterar power station in Alcúdia to a landfill site in Santa Margalida has led the town hall to demand of the Council of Mallorca that it be included in any decisions regarding this transportation. The access road to the landfill falls under the town hall, which has indicated that it might block the way to trucks. The Council, it would seem, may have to expropriate the road in order to ensure movement of trucks.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Concern over taller buildings in Puerto Pollensa

ARCA, the association for the revitalization of old centres (urban ones that is), has expressed its concern that single-storey buildings in Puerto Pollensa near to the military base will become a thing of the past. There is to be greater permissiveness regarding the height of buildings, though the mayor insists that any developments under urban planning laws in the port will be limited to two storeys on top of a ground floor.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2012

Between 17 and 19 degrees at 8am on what should be a sunny day, despite the early cloud, rising towards the mid 20s. Things definitely due to take a turn for the worse on Friday and over the weekend with the temperatures falling. The forecast of snow by Sunday would only fall on the very highest peaks, so Puig Mayor and that would be about that.

Evening update (20.15): Well, that was a pretty lousy forecast - the one for a sunny day. There was some sun but there was an awful lot of cloud as well. Best temperatures just over 23 degrees. 

Hallelujah: In praise of tourist statistics

Well, never say never again of course. Having once upon a time said I wouldn't refer to tourist spend statistics ever again - and having broken my vow only fairly recently - there is now good cause to mention them for a further time. Bear with me, everyone, because we may have a "hallelujah" moment. Someone has realised that these statistics are useless; not any old someone, but the national secretary of state for tourism, the Balearics very own Isabel Borrego.

In July, though it had been agreed that the Instituto de Estudios Turísticos would continue to do the legwork in gathering data that go to make up these statistics, it had also been agreed that responsibility for various tourism surveys, including Egatur, the one that gives the tourism spend statistics, would pass to the INE, the national statistics office. Which will sound all well and dull, rather than being a move that should inspire bunting being hung out, but there is a little bit more to the move than simply rearranging the statistical furniture.

Borrego now says - and here's the hallelujah moment - that there needs to be greater transparency and efficiency in the gathering of statistics and that the multitude of data sources and tourism observatories should be replaced by a better and more specialised study. The objective behind this change would be a greater understanding of tourist "motivations, experiences and incentives".

Dismantling the obfuscatory politician doublespeak and managerialist terminology, what she seems to be hinting at is that tourism statistics might actually impart some information of value in future.

The primary purpose of all this statistical gathering has been, or so it has seemed to me, to provide newspapers with lengthy and tedious copy and their readers with impenetrable percentages, comparisons and numbers, the sum of which, in terms of comprehension and accuracy, has amounted to far less than a hill of beans. It has been - still is - an exercise in bean-counting that has forgotten to take into account the beans. Stats for stats sake.

Not entirely of course, because the Bank of Spain chucks the stats up in the air and waits for them to scatter on its table known as the balance of payments measure. Which may be helpful for the economists at the bank but is entirely unhelpful for anyone else and has been a key reason why the statistics should have simply been studiously ignored for however long they have been collecting them, except by students of economics who deal in pointless generalities when it comes to Mallorca's most important industry.

What is remarkable is that it has taken however long it has for someone to come to the conclusion that these tourist stats are pointless; someone in a position of authority who can do something about them, that is. I am not in a position of authority, but with all due immodesty, I think I have touched on this pointlessness on more than one occasion over the past few years. Well, not touched on so much as trampled over with heavy boots.

There was a different hallelujah moment at the same time in July when the change to the statistical process was first being given its ministerial attention. The Spanish journalist Xavier Canalis wrote an article entitled "Are we fooling our readers with the numbers about tourists and tourist spend?". A snappy title, but yes, Xavi, you have been. What was celebratory about this article, however, was that a Spanish journalist had finally cottoned on as well.

Of course, we don't yet know what Isabel and the statistics office will come up with that is new and hopefully useful. But if I can be of help, all they need do is ask. Unlikely though it would be that they would take any notice, what they should do is remove from the tourist spend statistics that spend which isn't specific to the destination, e.g. spend on the holiday package which is gobbled up by airlines and tour operators. Spend on hotels and accommodation should be itemised separately, and clear categories of in-destination spend should then be shown, e.g. bars and restaurants, shops (with sub-categories for tobacco, booze and supermarkets), excursions and entertainment, transport. And what would be especially useful is to show this spend relative to type of accommodation (not just "hotel" but what sort of board, e.g. all-inclusive) and to resort.

It is impractical and far too expensive to ever conduct thorough surveys of spend (except perhaps as periodic and specific exercises), but if Isabel Borrego really does intend there to be more meaningful information, then she deserves praise. Hallelujah.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida to reclaim management of Son Real roads

The rift between Santa Margalida town hall and the regional government over the management of the Son Real finca has grown wider. Mayor Cifre says he will not invite President Bauzá to any official engagement in the town, following a snub by the president when he was at the awarding of hunting lots at the finca on Saturday. The town hall feels slighted as well at the lack of recognition of its having taken on responsibilities in the finca which should be those of the government through its environment ministry. Nevertheless, it is taking on further responsibilities, tearing up an agreement concerning the management of public roads in Son Real, which it now intends to look after.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2012

16 or 17 at 8am, a mix of some cloud and clear skies. Up to 24 degrees later with good amounts of sun. Tomorrow is looking cloudier now but little chance of rain. It is Friday and the weekend when rain threatens with the first snow right on the tops due for Sunday as temperatures start to fall.

Evening update (19.00): Mostly sunny today but there was a light shower this afternoon. Highs of 22 degrees. More on the weekend ... the temperatures are set to tumble by around five degrees it would seem. 

Catalonia Is Not Spain, And Nor Is Galicia

When a country is in as deep a mess as Spain is, when its government has shown itself to be as prone to procrastination as Spain's is, when its prime minister is as anonymous and as lacking a spark of inspiration as Spain's is, a ruling party - by any normal rules of elections - should receive a spanking. This is Spain, however. Or more accurately, this is Galicia. Archly conservative and home to that anonymous prime minister, such anonymity does not equate to lack of homeland popularity; the Partido Popular has not just won the regional election in Galicia, it has increased its majority.

This isn't how things are meant to happen, but happen they have. The PP's win in Galicia can be described in many ways and with many different adjectives, but does it represent a vote of national confidence in Rajoy and the government?

The answer is almost certainly no. Yes, it is seemingly remarkable that the PP could have increased its majority, but questions about the opposition PSOE are as relevant as any about the government and its policies. An opposition party, given the circumstances in Spain, should be performing much better. The truth is that PSOE is still in as much disarray as it was after the clouting it received in both regional and national elections last year.

Whether PSOE would be faring better now had it not confirmed as its leader Alfredo Rubalcaba, the defeated prime ministerial candidate, is a moot point, but in failing to select Carmen Chacón back in February, the party arguably missed an opportunity to give itself a facelift and a fresh appearance. Rubalcaba cuts a figure almost as dull as Rajoy (which is saying something) and he carries the burden of defeat. Oh how much PSOE and indeed Spain are crying out for a González; this is a land of uniformly grey, uninspiring politicians.

Galicia represents a triumph for party organisation as well as history. It is PP land, and the PP, generally better organised than PSOE in any event, threw its considerable weight behind ensuring a good result, despite a lower than expected turnout, which might in fact have worked to its advantage. But the victory is a local victory. The party has not managed to pick up in other regions where there have been elections this year (Andalucía and Asturias), and it had a bit of a mare in the Basque Country on the same day as the Galicia election, losing three seats. There again, PSOE also lost ground.

The Basque elections, required once PSOE had proved to be incapable of running the region in coalition with, oddly enough, the PP, have returned what will probably be a new coalition of the moderate PNV (Basque Nationalists) and EH-Bildu, very much more minded towards independence and considered by some as a front for the now terrorism-renounced ETA.

The contrast between Galicia and the Basque Country is stark and it highlights the fractured nature of the union of Spanish regions. Or at least, the fracture caused by some of the regions. Galicia is indifferent to nationalist claims, reflected in the decline in support for its own BNG nationalists, but the Basques will have been eyeing up events in Catalonia with keen interest, the PNV in particular. Moderate the PNV may be - but then so is Artur Mas's CiU in Catalonia - it wants more self-government, for example control over airports, and intends a new law paving the way for a referendum on independence by 2015. What happens after the 25 November elections in Catalonia could be as historic for the Basques as it might be for the Catalonians. Or things could just go dreadfully wrong.

For now though, Rajoy can take some confidence from the Galicia win. As he has appeared to have been waiting for the elections before requesting the inevitable Spanish bailout, he can now, with brassnecked cynicism, go ahead and request it and so stop fannying around. He really needn't have waited, as Galicia was probably secure regardless and he had made sure to smooth things in his home region by being generous to Galicia during the recent round of national government divvying up of investment in the regions (unlike the Balearics).

The bailout will affect national pride, of this there is little doubt, but it has been anticipated for so long that the country is probably resigned to it. Dealing with any political fallout from the bailout will be one thing. Quite another is Catalonia and now the Basques. Where on earth is this all leading?

Any comments to please.

Monday, October 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Sevilla 3 : 2 Real Mallorca

The first appearance of Giovani dos Santos for Mallorca and he made a big contribution, being the provider of two goals within five minutes by Bigas and Hemed to put Mallorca 2-1 up at the half hour mark, Negredo scoring for the home side between the two Mallorca strikes. Sevilla dominated the first period but Mallorca, needing to get their season back on track after two defeats, were more clinical. Negredo was giving Mallorca's central defence plenty to think about and he equalised with a header after ten minutes of the second period, Sevilla totally in control, a third goal coming from Cicinho with a quarter of an hour left. After the good start to the season, Mallorca now down to eighth and the small matter of Real Madrid coming up next - Sunday at home.

Palop; Cicinho, Fazio, Spahic, Navarro; Campaña (Perotti 56), Maduro (Kondogbia 78), Rakitic; Navas, Negredo, del Moral (Hervás 80)
Goals: Negredo (28, 55), Cicinho (74)

Aouate; Ximo, Geromel, Conceiçao, Bigas; Pina (Alfaro 77), Fontás (Martí 83), Victor, Pereira; Hemed, dos Santos (Arizmendi 60)
Goals: Bigas (25), Hemed (30)
Yellows: Pina (16), Ximo (84)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2012

Chilly morning, temperatures doing well to get to 16 at 9am. Sunny but apparently there is a risk of rain. Otherwise fine. The week should be reasonably good, temperatures in the low to mid 20s, a mix of cloud and sun, with rain likely to come in at the weekend.

Afternoon update (17.45): Some ominous dark cloud later this afternoon but no rain. A high of 24.4 on a mainly sunny day. The forecast for later in the week seems much firmer for rain on Friday and over the weekend, and on Sunday, yes, there may be the first snow on the mountain tops. 

The Angry Councillor: Mallorca's local government

Maria Salom is angry. So it is said. I wonder just how angry she really is.

The president of the Council of Mallorca is unhappy because the regional government - her mates in the Partido Popular therefore - are not parting with cash and handing it over in order to fill the Council's piggy bank. Short of some 220 million euros, Salom says that there will be no alternative but to pass responsibilities that the Council has to the government.

I don't buy the anger thing. It sounds as though Maria is paving the way for doing what an awful lot of people have been saying should have happened ages ago, i.e. letting the government take on responsibilities. The logical conclusion of letting it do so would be to wave goodbye to the Council. So long and good riddance.

As president, Maria has to be seen to be defending the Council, if only for political consumption that is devoured by a minority of the island's population. She can't actually come out and say that it would be preferable if the government were to assume responsibilities, as this would leave her open to accusations that she had been deliberately working towards this aim. But she can profess anger and at the same time still demonstrate her credentials in having been able to lop off some of the Council's huge debt.

Salom has managed to eat into this debt, and boy did it need eating into. In August last year it was said to stand at 329 million euros. This, to put it into perspective, was only 26 million euros short of what the Balearic Government has now requested in the form of rescue payment from Madrid. To say that the debt was massive would be an understatement.

Before she was elected as Council president in May last year, Salom had gone on record as saying that she intended eliminating functions that the Council had managed somehow to accumulate. She described the Council as an expensive and inefficient behemoth, a description it was impossible to disagree with. Some of these accumulated functions have been dispensed with, such as the Council's own tourism set-up, but the Council still requires goodly amounts of funding. 220 millions worth it would appear.

The Council's existence has rightly been drawn into question for all sorts of reasons. It is an unnecessary level of administration, it has been a vehicle for handing out jobs to the boys and girls and for having engaged in some highly suspect expenditure, and has also managed to fritter away money that it was meant to have spent on those responsibilities that it should have been attending to. You might remember the 100 million that was earmarked for road building which was said to have gone elsewhere.

For all this though, the Council is only a relatively small part of the total public administration. It was the case not so long ago that it accounted for only 5% of the total number of public employees. Even without the Council, funding would still be required. Moving the chairs around and handing responsibilities to a different public body would save only so much.

The Council, however, has come to be seen as symptomatic of waste and of excessive administration. And this isn't only in Mallorca. In Ibiza the population is 132,000. There is a Council of Ibiza plus five municipalities. It is a legitimate question to ask why there is a need for a council when four of these municipalities are of sufficient size (over 20,000) to have taken on the types of responsibilities that towns of over 20,000 are obliged to take on. Another way of looking at it is to ask why there is a need for the five municipalities.

The laudable aims of decentralisation which led to the establishment of the islands' councils have fallen into disrepute because of the way that public administration in the Balearics has managed to follow Parkinson's Law pretty much to the letter. "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" was the original law, but what Parkinson was driving at specifically was the capacity for bureaucracies to expand over time. The more levels of bureaucracy, the more Parkinson's Law is compounded.

Salom was of course right to describe the Council as inefficient, but the solution to the inefficiency demands a more radical approach than the elimination of certain functions. It requires an overhaul of public administration in its totality. I don't know that she is angry. She should be happy to have made the first move in effecting this overhaul. 

Any comments to please.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2012

Well, the storm never came. The rain did, but it was no more than persistent rather than heavy. The yellow alerts have gone, and the morning is damp but fairly sunny, highs around 17. Today should be reasonable, not particularly warm (23 or so), tomorrow might bring some more rain, and the rest of the week pretty good as far as  next weekend when rain looks set to return.

Afternoon update (17.45): A high of 23.6 on a blowy, mainly sunny day. 

A Very Spanish Coup

Thirty years ago next Saturday something didn't happen. Partly because it didn't happen, 27 October 1982 is not afforded great prominence in recent history. There is no 27-O that has slipped into the general vocabulary in the way that both 23-F and 24-F have. What a difference nineteen months made. On 27 October 1982 nothing happened. It was a very Spanish coup as it didn't take place.

Despite 23-F and 24-F having acquired great status as the two days in February 1981 when a coup was attempted and then quelled, they too are indicative of a very Spanish coup. Manuel from "Fawlty Towers" wandered into the parliament building waving a pistol, some shots were fired, things looked a bit dicey for a time, then the King went on telly, and everyone forgot about the coup. It only seemed to confirm a Spanish propensity to cock things up. They can't even do coups properly. They should have known better anyway. Four years before the 1981 attempt, the staff from Grace Brothers, holidaying on the Costa Plonka, had heralded how revolution would be bound to fail.

Of course, revolution hadn't failed in the past. The Spanish were actually pretty good at the art, but that was in the day before Spain acquired some semblance of modernity and had been overrun by mercenary tourists and a film crew for "Are You Being Served? The Movie". 23-F was daft enough. 27-O was dafter still. Both coups were from a bygone era when coups were coups and people really did get shot and governments were overthrown.

What made 27-O especially daft was the fact that the army colonels who had plotted the coup attempt had done so because they didn't want any nasty socialists taking over Spain. They had neglected to notice, however, that Felipe González, destined to be the first socialist prime minister in the post-Franco era, was cut from a somewhat different cloth to the communists who had come to dominate the Republic prior to Franco's revolution. They hadn't neglected the fact that González's PSOE was destined to win the general election on 28 October 1982 - it was this victory that they wanted to avoid - but they had nevertheless neglected the enthusiasm for PSOE among the Spanish people and the expectation for change. They were of the past, out of step, still holding to an outmoded notion of the military as the supreme force in the land.

When the coup was uncovered - some three weeks before it was due to take place - the plotters were arrested. They were dealt with in a kindly fashion. PSOE had no wish to antagonise the army by pressing for swingeing reprisals. Another way of looking at the moderate way in which the colonels were treated is that they were considered fools, deserving of some sympathy. The coup attempt wasn't swept under the carpet so much as it wasn't granted a huge amount of attention. 27-O was swiftly forgotten both because it didn't actually happen and because it didn't merit being remembered.

As a consequence, this coming Saturday is unlikely to arouse much if anything by way of commemoration, except in one regard, that of discussion of the possibility, however remote, of another very Spanish coup or some act involving the military.

In theory, the Constitution drawn up after Franco stripped the military of much of its power. But theory and practice are not always the same thing. The theory hasn't prevented there being hints bordering on threats that the military would intervene because of the Catalonia question. And one might add mutterings from the armed forces that have been critical of the political class as a whole and supportive of protests against austerity measures.

Since the Catalonian president Artur Mas announced his intention to call an election on 25 November which, if he wins, would be seen as giving him a popular mandate to seek independence for Catalonia, the rhetoric has been cranked up. Mas has been warned that he risks being "inhabilitated". This is not an English word, but in being lifted from the Spanish, it describes rather well what his fate would be. A referendum on secession would be illegal, and the Spanish state would find a way to remove him. Such a move would be like a different type of very Spanish coup; the national government ousting a regional government president, and a Catalonian one, to boot. There should be concern at the ramifications of such a move.

If 27-O is likely to pass without any fanfare, 25-N will not. Catalonia and Spain are moving into unchartered territory, one in which different agents will seek to plant their stakes - those of political parties most obviously. But what of other agents? As the rhetoric widens to embrace Mallorca, the Esquerra Republicana having suggested that Mallorcans could opt to be a part of a Greater Catalonia, it might not be, you fear, just the politicians who undertake a battle in this unknown territory.

27-O might be forgotten, but it might be as well if it were better remembered. 

Any comments to please.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - TV thief of Gotmar is arrested

The Guardia Civil has arrested a young Romanian man accused of robbing three plasma-screen televisions from a house in the Gotmar area of Puerto Pollensa.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia now approves import of waste

In an extraordinary turnaround from the situation a month ago when all local parties in Alcúdia declared opposition to the import of waste through Alcúdia's port for subsequent incineration at the Son Reus plant, the Partido Popular administration has won a vote dismissing an opposition motion to prevent the import. The PP has accused the opposition of creating alarm among tourists by distributing leaflets regarding the waste import, a point denied by former mayor Llompart of the CxI.

Meanwhile, it has also been pointed out that the previous Alcúdia administration permitted the import of similar waste that had been sent directly to the cement factory in Lloseta; this type of waste is apparently valued by cement producers because of its high calorific value.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2012

A pleasant, sunny morning, some cloud around, warm at around 21 degrees at 8.55am. It is later today which is the problem, the alerts for storms and rain due to kick in during the afternoon and then certainly overnight and into Sunday morning.

Afternoon update (18.30): Increasingly heavy atmosphere after a warm and mainly sunny day (a high of 27.7). The storms and rain will come some time this evening.

The Benefit Of Cruise Ships Is Greatly Exaggerated

The date had been pencilled into diaries for months. 17 October was to be the day when six cruise ships arrived in Palma on the same day. In the end, there were five, as one cancelled, but five ships on an October day is some going. On only one occasion this summer have the same number of ships docked in Palma on one day (15 September), but to have so many in October is unusual.

It sounds as though this should be something to celebrate. In a way, it is. But the five ships with over 8,000 passengers in total were something of a letdown. No, more than just something of a letdown. Local businesses complained that they didn't do much business.

Perhaps someone should have warned the local businesses not to get too excited. Perhaps the local businesses should have realised. October is not high season. Not being high season means greater economy class (greater than usual). Greater economy class means spending less (less than usual).

There is an enormous amount of misinformation spread about cruise ships and their value to the local economy. The simple fact of five ships arriving on one day is taken as an indication of a vibrant cruise economy in Mallorca, when it isn't really anything of the sort. It is good for the port itself, it can be good for excursions operators and their chosen attractions, but it is far less good for everyone else.

It does depend on the type of passenger. Americans are good news, but American ships come only rarely. Italians can be good as they are used to buying gifts to take home (more so than others?), but spending on gifts or anything was in limited supply on 17 October. More business can be generated by only two ships being in port. It all depends.

One of the factors is the length of stay. If passengers typically spend no more than three hours before returning to ship - usually for lunch and then to await departure - how much business can really be generated? Very little for bars and restaurants, you would have to think, especially as many cruises operate on all-inclusive lines. So why the anticipation and the excitement? It is more in the hope than in the reality.

And this hope tells its own sorry, pathetic story. There is something mercenary but also patronising about the arrival of a cruise ship. There is a sense of fighting for scraps from a lofty alien force that appears for a short time, which might condescend to dispense with some scrappy largesse but which then disappears to partake of the on-ship buffet, leaving local business owners staring forlornly at the great hulks and weeping because of their misfortune.

Many years ago, I was on the island of Mykonos. A ship with American tourists (one that wasn't a military ship, as the American military was an altogether different type of tourist) came in one day. The jostling and fighting at the harbour side was a sad sight but it was one I had experienced on arrival, despite being a mere teenage backpacker. Economies are more advanced now, expectations are different, but it is similar when the cruise ships come into Palma. It's as though beggars anticipate a sudden bonanza. This is what I mean by patronising and mercenary.

There is far too much expectation from cruise ships. Far too much that is unrealistic. Many ships are organised so that passengers are whisked away by coach to an attraction that has paid handsomely in the form of a commission to the ship's operator in order to get the visitors. The stays are very short, the passengers less likely these days to be lined with gold. The ships may be luxury, but the economics of cruising have changed along with the market.

The economic benefits of cruise ships are questionable. There are benefits to the port itself, but cruise ships do not make jobs other than indirectly for a port workforce. They don't even mean sales of local produce, as ship stocking-up has usually been done elsewhere. Yet a city and an island are made to fall at the feet of cruise operators and to bow to the passengers who appear and then disappear in a flash. It is the transience of tourism at its most extreme and at its most unseemly.

Figures will be arrived at. Cruise ships bring x millions. But to whom? As always with such numbers, one has to understand where the spend might go. To the port authority, to specific and limited numbers of attractions, to coach operators, to hotels which accommodate journey-joining or journey-ending passengers. How much goes elsewhere? On 17 October very little it would seem.

Any comments to please.

Friday, October 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Ex-tourism minister Nadal gets four year sentence

Miguel Nadal, former tourism minister and leading member of the discredited Unió Mallorquina party, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for embezzling public funds. He has been found guilty of channelling 13,000 euros for non-existent work to the former tourism councillor in Sóller, Tómas Plomer, through the now defunct Inestur agency (that was within the tourism ministry). Plomer has received a one-year sentence and the former director of Inestur, Antoni Oliver, a sentence of eighteen months. Oliver, it might be recalled, was also a Pollensa politician about whom questions have been raised in the past in respect of funding for the Pollensa festival. Nadal has already been sentenced to a term of two years and seven months for his part in the so-called "caso Maquillaje".

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - General strike confirmed for 14 November

The joint committees of the main CCOO and UGT unions have confirmed that a national general strike will take place across Spain on 14 November to coincide with the general strike in Portugal and a day of protest throughout Europe organised by the European Trades Union Confederation. The Spanish unions hope that the strike will embrace "all citizens" and that people should be prepared to forego a day's salary in order to signal their protest at government austerity measures.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has responded by saying that the strike will do nothing for Spain other than harm its image.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics ask for 355 million euros rescue

The Balearic Government has formally announced a request for rescue funding by the Spanish Government which amounts to 355 million euros in total. The amount comprises 166 million for ordinary funding and 189 million to meet debt maturities (bond interest payments for example). Terms of the financing would mean interest of 6%, with repayment most likely to have to be within ten years. The regional government is seeking to take advantage of the Government Liquidity Fund from which other regions have requested finance. In the Balearics case, the request is lower than that by other regions.

MALLORCA TODAY - 40% of forest fires were intentional

The regional government environment ministry has confirmed that 40% of forest fires on the Balearics this summer were started deliberately - a total of 57. Mallorca suffered 104 fires, Palma and Calvià being the towns which were affected most (15 and 14 fires respectively).

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Santa Margalida opposes ash waste deposits

Santa Margalida town hall has objected to a decision of the Council of Mallorca to permit Tirme, the company which has the concession to treat waste on the island, to transport ash and other waste from Alcúdia's power station to landfill in the town. Mayor Miguel Cifre has suggested that action would be taken to prevent trucks getting to the landfill site.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2012

After a warm evening and night, a morning of greyish skies and highs of 21 degrees at 8.30am with high humidity. Due to clear and be very warm (upper 20s), but tomorrow and Sunday morning forecast to be wet and windy with a yellow alert in place for rain tomorrow.

Afternoon update (18.30): Once the cloud went, a sunny and very warm day with highs just under 30 degrees. The forecast for tomorrow now includes a yellow alert for storms as well as rain. As these alerts extend into Sunday, the likelihood is that the worst of the weather will be tomorrow evening and overnight into Sunday.

Pets Need Holidays, Too

A.A.Gill once wrote of the actor Sam Neill that "he is about as far away from being an actor as it's possible to be and appear on the screen at the same time", from which one has to assume that Sam Neill isn't an actor at all. If he isn't, the question is: what is he?

I think I may have the answer, if only a temporary answer, for Sam Neill is, temporarily, a celebrity tourist. To Mallorca. It just happens that he will be pretending to be an actor while he is on the island. In a few days time, a friend of Sam Neill's will release a video on YouTube (57 views, 8 dislikes after a further few days) showing him and his fellow celebrity tourists doing some Mallorcan things, like boiling a whole goat in a large boiling thing and waiting for it to disintegrate.

Of these other celebrity tourists, one of them is familiar, albeit in a "now which one is he again" way. Despite his having a "ce" instead of an "s", I still manage to confuse Pierce Brosnan with Piers Morgan, which is not a pleasant confusion for anyone to be subjected to, least of all a one-time 007. Others in the Sam Neill party are unknown to me, though I fancy I should know them because they appear to be famous. More celebrity tourists.

It is difficult to tell genuine actors apart from celebrity tourists, especially if they aren't actors at all, like Sam Neill. There are no doubt critics other than A.A.Gill who would maintain that they are actors and actors alone, but when it comes to Mallorca, their sole function in setting foot on Mallorcan soil is far removed from acting. Or at least, this is how their presence is portrayed. Here a Tom Hanks, there a Pierce Brosnan, and it's all about how much they will do for tourism.

This latest group of celebrity tourists will be doing their best to promote Palma airport, where they will be filmed waiting for two hours in a queue for a hire car or having their wallets removed by a Bulgarian disguised in a baseball cap and a "Shagalluf, Lads On Tour 2012" t-shirt.

The way that these celebrity tourists could really help out is by initiating a new wave of tourism - that of celebrities with pets. As the Alternativa party wishes to turn Pollensa's beaches into Crufts, a whole new tourism business opportunity opens up. Does Bradley Wiggins have a dog? A greyhound perhaps that he could let loose on the Tamarells beach? Cameron? A Skye Terrier called Boris? It is a great shame that Barbara Cartland is no longer with us, as the old trout could drape herself across a sun lounger with a Pekinese. Mind you, the Pekinese aside, it would be hard to distinguish her from the rest of the old troutery.

Or forget the celebrities with pets, just have celebrity pets, as in animals which are notable actors, as notable as Sam Neill. "Here's Lassie arriving in Mallorca for two weeks of weeing on a beach in Cala San Vicente." "Rin Tin Tin loves nothing more than having a good howl along to the karaoke at his favourite Puerto Pollensa bar." "Pollensa's fame as a holiday destination for pets has spread as far as Australia. Skippy has announced that he will be bounding into the resort next summer."

Yep, celebrity tourists with celebrity pets. Just don't say anything to Sam Neill in case he goes and books some dinosaurs into a Pollensa hotel for a fortnight. 

Any comments to please.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Brosnan filming in Mallorca

Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul and Sam Neill are among the stars who will be filming scenes for the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down" on Mallorca over the next few days. Locations include the airport and an unnamed hotel* by the sea.

* Now identified as the Hotel Playa in Camp de Mar where the Illeta chiringuito (beach bar) will also be a location. Filming in Camp de Mar, where there will be disruptions to traffic and parking, will be on Monday and Tuesday.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa fails to apply sanctions against dog fouling

Yet again the La Gola park in Puerto Pollensa is causing concern because of dog fouling and botellón parties. Despite local laws and signs which make clear fines for not clearing away dog mess and which forbid the botellón, the park still suffers from both. And the town hall seems to be doing nothing about either and not applying its own laws.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2012

A warmer morning, up to 20 degrees at 9am, but a fair amount of hazy cloud. Fine for the rest of the day and quite warm (into the higher 20s), but turning tomorrow as the wet and windy weather comes in from the mainland and stays for the weekend.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 29.5 inland today, but the last of the good weather for a bit; cloud tomorrow and that old yellow alert has been issued again, this time for rain on Saturday. 

Love Croatia: More Mallorcan marketing failure

ABTA's decision to not stage its annual convention in Mallorca next year is surprising insofar as the intention to return two years after the emergency relocation to Mallorca in 2011 had been signalled at last year's convention. But, and lest anyone forgets this, there are plenty of other destinations that ABTA can choose from, just as there are plenty of other destinations that tourists can choose from.

From a personal point of view, the decision is disappointing. While there are plenty who look upon an ABTA gathering as one big photo opportunity, it is - for those who can be bothered - an occasion to learn about what is happening in the world of travel and specifically about what is at the cutting edge.

Tourism and travel are nothing without good marketing. While most within the travel industry would understand this, a perception persists that marketing equals something specific - the glossy approach, the magazine, the expensive advert, the hyperbole of a clichéd article or brochure description. This is the glamour part of a supposedly glamour industry. There is a place for glamour, unquestionably there is, but there is also marketing which is as important if not more so - it is the geeky, nerdish part: the systems, the operations, the technology.

Last year's convention was dominated by technology: by the use of social media, apps, voice recognition, search facilities, you name it. For the technology savvy or the gadget freak, it was convention heaven. For the technology indifferent or technology sceptic, it was hell on Mallorcan earth.

When it comes to technology, there are those who get it and those who don't. As a consequence, prejudices and assumptions are created depending upon which of the technology poles one is connected to: the positive or the negative. The result is that tourism marketing is either technology-driven and little else or it is technology passive, if that. The truth, of course, lies somewhere between the two poles.

One example of this is the use of mobile apps. At one extreme, there is a view which suggests that apps are the only game in tourism marketing town; at the other, there is no view - apps may as well be invisible. Neither view is correct. All the technologies that have sprung up in recent years have created a sub-category of one of the 4Ps of marketing; promotion has its own marketing mix of a multitude of media, none of which can be neglected.

But many of these media, if not neglected, are nevertheless treated less than well. Moreover, a lack of appreciation as to what these different media can do creates a marketing disadvantage, and it is not as if this appreciation needs to be marketing rocket science.

Take Facebook. ABTA is going to stage its convention in Croatia next year. It is one of the destinations that is a key competitor for Mallorca (some would say its biggest). As a simple experiment, I typed "Croatia Facebook" into Google and then typed in "Mallorca Facebook" and "Majorca Facebook". Try it yourselves if you want, but if not let me tell you that the first Google entry for Croatia led to a "Love Croatia" Facebook page; 788,634 likes for the "official" Facebook page of Croatia. The Mallorca ones? The results offer absolutely nothing similar; they are fragmented and inconsequential, and fragmented is unfortunately a synonym for Mallorcan tourism marketing.

Four Pillars, the UK hotel group, has just issued the results of a survey into the use of social media. This found, among other things, that 52% of Facebook users said that friends' photos had inspired their holiday choice. It also found, and so confirming previous research which has pointed to the diminishing importance of established media, that 92% "trusted" recommendations above all other forms of advertising (only 47% "trust" TV, magazine or newspaper ads). 

This survey emphasises the importance of Facebook and of review sites such as Trip Advisor. These social media have supplanted conventional websites and established print and broadcast media as the main means of travel and tourism communication. It's the reality. There can be no scepticism any longer. Yet in Mallorca, there is a lousy and outmoded web presence provided by tourism authorities (and others) who should know better by now. There is an absence of an official and coherent use of social media and an apparent absence of anyone directing tourism marketing who appears to appreciate them.

ABTA knows all about technology and all about the importance of media technologies for today's tourism. It has decided to give Mallorca a miss next year. But in preferring Croatia, there may be more to the decision than it simply being a case of Buggins's turn. 788,634 people can't be wrong.

Any comments to please.