Friday, November 30, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.15am): 9C
Forecast high: 14C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North 4 easing by the afternoon to variable 2 to 3.

The wind got up at times overnight, but it is a calm enough morning with some sun, but not a particularly sunny day on the cards or a warm one. May be some rain as the snow line is set to fall to 600 metres. The weekend looks like being a mix of cloud, some rain and sun (Sunday being the better day), but remaining cold.

Afternoon update (17.15): Very little sun but only the odd spot of rain. A local high of only 12.8C. Getting warmer by Monday but also getting windy from tomorrow and increasingly so into next week.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa mayor proposes alternative to Lluc walk

Pollensa's mayor Tomeu Cifre has proposed that an alternative be found to the full recovery of the old Pollensa-Lluc walk as he considers this recovery to be impractical. The proposal would involve combining with the dry stone route. The mayor's family finca occupies land on the old Lluc walk.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Hoteliers concerned by Ryanair reductions

The announcement by Ryanair that it is to reduce flights from Madrid and Barcelona in protest against taxes concerns the Mallorca hoteliers federation, as flights to Palma will be affected.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 0 (1) : 0 (1) Deportivo La Coruña (Copa del Rey)

A goalless draw in the return leg of the Copa del Rey tie, Mallorca advancing thanks to the away goal. The next match will be against Sevilla. A poor match in which Mallorca barely created a chance and rarely looked interested in doing so, preferring to hold on to the away-goal advantage. Just over 5,000 were in the stadium to at least see Mallorca get back to winning ways of a sort.

Aouate; Ximo, Nunes, Fontás, Kevin; Fernández (Cris 55), Martí (Nsue 73), Márquez, Alfaro; Dos Santos (Victor 55), Arizmendi
Yellows: Arizmendi, Dos Santos, Márquez

Lux; Pablo, Aythami, Inzúa, Do Santos; Pizzi (Gama 63), Vázquez, Santos (Valerón 80, Domínguez (Pinto 88); Camuñas, Bodipo

Join Our Club: BCM and theming

If you can't beat 'em, then join 'em. This is one way of interpreting the speculation surrounding Grupo Cursach possibly allowing the BCM brand to be adopted by a hotel (or hotels). It was generally thought that BCM was one of the principal objectors to the Fiesta Group's Mallorca Rocks hotel, one of the most obvious examples of hotel theming to date, and one very much with a more youthful market in mind. If so, then the BCM attitude has undergone some amelioration. The line now is that Mallorca Rocks (and Mallorca Wave) are complementary to BCM and that concerts finishing by midnight at Mallorca Rocks do not constitute a threat as such.

This was the line that should always have been adopted. The arrival of Mallorca Rocks - responded to last year by the staging of concerts by BCM in its square -marked a real opportunity for Magalluf. Rather than resisting, the impetus that Mallorca Rocks gave needed to be embraced. It now seems as though it has been. Momentum is gathering in establishing Magalluf even more firmly as a "party" resort, one in which the total should be greater than the sum of its individual parts. An incoming competitor, even a competitor whose competition is comparatively loose, which is the case where Mallorca Rocks is concerned, fertilises the ground from which more business can be grown - by all parties.

Cursach says that a hotel theming or branding exercise involving BCM is not a priority but that if the company were to go down that route then it would want to be involved in the management of a hotel; it wouldn't, therefore, just be a branding exercise. If Cursach does decide to diversify, it would be entirely its affair as to how this might work, but the fact that a declaration of intent has been made - in the form of a wish to manage a hotel, if only in partnership - suggests that the company may be closer to establishing such an arrangement than it is letting on. If it is, then good for it. The concept could well make a great deal of sense, not just for BCM but also for Magalluf.

There is a second reason for thinking that Cursach is "joining 'em" rather than trying to "beat 'em". This has to do with the reform of the tourism law which allows hotels to offer so-called secondary activities which would be open to non-guests. One such activity concerns the club sector, BCM's market therefore. While there have been understandable objections to the legal reform (and I have agreed that it can be construed as being unfair), a more positive way of looking at the reform is to try and get a piece of the action. And what better way than being a business from outside moving inside a hotel.

For a business with such a strong brand name and high awareness as BCM, an association with a hotel (or multiple associations) represents a means of exploiting and developing the brand. As such therefore, the reform of the law creates an opportunity. This, in the rush to condemn the reform, was probably being overlooked.

If opportunity there is then, would similar opportunities exist for other businesses and ones not just in Magalluf? They would apply pretty much exclusively to clubs, bars or even restaurants with strong names and reputations in specific resorts, but if I were to take a resort I know well - Alcúdia - I could think of a handful of businesses which might well indeed sense an opportunity; not for hotel theming or branding as such, but as an operator inside hotel grounds. Association with a strong name from outside the hotel could well be attractive to a hotel, as it would give the hotel additional marketing leverage.

But might such arrangements be harmful to the main business? Would it be a case of cannibalising the existing product or of stretching the brand to the extent that neither the original nor the new business benefits? Possibly it would, but not necessarily. Much would depend on the product of the new, hotel-based business, and this raises a question as to how adept some businesses might be in understanding new product development.

To come back to BCM and to Magalluf, if Cursach were to embark on a hotel theming venture, it would be another example of the extent to which the resort is being given a makeover. But there is in all of this makeover, a question mark, and it concerns just what sort of resort is being conceived. The ultimate party resort does not necessarily sit easily alongside ambitions for a more up-market family resort. And party resort brings with it certain downsides, as already exist in Magalluf.

Hotel theming, branding exercises need to be undertaken within the context of a wider and integrated strategy, the branding of Magalluf and how its component parts are organised and if necessary segregated. There is much to excite in Magalluf's rejuvenation, but there is much that also needs to be given careful thought. 

Any comments to please.

Index for November 2012

BCM and hotel theming - 30 November 2012
British Consul non-replacement - 25 November 2012
Business opportunities: making them easier - 18 November 2012
Can Picafort front line - 9 November 2012
Car hire and tourist taxes - 7 November 2012
Carlos Delgado and the deer hunt - 21 November 2012
Catalonian election - 23 November 2012, 28 November 2012
Corruption and political party system - 1 November 2012
Dogs on beaches in Pollensa - 5 November 2012
Expatriate categorisation - 17 November 2012
Fishermen's guilds - 3 November 2012
Flags: bans on use - 27 November 2012
García surname popularity in Mallorca - 13 November 2012
Holiday lets and national law - 20 November 2012
Hotels and town hall bureaucracy - 2 November 2012
Joan Mesquida - 12 November 2012
Mass tourism - 10 November 2012
Mountains and snow - 29 November 2012
November - 6 November 2012
Palacio de Congresos - 26 November 2012
Pollensa fair - 14 November 2012
Press, Carlos Delgado and Artur Mas - 22 November 2012
Proposta per les Illes (El Pi) - 4 November 2012
Rafael Bosch and Cabrera diving trips - 11 November 2012
Ramon Llull Institute - 8 November 2012
Themed hotels - 16 November 2012
Tourism promotion obligations - 19 November 2012
Trust in politicians: lack of - 15 November 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Ufanes springs burst for the first time this autumn

The phenomenon of the Ufanes springs in Campanet occurs when there is an accumulation of heavy rain (or snow, as was the case earlier this year) and they have burst out for the first time since February and are expected to continue gushing at least until tomorrow.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Iberia unions confirm December strikes

Unions representing workers at the Iberia airline have confirmed that there will be six days of strike action in December. The dates are 14 December and 17-21 December. Pilots at the airline are not included in the strike.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 November 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 13C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Northwest 5 to 6, easing to 4 to 5 during the morning. Strong waves up to three metres still possible.

An altogether better morning. Sunny and little by way of breeze. But the weather pattern is unstable, rain likely to return tomorrow and Saturday with the chance of a storm as well.

Afternoon update (17.15): Mainly sunny but a chilly wind. A local high of 15.9C. 

MALLORCA TODAY - Beach "war" intensifies: Pollensa's operator accused

The extraordinary war that exists between contractors that operate local beaches in summer has taken a further twist, the concessionaire in Playa de Muro, who says he has suffered 50,000 euros worth of damage to vandalised sunbeds, effectively accusing the neighbourhood association in Puerto Pollensa of being the perpetrators of the vandalism. This all relates to the fact that the Muro operator had the concession in Puerto Pollensa in 2011 and lost it this year to the neighbourhood association, something which itself led to all manner of accusations, such as collusion between the association and Pollensa town hall.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla tennis courts relaid

300,000 euros have been invested in relaying the surfaces of the four public tennis courts at Sa Pobla's sports centre. The new surface, known as "green set", is more permeable and had been required as the courts had not been relaid for some ten years.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Too Low: Mallorca's mountains

At the risk of offending some people, it should be admitted that God made one or two cock-ups when it came to divvying up geographical attributes. Who exactly was the engineer at God Inc. who managed to make Mallorca's mountains only as high as they are? I think that shareholders should be told, as they have been denied their dividends because of the lack of height for far too long. God should really be placed in front of a parliamentary enquiry and be grilled as to what on earth the thinking was behind mountain peaks which, at their highest, are at minimum 500 metres or, more like it, 1000 metres too low. Someone, God presumably, miscalculated. Had he not, a Mallorcan winter cup might otherwise be overflowing.

A further reason for giving God a hard time at a meeting of the committee for mountains in Mallorca is that had he had the foresight to make the mountains that much higher, we wouldn't be subject, every year, to idiots declaring incredulously: "Oh my God. It snows!? In Mallorca!?"

Yes, it does bloody well snow. A simple glance at Mallorca's latitude and the height of its admittedly not too high peaks would, for anyone with any sense or knowledge,  tell those of an incredulous bent that, well, it isn't that surprising that it snows. Not that it snows that much. Usually. But it does snow. Quite frequently and quite frequently to a depth more than the equivalent to that of the height of a chick pea: in the mountains, such as they are. Had the mountains been higher, however, the incredulous idiots would not exist. They would look at some bloody great mountains and see some snow on top of them even in summer. Like in Corsica, for example.

Had God not cocked up, we would now, thanks to the first cold snap of the Mallorcan winter, be welcoming aircraft, tour operators, skiers with skis, ski-instructors, waiters, hotel workers, delivery drivers and all manner of other ancillary snow-tourism personnel. I say that we would be welcoming them, but Mallorca would, regardless of any natural intervention by God, have decided that it didn't want any of the foregoing. Such is the lack of foresight of Mallorcan winter tourism planning. But the winter tourism planners can breathe a sigh of relief that they don't actually have to bother, because God got it wrong - by at least 500 metres.

The Association for Ski and Mountain Tourism Resorts (ATUDEM) has signed an agreement with the Spanish tourism promotion agency Turespaña to develop the marketing of ski tourism this winter. This is of course ski tourism on the mainland. There isn't any ski tourism on Mallorca because the mountains aren't high enough; this was God's big mistake.

At similar latitudes on the mainland - it isn't totally necessary to go north to the Pyrenees or south to the Sierra Nevada - there are mountains that are higher than Mallorca's and which get more snow. These areas, for example not far from Valencia, can boast cosy log cabins and wintery scenes. Mallorca, on the other hand, can't. Its wintery scenes just look crap. Not enough snow, generally speaking, no skiing, no cosy log cabins and so therefore no tourism.

I blame God almost entirely. There he was, going around claiming that he had made some paradise island, but he was far too strict on mountain building regulations. "We can't make them too high," he presumably said. So, the mountains that there are, are only pretend mountains. Some would say they are no more than hills. And no one goes hill skiing. 

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 9C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Northwest 4 to 5, waves to two metres, possible storms and remaining poor.

Raining again this morning, things are likely to improve later in the day but the wind, coming from the northwest, is due to be quite strong and bringing cold weather. In some local areas, the morning highs are as low as six degrees. Tomorrow should be a better day but rain will return on Friday.

Afternoon update (17.00): Not a great deal of improvement during the day. The odd burst of blue sky and the rain seems mainly to have passed, but distinctly chilly. Snow has fallen in the mountains in Lluc and there has been some disruption to traffic on the Lluc-Sóller road because of conditions. A high locally in the north of 13.3C.

MALLORCA TODAY - Government will have to pay Pollensa landowner 1.6 million compensation

A ruling by the Balearics Supreme Court will mean that the regional government will have to pay a landowner in the Vilar area of Pollensa 1.6 million euros by way of compensation for land that was declassified under measures in 2008 and which could not be developed. This is the first ruling that affects land across Mallorca, compensation claims for which are said to run to astronomical sums (the report linked to here puts the total at over 700 million!).

See more: Ultima Hora

Another Fine Mas: After the election

You will recall that photo of President Obama, Hillary Clinton and various other voyeurs in the White House "situation room" watching the last moments of Osama bin Laden. It wasn't quite the same, in that no one actually got topped, but there was a similar gathering of Balearics politico voyeurs to watch the last moments of Artur Mas's political suicide attempt in Catalonia at the weekend. There, in their midst, was Jolly Joe Bauzà in a PP "situation room". Mission accomplished, they would have thought.

Would they have been right to have thought this? A combination of media slur and central government PP insinuations had undermined Mas. Which is what they would have hoped, though whether the accusations about Mas, kickbacks and Swiss bank accounts really had anything to do with the Catalonia election result is very debatable.

Bauzà rejoiced in good Thatcher-recapture-of-South-Georgia style. The Catalonian people have rejected independence, he rejoiced, failing entirely to appreciate that the Catalonian people hadn't rejected independence. What they had done was to suggest that they might quite like independence at some future date but that they didn't necessarily want Artur leading the charge.

No one foresaw what happened at the polling stations on Sunday. It had been forecast Mas's CiU wouldn't get an absolute majority but it had not been forecast that the CiU would lose seats. Or in quite the number that it did. Twelve fewer than it had before the election, Artur and the CiU are in a real pickle.

Mas has said that he will not resign but he should resign. He made a colossal error of judgement. He took the huge pro-independence rally in Barcelona in September as the indication that he could call an election and get a ringing endorsement from all this pro-independence sentiment that would enable him to set the independence ball rolling. His error was in believing that this pro-independence sentiment wanted him to be the ball roller.

What was being overlooked in the run-up to the Catalonia election was the fact that it was an election, not a vote on independence. Granted, independence and a mandate to press for it were the reasons for calling the election, but elections are rarely only concerned with one issue. Artur knew full well that his austerity measures, ones which, in conditions of normal political harmony, would have Mariano Rajoy voicing support for the Catalonians, were not playing terribly well with the Catalan citizenship. The independence gambit was, therefore, his way of seeking to regain popular support. Or so he must have thought. This was his error, however. He, too, forgot that elections are about more than one issue. Or that elections are often about one other issue - it's the economy, stupid. The CiU took an unexpected beating at the polls which should in fact have been expected. Mas committed suicide because he overlooked the small matters of the economy and his austerity measures.

Now he finds himself having to form a coalition with very unlikely bedfellows. There are two main options - the ERC (the Catalan Republican Left) or the PSC (the Catalonian version of the PSOE socialists). The ERC are fervent independentists. The PSC aren't. Like PSOE nationally, they don't approve of separatism. For the right-leaning, conservative Catholic CiU neither option is particularly attractive. Where the economy is concerned, the PSC would probably make greater sense as a coalition partner, but if this is the option Mas were to follow, the independence issue would be dead and buried (for now), thus provoking the obvious question as to why Mas ever bothered raising it.

But the independence issue will not go away. Bauzà is completely wrong in his analysis because not only have the ERC gained significantly, a party that had never previously had parliamentary representation, the anti-capitalist CUP, now has three seats. Mas may have been right about the sentiment for independence, but he most certainly hadn't bargained on the electorate actually voting for parties for whom independence is pretty much their only reason for being.

The belief is that Mas will press ahead towards a referendum with the ERC by his side. If anything, the election will cause a greater entrenching of views. There was just a possibility that Rajoy might have responded by revisiting the Catalonian request for tax-raising powers (the rejection of which kicked off the momentum towards independence), but one feels that this is now impossible. While pro-Spanish unity politicians like the Balearics president might think that mission was accomplished on Sunday, he is very wrong. It was a botched job and one that has made the situation potentially more volatile than it was.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Iberia unions plan strikes in December

Unions representing different groups of worker at Iberia are planning to strike for six  days between 14 and 21 December. The strike action has yet to be ratified and it would not, at this stage, include pilots. The action is against restructuring that could lead to the loss of 4,500 jobs, according to union estimates.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 14C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): West 3 to 4 reaching Northwest 5 to 7 in the afternoon. Swells up to two metres later. Poor conditions with rain and the threat of storms.

A storm came in around six this morning. Heavy rain as a consequence, and it is a damp morning with the occasional bright moment. Alerts for rain and rough coastal conditions, the worst of the weather should abate by tomorrow morning, so today looks particularly ropey.

Afternoon update (16.30): A further burst of heavy rain this morning, but this has been about all. The alert remains in place, though, for rain into tomorrow. A high of just over 14 degrees today. 

MALLORCA TODAY - Number of cruise passengers plummets

Cruise-ship passenger numbers for the Balearics were down significantly during the first nine months of this year, there having been a decline of 24%, representing fewer than a million passengers.

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia hostel owner beaten up by transvestite

A hostel owner in Puerto Alcúdia was attacked on Sunday evening by a tranvestite and a friend seemingly because he spoke English. His attackers demanded he spoke Castellano during an incident that took place at the hostel.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Large retailers challenge Balearics tax

First the car-hire firms, now the large retailers are challenging the Balearic Government's environmental tax, these two sectors being the ones to which this tax applies. Representatives of companies such as Eroski, Carrefour and El Corte Inglés have met with the government's vice-president and finance minister and have warned that they might take the government to court. The retailers say that the tax will lead to job layoffs.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - EU looks into town hall aid to Real Mallorca

Following complaints from other member states, the competition directorate of the European Union is looking into grants and other financial aid to football clubs from town halls in Spain. Arrangements involving a total of 38 town halls are being investigated, one being Palma and grants made to Real Mallorca.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's mayor says political motives behind attack over Lluc walk

Ramblers who had called for Tomeu Cifre, the mayor of Pollensa, to resign because his family's finca along the Lluc walk does not permit free access, have been accused by the mayor of using the matter of the barrier for political motives, saying that all orders of the Council of Mallorca regarding access have been met.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Not Flying The Flag

(Which is the Balearic and which is the Mallorcan flag?)

Flags do have the power to cause controversy. In the recent past there have been incidents at the Son Real finca near Can Picafort where the national flag was raised and then taken down again by local militants, in the Ses Casetes enclave in Playa de Muro where a Francoist flag was flown, and in any number of towns on Mallorca where the Aragon-Catalan flag has been raised outside public buildings. Now, the Balearic Government is planning on legislating. Hanging a "senyera" Catalan flag outside these public buildings will be made illegal and subject to a hefty fine, and the use of the Balearic flag by political groups and other associations will also be outlawed.

Flags do have a tendency to be used for not entirely honourable purposes. A few years ago there was an attempt in the UK to, as it were, reclaim the Union Flag because of its association with far-right groups. Different flags in Mallorca (well, variants on the one senyera theme) have similarly been hijacked by different political groups, though not necessarily in either a dishonourable or an extremist fashion.

The government is putting an end to the hanging of the senyera outside schools and other buildings in order, it says, to guarantee "impartiality", to prevent its display as a means of expressing "personal ideologies" and to also stop any confusion among members of the public. Quite what the general public would be confused about I am unsure, but the government is keen for it to not be, hence no senyera in the future.

This is not an attempt to limit freedom of expression, says the government, simply a way of showing neutrality. At least one union, the STEI teachers' union, disagrees. The new law will harm freedom of expression and will mark a return to Francoist times, the union argues. There again, as has been remarked by some (not least a notable letter-writer to "The Bulletin"), the teaching profession in Mallorca is dominated by leftie types, typically sympathetic to Catalan.

The flying of the senyera has been an act of protest against the government's language policy and against its indifference towards regionalism, and it has been a protest mainly of the left. However, the variants of the senyera have been adopted by forces on the right. The government, though it is being criticised roundly for its new law, is being even-handed in this respect. Notable adopters of the Balearic flag (or is it the Mallorcan flag) have included the right-wing anti-Catalanist Círculo Balear and the Balearics Family Policy Institute, a body that is not exactly left-wing either. 

The Balearic and Mallorcan flags are both based on the senyera. The two flags are slightly different but they share the common theme of the original Aragonese flag. If the government wanted to do something about stopping the flying of the senyera, it had to be seen to be fair, and so the different versions are to all be subject to legal restraint. The suspicion is, though, that it is the banning of the flying of the senyera that is the real motivation behind the law in that it will remove a physical symbol of defiance to the government and a symbol that has become increasingly embarrassing to a government that has failed utterly in reintroducing Castellano as the principal language of instruction into local schools.

The government has made an unnecessary rod for its own back with its attitudes towards matters Catalan. It certainly hasn't gained popularity or support, as can be seen from the rejection of Castellano by parents, because of its policies. It insists, though, in adding to the weight of that rod and in adding to disenchantment among members of the public who might otherwise support it by introducing a law that is, in some respects, rather vindictive. It is vindictive because it hasn't won the argument on language and hasn't come anywhere near winning it.

The justification for the senyera ban makes sense in that there should be neutrality, but unfortunately, this is not how some will perceive it. Far from being neutral, the ban will be seen as discriminatory, one forced by a government and political party that has its own ideology and posture.

The whole argument over the flags might seem a bit potty, but it isn't. Flags, be they the senyera or Balearic variants or the Spanish national flag, are personal. They represent identity and nationhood (or quasi-nationhood). The government might just have been wise to have left well alone.

Any comments to please.

Monday, November 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 3 to 4.

A bright and warmer morning, breezes picking up today but leaving a fine, sunny day until cloud builds up this evening, heralding several days of wet and colder weather, tomorrow looking especially rainy.

Afternoon update (17.30): Getting greyer by the afternoon, the morning having been sunny. Today's local high: 22C. Alerts in place for rough coastal conditions and rain tomorrow.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla fair receives greater number of visitors

Unlike other local fairs, it would appear that Sa Pobla's (staged yesterday) received more visitors than usual. The fair had gone back to a more traditional style, previous years' "themes" having been dropped on account of cost.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Lluc walk is re-routed and mayor's resignation is called for

The reclaim walk along the old Pollensa-Lluc way was not able to go along the whole walk because of barriers that still exist. The 200 who took part therefore took an alternative path once having arrived at the finca belonging to the mayor's family. Though the barrier had been opened, it is still there, causing there to be a call for the mayor to resign.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

The Palacio Of Follies

An organisation called One DMC Mallorca reckons that Mallorca has lost out on staging a hundred or so conventions because Palma's Palacio de Congresos is still a building site, one where there is no building actually taking place at present. How does One DMC Mallorca arrive at this figure? Anyone got the answer, because I don't know. It sounds like a good headliner though, but when the organisation issuing it is a group of travel agencies and events organisers that makes up One DMC it probably would be. One DMC has an interest in shaming the regional government into action and out of the inertia that has brought the Palacio building works to a standstill; it wants to be Run DMC, running events at the convention centre that occupies a prime seafront site in the Mallorcan capital.

Lack of finance, debt, a monthly cost of over half a million euros just to cover maintenance and security, no company willing to operate it, the partly built Palacio is a folly that assaults the senses and embarrasses all the thousands who pass it each day. It is a folly half-built on the folly of the grand project, just the type of project that has helped to bankrupt most regional governments in Spain. It is a folly that can be laid at the door of the Balearics president for grand projects. Who else but Jaume Matas.

In the scale of grand projects across Spain that have gone disastrously wrong, the Palacio is by no means the greatest disaster or the most expensive, but it is one that has been a disaster of vanity, vagueness, lousy timing and legal wrangle. Its justification was as a means of adding dynamism to the local economy and especially the local economy in the low and winter tourism seasons. It was a justification, however, that took no account and still doesn't take account of competition from popular convention centres on the mainland or of the low contribution that meetings and business tourism offers to the local economy - less than 1% of tourism business in 2009.

With the new Palacio, this less than 1% would rise one would hope, but to what level? A dream of boosting winter tourism is only as strong as direct international flights in winter; not that strong, therefore. Why do you suppose it was that the recent sports tourism forum at the Palma Arena was held in October and not in November? Flights would have been one reason.

Despite the vagueness as to just how much the Palacio would contribute, it was still just about justifiable to build it if only in the hope that it might make an increasing contribution and only if funds were readily available. Economic crisis has not helped where funding has been concerned but then neither has the legal wrangle helped, the one that led to the original operator and major shareholder, the hotel group Barceló, definitively pulling out of the project early in 2011, just a month before the Palacio had originally been scheduled to open.

Barceló headed the company that was awarded the concession for constructing and operating the Palacio and its hotel in early 2007. The consortium that made the award comprised Palma town hall and the Matas government. When Matas lost the election in spring that year, he soon left Mallorca for Washington. He went to work for Barceló.

The political complexion of the consortium changed after the election. It was no longer Partido Popular but PSOE. Two years after the 2007 election, Barceló announced that it was temporarily abandoning the Palacio project because of what were described as "legal and economic irregularities", one of the irregularities having to do with part of the land having been discovered to not be public property.

Barceló, which had bought out other members of the company and so by then owned 95% of the shares, took almost two more years to then come to its definitive decision to wash its hands of the Palacio. With its withdrawal, it was necessary for there to be a tender for a new operator. None was forthcoming. A second tender process brought an offer from the Melià hotel group, only for this to be rejected because it didn't meet certain conditions.

And so we are where we are now. Building has been suspended, there is no operator, the builders Acciona, part of the original company with Barceló, are owed pots of money, and the whole stupid folly stands there waiting the day when or if it might actually be finished. This stupid folly which offends and embarrasses.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 November 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 11.6C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): South 2 to 3.

Another chilly but bright morning. Very stable, with winds barely altering over a 48-hour period. All set to change, though. Later tomorrow a cold front will move in as will strengthening winds, bringing rain and snow down to 900 metres. The whole of the week looks poor from Tuesday with highs down to 15C or lower.

Evening update (18.00): Warmer than forecast, a high of 21.2C, and a good day to make the most of the weather. It's going downhill from tomorrow evening.

A Little Local Outrage: The British Consul

Over four weeks ago I learned that Paul Abrey, the British Consul to the Balearics, was to leave his post and that he would not be replaced. The official news of his non-replacement only emerged last week. Once it had emerged, the hyperbole went into overdrive. The reaction was different to that over four weeks ago when there was barely a murmur among those who I spoke with. Crank up the outrage, and you create an outcry, so it seems. 

There are two aspects to this story. One is Paul's departure, the other is the decision not to replace him and so deprive the Balearics of a Consul. The two may or may not be linked. I understand that there had been hope that Paul might reconsider his own decision to go back into the private sector. If so, then the fact that he is not to be replaced seems less a strategic one and more an opportunistic one.

The British Embassy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) claim that the non-replacement is not a cost-saving exercise. Though neither may have wanted Paul to leave, once he had decided that he was leaving, the temptation to cut some cost must have come into the equation. Indeed, I would be amazed if it hadn't been in the equation for some time.

If you look at the FCO's annual report from this year and at its document on Consular Strategy 2010-2013, you will begin to appreciate why there is to no longer be a Consul in the Balearics. Both reports are littered with managerialist doublespeak, the strategy document being subtitled "putting people first" and making much of the Consular Service's four priorities: "Our Customers. Our People. Our Network. Our Finances" (and the capitalisation is the FCO's, thus elevating these priorities to the status of "values" or whatever other managerialist jargon the FCO prefers).

It is of course all rubbish, but then managerialist speak always is rubbish. It is designed to impress while at the same time also obfuscate. And obfuscation and dissembling are at play in what has been going on with Abrey and his non-replacement. The FCO in its annual report refers to the delivery of 100 million pounds of administrative savings by 2014-2015. In 2011-2102, it delivered a quarter of these savings.

Delve deeper into the report and you find that the 100 million is to include savings in corporate services, human resources and estate. ""We are restructuring the FCO global estate by ... (creating) country or regional hubs." The Consular Strategy document says: "By 2013, our Consular Service will be different - and better. Smaller and cheaper".

Abrey's departure is not the only one. The consulate in the Canaries is being merged with Malaga. It is, therefore, a similar situation to the Balearics now coming under Barcelona. The Canaries are part of a "restructuring process" - doublespeak for cost-cutting - just as the Balearics are a part of the same restructuring of overall consular services in Spain.

As can be seen from the FCO's annual report and strategy document, there is a move towards the use of greater technology for service delivery and towards centralisation. While there is to be a concentration of consular direction on the mainland and while references to restructuring the "global estate" and to the 100 million saving might be something to be concerned about, the Palma consulate is not being run down. The appointment of a second Vice-Consul certainly doesn't sound like it anyway. Yet.

The departure of Paul Abrey has not been handled well, but the reaction last week has more than a hint of over-reaction. And a reason for the over-reaction lies with what a British Consul represents to certain elements within the expatriate community. There will no longer be a British Consul to hob-nob with, to have photos taken with. The usual suspects will no longer be able to acquire kudos by rubbing shoulders with our man in Palma or through inviting him to their latest event.

I wonder, therefore, how long the "outrage" might last. When Andrew Gwatkin, our man in Barcelona and now "our man" pitches up in Palma, will the expat glitterati shun him? Will they express their displeasure by snubbing him? No. Let the new schmooze begin.

Paul was popular. Had he not been, the reaction would have been different. The Embassy and the FCO could, should have been more up-front and should have communicated better. The two issues - Abrey's departure and his non-replacement - have become confused because of poor communication. Had Paul not been popular, there would not be the same "outrage".

Any comments to please.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Rayo Vallecano 2 : 0 Real Mallorca

Mallorca away in Madrid at one of the surprise teams of this season's La Liga. A familiar pattern to most Mallorca matches, of being dominated in possession and looking to counterattack. An unremarkable encounter looked to be heading towards an unremarkable scoreless draw until Rayo sprang into life in the final quarter of an hour, having a goal disallowed and then shattering Mallorca with two goals in the final three minutes. Bad result for Mallorca.

Cobeño; Tito, Rodri (Labaka 57), Amat, Nacho; Carlos (Vázquez 50), Trashorras, Fuego, Piti; Domínguez (Delibasic 79); Baptistao
Goals: Baptistao (87), Delibasic (89)
Yellows: Fuego (30), Baptistao (37)

Aouate; Nsue, Geromel, Conceiçao, Bigas; Pina (Alfaro 85), Fontás; dos Santos (Arizmendi 66), Victor, Pereira (Ximo 75); Hemed
Yellows: Hemed (3), Pina (70), Ximo (82)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 November 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): South 2 to 3.

A nippy, sunny morning. Very calm, as can be noted by the sea conditions. Little breeze, but things are going to change by Monday or Tuesday, winds increasing and rain again.

Evening update (18.45): Nice day, plenty of sun, a high of 20.9C.

MALLORCA TODAY - Wiggins looking for a house in Puerto Pollensa

A news story that isn't really a news story, i.e. that Bradley Wiggins is looking to buy a house in Puerto Pollensa. Until he does, there will be all the tittle-tattle of "ooh, I saw Bradley and his family looking at ..." or "I've been told that they're buying in ...". And once he has bought, well ... . Who cares.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Reflections Of Catalonia

Yesterday's article about the Catalonian election was due to have appeared in today's "Daily Bulletin". Or at least, it went forward for inclusion, my having asked, the day before, whether it could be included today. In the absence of a response, I took it, because I wasn't sure, that it could be.

The reason why I had asked is because the day before an election in Spain is a "day of reflection", which means that everyone has to abstain from expressing an opinion, that there can be no campaigning and that the electorate must wander around in contemplative silence, pondering the momentous decision they will make the next day when confronted with the ballot box.

It would be quite nice to think that electorates do indeed enter a twenty-hour period akin to a spiritual retreat, wrestling with no concern other than which sheet of paper they are going to be placing through the box's opening. Will I CiU or will I not CiU? The entire Catalan nation (sic) taking itself on a long and winding walk, seeking spiritual guidance as to which way it should turn. Oh Lord, what on earth am I about to do?

Of course, the electorate is doing no such thing. It has almost certainly already decided and will spend the day of reflection clustered around coffees, beers or tapas in bars from Barcelona to Tarragona and any other place you can think of in Catalonia, telling each other how it (or they) intend to vote, and so either attempting to convince interlocutors to vote in the same way or congratulating interlocutors for sharing their electoral convictions. The day of reflection is a total waste of a day. They may as well just hold the election today and get on with it.

Anyway, and back to yesterday's article or what should be today's article in the "Bulletin", I was duly informed that those who know about these things had decreed that the day of reflection for the election in Catalonia would indeed mean the press in Mallorca also abstaining from offering an opinion and thus potentially influencing all the millions of Catalonians who might not have made up their minds. I had thought that this might be the case, which is why I had asked before submitting the article, and it turned out that I had been right to ask. Consequently, all those millions of Catalonians who might otherwise have been consulting a low-circulation, English-language newspaper, published in Mallorca and containing an article by a Briton that none of them would have ever heard of will now not be able to consult the article.

Except, of course, that they can consult the article, because it's already been published. On the internet. Not that they will be consulting it, as, and for the same reason why they wouldn't be consulting it were it to have been published today in the "Bulletin", it is in English and not Catalan and as it is of no interest to them as Catalonians what I have to say anyway.

Once upon a time, it may have made sense to have a day of reflection - in the days before the internet - but nowadays it makes no sense. Indeed, what are the rules governing the day of reflection and reflections about the election being expressed in cyberspace? Is there a ban on anything being posted today, or how does it work exactly? Is the electorate advised to look away from their computers or phones for 24 hours in case their reflective thoughts are somehow corrupted by what is on the internet? Will there have been a sudden rush of articles, opinions, tweets, posts, blogs at 23.59 before the whole internet world over Catalonia descended into silence at midnight?

It is all a bit daft, as there could be, for all I know, highly respected and highly influential commentators on matters Catalan who live in, let's say London, who will be spending today bombarding Catalonia with recommendations as to how they should vote. My guess is that the day of reflection rules don't actually extend to London or over the border from Spain in Portugal or France. If you really want your voice to be heard today, then you could just nip across the Pyrenees for the day, issue instructions on voting and still be back for Sunday and vote yourself.

Still, rules are rules, even if they are silly rules, and so today there will be no article in the "Bulletin". And because rules are rules, I shall also abstain from issuing my own recommendation as to how to vote. Any Brit who is in Catalonia might be influenced by what I have to say, even if a native Catalan wouldn't be. But then, it wouldn't matter if this Brit in Catalonia were influenced, because he or she wouldn't be able to vote anyway, unless he or she is a Spanish citizen and may be planning to vote in a way that would mean that he or she will cease to be a Spanish citizen.

Any comments to please.

Friday, November 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 November 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 13C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Variable 2 to 3, mainly South by the afternoon.

A bright, sunny and quite chilly morning. Plenty of sun today and right through the weekend, highs staying around 20 degrees, the seven-day forecast suggesting that temperatures will fall by the middle of next week with rain and some snow on the higher peaks.

Afternoon update (17.30): A very fine, sunny day, a high of 20.8C; more of the same tomorrow.

MALLORCA TODAY - Self-defence classes for women in Alcúdia

A course in self-defence for women in Alcúdia, some of whom have been subject to domestic violence, has been a great success, according to the women who have been taking part. Instruction has also been available to female workers at the town hall and Mayor Coloma Terrasa says that other town halls have come along to see the programme and are interested in adopting it themselves.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Car-hire firms plan actions against tax

Car-hire firms in the Balearics, angered by the planned introduction of a daily tax on vehicle, are to stage a day of protest on a day in December that will bring Palma to a standstill and to follow this by withdrawing hire cars for 15 days. The firms are also planning on moving their fiscal base to another part of Spain and so not pay taxes in the Balearics; the Basque Country would be the most likely base.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa is the slowest town hall to pay

Information for the year 2010 shows that Pollensa town hall took longer on average to pay suppliers than any other Mallorcan council: 224 days, or 3.5 times the permitted length in law. A new law on town hall payments is to come in in 2013 which sets the limit at 30 days.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Catalonia's Day Of Destiny?

The question mark in this article's title is important. On Sunday there will be an election in Catalonia. To believe some, you would think that the result would all but seal Catalonia's destiny. It will do nothing of the sort.

Artur Mas, the Catalonian president, has called the election for two reasons: one, he failed to secure an agreement on tax-raising powers with central government; two, because he is seeking a mandate which might lead to a referendum on Catalonian independence. The election may be the first step in securing independence, but this is all it is.

Mas's failure to get Prime Minister Rajoy to allow Catalonia to raise income and other taxes is what precipitated the election. Or so it is said. Mas would have known that Rajoy would not consent to the demand. Official rejection was needed to set in motion the independence gambit, the first stage of which is a new election. Mas, hopeful of shoring up popularity, which had been dwindling because of his own austerity measures, has used the duller fiscal and economic and so therefore less radical argument to appeal to the altogether more radical and romantic tendency in Catalonia, that of independence.

The justification for Catalonia seeking tax-raising powers are two-fold: a) its contribution in funding fiscal equalisation (richer regions fund poorer ones) is, along with Madrid's, the highest in absolute terms; b) unlike the Basque Country and Navarre, it doesn't have such powers, so misses out on greater revenue, albeit that it would still, as with these two regions, have to transfer a proportion of tax revenue to central government. 

History, inevitably, plays a huge part in the Catalonian argument. The reasons for the Basque Country and Navarre enjoying privileges that no other region of Spain does can be traced back to the early eighteenth century and to the War of the Spanish Succession. Catalonia lost privileges it once had because it took the wrong side.

Economics and finance are, though, only a part of the story. However much it is disputed that Catalonia has an historic claim to be a separate nation, there is a  belief that it does have such a claim. This is the romantic argument, one stripped of the pragmatism of the purely economic. When a million or so people take to the streets to demand independence, they do so with the notion of long-denied nationhood in mind, not tax returns.

But none of this is actually to be decided on Sunday. Mas's CiU party may not get the absolute majority it wants (polls suggest that it won't). If it fails to or fails to increase the number of seats it has in the Catalonian parliament, Mas would not benefit from the "exceptional majority" he has said is required to move towards what would be an illegal referendum that would place Catalonia on a collision course with central government. The Republican Left party looks likely to make gains and so could well support Mas. In combination with the CiU, the number of seats may well exceed the 68 for an outright majority, but the ERC Republicans are a very different beast to the Catholic conservative CiU.

All the talk of independence, all the talk of how a separate Catalonia may or may not be able to align itself with the European Union, all the talk of the eventual creation of a Greater Catalonia that would embrace the Balearics (a ridiculous notion as there is no desire for such a thing in the Balearics except among a very small minority), all the wilder talk of possible military intervention have been premature. Even were Mas to get an absolute majority, getting to a referendum, let alone independence, would be some way down the track. And chances are that the independence gambit has, all along, been one to make Rajoy change his mind on tax-raising.

Premature or not, there are forces which have been seeking to discredit Mas. Central government is one, and the press, in the form of "El Mundo", another; the Catalonian public prosecutor is to open proceedings for libel against the newspaper for alleging that a police report exists which suggests Mas has taken kickbacks. It is the resort to attempt to undermine Mas that highlights why it is important that Catalonia does not secede. Catalonia is, in a sense, the conscience of Spain. It has received its knocks and its injustices, perceived or real, but it has retained an independence of voice as well as a tradition of liberalism. Catalonia's past should be part of Spain's present and future, as Spain needs Catalonia as much for its traditions of liberty as it does for its money. Don't go, Catalonia.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): East and Northeast 2 to 3; 4 at intervals. Southwest eventually.

An early mix of cloud and clear sky. Mostly cloudy during the day with sunny periods. The forecast for tomorrow and Saturday is for sunnier weather and a little warmer.

Evening update (18.00): A warm morning certainly, cooler in the afternoon as more cloud gathered. A high of 20.1C.

MALLORCA TODAY - Illegal commissions charged by Balearics estate managers

A consumer organisation has alleged that some 30% of estate managers in the Balearics (known as "administradores de fincas") charge illegal commissions from suppliers, thus raising the costs of housing communities.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Lluc walk barriers come down

Following the removal of one barrier at a finca along the Pollensa-Lluc walk, others are now coming down, technical staff from the Council of Mallorca having moved in to take barriers down and so enforce compliance with its order regarding right of way along the old road.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Town hall blunder affects Pollensa farmers' co-operative

Because Pollensa town hall dealt with the ministry of agriculture rather than the Council of Mallorca, which apparently it should have, a grant to build a processing centre for lamb raised by the local farmers' co-operative looks like not being forthcoming and will set back construction by at least six months.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Losses of over 50 million euros because of car-hire tax

The national car-hire association is cranking up its campaign against the Balearic Government's tax on hire cars, suggesting that its introduction will result in a loss to the car-hire sector in the Balearics of 54 million euros in 2013.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorcan wine PGI leads to good sales

The protected geographical indication (PGI) mark that applies to certain wines in Mallorca led in 2010-2011 to Mallorcan wines having the third highest sales among Spanish wines.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Judge dismisses union leader's "fascist" charge

President Bauzá, who had brought a case against UGT leader Lorenzo Bravo for calling him a "fascist", has lost the case. The judge has ruled that the insult did not impugn the president's honour and that it represented freedom of expression.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

Smelling Rats: Deer's balls and Artur Mas

There's a smell around. It's a not unfamiliar one. It's the smells of rats. I smell rats. At least two of them. One rat is a rat that isn't a deer, the smell of the other rat has wafted across from Catalonia.

I don't know what to make of the Delgado photos. In that, I don't know why they have appeared when they have, i.e. now. Their appearance may simply be because they were delivered to the press out of the blue. Possibly. But the press tend to have these things hanging around, waiting for an opportune moment. As I suggested yesterday, coming so soon after the Bosch-Company diving affair, there is a hint of more than mere coincidence. Not that I don't take great delight in the Partido Popular thrashing around in embarrassment - I do - but when photos of the type that embarrass Delgado and the PP are as old as they are (at least eighteen months), it is very reasonable to ask why now and to wonder if they have indeed just turned up out of the blue.

The photos have gone international. The "Daily Mail" has featured them, reiterating the bad image line that the local press has hammered home and provoking not untypical, British readership Spain-is barbaric-and-cruel-to-animals comments. The "it-sets-back-animal-rights" argument that is being trotted out locally is one of righteous indignation without any pause to raise the question of the timing. It is an argument that is also wrong. It sets animal rights forward. A photo of a stupid politician with a deer's balls on his head should work far greater wonders in shifting Spanish opinion than any demo outside a bullfight.

Delgado should be congratulated for making an idiot of himself and for promoting animal rights. He should also be congratulated, and of course all the righteousness entirely misses this point, for providing one of the most hilarious examples of politician berkdom that one is ever likely to encounter, even in a country blessed with as many capable of such berkdom as Spain has. The image with the balls on his head is one destined no doubt for "Have I Got News For You" or a similar show; it is a comedian and satirist's dream. It might be one that means Spain (or more accurately, Mallorca) being poked fun at, but Delgado is the one who should be the butt of the jokes.

While I smell a rat at the timing of the release of the photos, the smell is nothing like as strong as that coming from Catalonia. A few days ahead of the election which may give Artur Mas the mandate to possibly stage a referendum on Catalonian independence, what happens? Out of the blue comes what is said to be a police report in which Mas is implicated for taking kickbacks for public works contracts. The report is odd, as neither the prosecutor nor the judge in charge of the case into contractual wrongdoings in Catalonia appears to be aware of it. The public's attention to the existence of this report came in the right-wing "El Mundo", no great fan of Mas's independence ambitions therefore. Mas is going to sue.

Whatever the truth might be of what "El Mundo" has to say, and former president Jordi Pujol is also named by the paper and is also taking legal action, the timing has to be queried. The suspicion is of an attempt, and a possibly crude one at that, to blacken Mas's name just prior to the election.

The press is all about getting scoops. Of course it is. But I have commented before on the degree to which the media is influenced by political parties in Spain. This sort of influence is exerted elsewhere - as we know - but in Spain, it is the case that you have to consider much of what appears in the media in terms of motive. And whose motive, more to the point.

The two stories - Delgado and the deer, Mas and the alleged kickbacks - are very different. The first should be treated for what it is, the story of a politician who has provided a moment of high but warped comedy; the second, if the story proves to be without foundation (and there may be some foundation), is far more serious. Spain is a country that might fall apart because of Mas and Catalonia. It still has an immature and undeveloped sense of real democracy, one that would be enhanced by Catalonia staying where it is, i.e. inside Spain, but being a constant thorn in the state flesh to ensure that this democracy is one day truly demonstrated. But within this immaturity there is a fourth estate which has yet to demonstrate that it might genuinely one day claim to be independent. For now, too many rats can be smelt, and too often.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Prosecutor seeks 8.2 million euro "bail" from Urdangarin and Torres

The chief anti-corruption prosecutor is to call for a bail amounting to 8.2 million euros to be paid by the King's son-in-law Iñaki Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres. This is a civil bail, which means that it would not result in imprisonment were it not to be paid. The purpose of it is to cover any what are described as "civil responsibilities" arising from charges that the two face in respect of the ongoing investigation "caso Nóos".

See more: El Mundo

MALLORCA TODAY - One of the Lluc walk barriers comes down

Ahead of the planned "reclaim" walk on 25 November along the old way between Pollensa and Lluc, the new owner of the one of the fincas on the route has taken down an automatic gate that blocked the right of way.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.20am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 21C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Southwest 3 to 4 easing to variable 2 by the evening.

Largely cloudy but still fairly bright, there should be sun for some of the day but becoming cloudier still by the afternoon. Tomorrow mainly cloudy, but the weekend should be brighter.

Afternoon update (17.45): And it was mainly sunny, with a high of 21.5C.

The Deerhunter: Carlos and the cojones

Spain does have something of an issue when it comes to hunting. Because of a desire to open fire on wildlife and deprive it of life, it succeeds in conveying an impression of being less than animalistically correct. Not so long ago there was the poor old monarch taking a blunderbuss to elephants in Botswana and getting himself stripped of the title of honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund as a result. Now we have the Balearics tourism minister. Carlos Delgado went and topped a monarch of the glen and in celebration placed the deer's testicles on top of his head. The King shoots Dumbo and Carlos shoots Bambi.

It really isn't a particularly pleasant picture, the one of Carlos with the cojones: a smiling, nay euphoric Delgado, victory-V signs with both hands, blood trickling down his happy fizzog and the two veg of the stag lying on a garnish of tourism minister hair. There are certain things that I might place on my head, a cap for example, but personally I would draw the line at Bambi's bollocks. Carlos, evidently, is not quite so squeamish. I wonder where the balls are now.

As you can probably imagine, the image of the triumphant tourism minister with his testicular trophies hasn't gone down well with some people: the animal rightists, for instance. This is no image for a tourism minister to be displaying. What will people think of Mallorca if its tourism minister can shoot defenceless creatures, remove their tackle and turn it into headgear? Resign! Resign!

It isn't an especially endearing image it has to be said. But it is an image with a bit of history. It's not as if Carlos went off last week and hunted his prey. He did so when he was still mayor of Calvià, i.e. before he became minister. The photo dates back eighteen months or longer. Which does rather beg the question as to why it has now only surfaced.

In an interview with the IB3 television channel, Delgado has said that the photo (photos in fact) were in an album in his former home. He is of course separated from his wife, a fact that became evident when he appointed his girlfriend to a post in the ministry and then had to remove her because of the outcry. Someone, he said in the interview, had passed the photos to a newspaper. And the newspaper which published the photos is one that has its own issue - one with Delgado.

The opposition parties are, naturally enough, having a field day. It's an example of politicians indulging in pastimes which make them appear to be laughing at the people of the Balearics when they are suffering so badly because of economic crisis. This has echoes of the King's elephantine error in Botswana. A similar thing was said about him swanning off on a hunting trip when the people of Spain were heading towards a state of penury, if they hadn't already arrived at it.

A further criticism that the opposition has levelled is a broader one of the composition of the Balearic Government's cabinet. It is male and male alone and has been since the health minister (the first one, that is) resigned; the second one was male, as is the third. So, Delgado and his hunting trip is indicative of a male-dominated government. Or something like this. I confess that I don't quite follow the logic, but then it is the logic of the female-dominated PSOE. I suppose the logic is that were the cabinet full of women, rather than going on hunting trips, they would all be out on shopping trips buying shoes. Or maybe jackets made with deer hides.

There is of course a serious side to this. The photo doesn't convey a good image, and it is no use Delgado or the government pretending that it does. Moreover, coming on top of various mishaps and personal embarrassments that the government and individual ministers have experienced recently, this latest one simply adds to the embarrassment. One does, however, wonder as to the timing of the photo's emergence into the public domain so soon after ministers Bosch and Company were found to have been off on allegedly private diving trips at public expense.

But then, there is a different serious side to the whole affair. Delgado is minister for sport as well as tourism. Hunting is considered to be a sport, though some might disagree. It may not be huge business, but there is international tourism to be gained from hunting. In the mountains above Alcúdia, the quality of the goats is first-rate, and certification awarded a few years ago says so. This is goat quality for quality huntsmen to take aim at. Perhaps, therefore, Delgado's photo is not all bad news and all bad image. Mind you, I don't know what they do with goats' testicles.

* If you want to see the photo of Delgado, which I'm not reproducing because of copyright as opposed to any sensitivity, then go here for example:

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa auditorium money is wanted back

When the decision was taken some months ago to not go ahead with the construction of the auditorium in Pollensa, it was hoped that the town hall would get back money it had invested in the project (getting on for 700,000 euros) from the regional government. To date, the money has not been forthcoming, and the PSM in Pollensa is insisting that it should be and should come from the regional government's budget.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa's refuge to be privatised

It has taken several months to confirm but the Council of Mallorca has finally and officially set in motion the process to privatise two of the five refuges on the Tramuntana dry stone route, one in Deià, the other by the Roman bridge in Pollensa. The debt for running the refuges in 2011 was 600,000 euros, hence the decision to privatise. The services offered to walkers by the refuges will not be changed under the planned privatisation.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 12C
Forecast high: 20C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): Northwest 3 backing Southwest later.

A chilly, sunny morning with little by way of breeze. Remaining sunny until the evening. Tomorrow is also set to be mainly sunny.

Afternoon update (17.30): Very nice day it has been, a high of 21C.

Holiday Lets: Now they go national

There is no single national law that applies to holiday rental accommodation and no single national body that represents the holiday let sector. These two issues were highlighted at a recent conference in Madrid, the call going out for there to be a law and a unified organisation that can liaise more effectively with legislators.

The various regions of Spain all have their own laws regarding holiday rentals, and these 17 separate laws have given rise to a chaotic situation, to uncertainty and to difficulties in regulating holiday lets. The need for appropriate legislation has become ever more urgent, the holiday let market in Spain as a whole increasing annually at a rate of 30%. 

The reasons for the rapid increase in this market are obvious. There is a vast stock of homes that stand empty for good periods of the year and a desire on behalf of the holidaymaker to find savings; without middlemen being involved, direct contact between owners and renters can result in such savings. And given the benefits that this form of tourism can deliver - both to local economies and the national economy - businesses engaged in holiday rentals appreciate the need for there to be proper and effective legislation and for a proper voice to represent their interests.

A national law that should apply to holiday lets, the tenancies act, is to be reformed, Madrid acknowledging that when it was drawn up in 1994 it didn't specify tourism rental accommodation and also acknowledging the necessity for harmonisation of the legal situation across the different regions of Spain. The national government is, however, coming at the reform from one particular way, that of addressing illegal accommodation. The emphasis is important, as it determines the thinking behind legislative change, and it is one that businesses in the holiday rental sector challenge because there is a resultant absence of emphasis on the professionalising of a tourism sector that is undergoing major development.

That there is a need for harmonisation is shown by the vast differences in regional approaches. We know all about the approach in the Balearics (and the Canaries). The total opposite to this is the approach being adopted in Catalonia where any form of accommodation is to be regularised and renters will also be subject to paying the new tourist tax.

But how easy (or difficult) would it be to harmonise legislation? Different situations apply in different regions, and in the different regions there are different, dominant voices and lobbies. The regions have the right to draw up their own tourism laws, as is the case in the Balearics, but these laws are not sacrosanct. National government can intercede and force changes to regional laws, and indeed Madrid has questioned clauses in the Balearics new tourism law which conflict with responsibilities of the state. One of the clauses that has been questioned does in fact refer to the "classification of tourism companies", one aspect of which is companies that commercialise tourist stays in homes (holiday lets in other words).

The principle exists, and it is a constitutional one, for national government to insist on amendments to regional legislation where it runs counter to state responsibilities or indeed European directives or law. In theory, therefore, national government could, were it of a mind to, override the Balearics legal hostility towards the holiday let market. In fact, national government is in a quandary on this issue, as the national tourism plan has recognised residential tourism as a strength. Residential tourism is usually taken to mean that provided by owners of second homes, those who come from other parts of Spain or overseas to stay in their homes. What the national government won't admit, though, is that this residential tourism means something else as well. It knows what it means - holiday lets - but is reluctant to say so.

This isn't altogether surprising when the national tourism minister and national tourism secretary of state are, respectively, from the Canaries and the Balearics, the two regions of Spain with the strongest legislation against holiday lets. Both José Manuel Soria and Isabel Borrego know full well how badly any more liberal approach to holiday lets would play with hoteliers in their home territories.

For the lobby and government in the Balearics that want to strengthen their case against illegal accommodation, reform of the national tenancies act is seen as a means of doing so. While Madrid's stance appears to be reform without taking account of a growing sector of the tourism market, the noises coming out of the recent conference give encouragement that Madrid might adopt a different attitude. I say might. Just remember, though, who Isabel Borrego is. She is a property expert, not a tourism expert. The tenancies act is property law and not tourism law.

Any comments to please.

Monday, November 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Car-hire associations attack new tax

The Balearic and national associations for car-hire firms have attacked the Balearic Government's intention to introduce a tax on car hire that could see daily rates rise by between 3.5 and nine euros. The associations dismiss the notion that the tax is for environmental purposes and suggest that the introduction of the tax next year could result in the closure of a number of firms and a fall of 30% in the number of vehicles.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2012

 No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 17C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): North and Northeast 6 with 7 at intervals receding to 4 to 5 and by the evening veering East 3 to 4.

Showers overnight, it is a cloudy and breezy morning, due to become sunny and the wind diminishing. Yellow advice in place for coastal and sea conditions that should pass by midday. Tomorrow is forecast to be a mainly sunny day. The outlook is changeable for the week.

Yesterday's rain, which was only heavy in parts of the northern area, was not as heavy as in the centre of the island where there has been some significant flooding.

Afternoon update (17.45): As forecast, things calmed down and it has been a decent day with a fair amount of sun. A high of 18.9C.

When Tourism Promotion Becomes An Obligation

So, bookings are already well up for holidays in the Balearics next summer, an increase achieved with the help of little promotional effort by the Balearic Government's tourism ministry. There has to be a moral to this story, and the simplistic one is that the individual islands are strong and resilient enough brands not to require a great deal of promotional effort.

I say simplistic, but this doesn't mean that the conclusion is entirely wrong. While competition to the Balearics has grown, one should place oneself in the shoes of the ordinary holidaymaker (British) who has to decide on next year's holiday destination. Of European destinations, there are several to choose from. The holidaymaker knows about these other destinations, he will probably have seen promotions for them all, but he still decides on Mallorca or another Balearic island despite an absence of promotion. Why?

One reason is the strength of the brand and what it represents. There is much to be said for a brand that has attributes of reliability and security as well as sun and beach. Mallorca is like a Volvo. You know what you're going to get, you know it won't go wrong and you know it'll be safe. The choice may not be original, but originality long disappeared from the decision-making choice of the ordinary holidaymaker. Everywhere does sun, beach, bars, culture, sports. There is little that can be claimed as unique. Throw in, for the British holidaymaker, a stronger pound and relatively short travel times to Mallorca, and the decision isn't so difficult. 

This rosy picture doesn't mean that promotion can be neglected, but one of the benefits of economic crisis has been a far greater appreciation as to how promotional euros should be spent. Tourism minister Delgado gets it in the neck for the paltry amounts that are on offer for promotion, but he has defended the ministry's budget by saying that there is greater imagination and less waste. It has taken time for the penny to drop, but three years ago when there was a general wailing and gnashing of teeth because of cuts to promotional funding, I said: "slash the budget even more and then make them think how they can make their money work harder".

There is more imagination that could be shown, especially when it comes to the use of social media, but I am willing to defend Delgado. He is not in thrall to a need to unearth celebrities and to pump funds into expensive advertising as former ministers (and presidents; well one certainly) were. If government coffers were stuffed with cash, he may well fall into the same trap, but he should be given credit for recognising that promotion does not have to mean a rubbish advert with Nadal on a boat.

Because of the high volume of tourism in 2011 and 2012 and the anticipation of a similar volume in 2013, the temptation exists to simply sit on laurels and expect tourists to turn up regardless. They may well do, but, and despite financial constraints, this is no reason to scale back promotion to the point where one day they may not; brand reliability or not. And one aspect of promotion that shouldn't be neglected is that of tour operator collaboration.

Joint promotional efforts with tour operators have been a staple of the tourism marketing mix for Mallorca and the Balearics. Their importance may be overstated as tour operators are not about to not invest in promotion when they have huge numbers of holidays to sell. The government can take the attitude that the promotion will be done anyway, but joint promotion is more than simply a marketing exercise; it is a recognition of the mutual benefits that tour operator-government relationships bring. In a sense, government financial support is like a subsidy to the tour operators, and though this sounds dodgy in a competition sense, it isn't. Indeed, there is more reason than ever for such joint promotions to be reinforced.

Mallorca and the tour operators face a similar issue in that the nature of tourism markets has changed to the extent that it has. Once upon a time, the market that Mallorca sold to was fairly homogeneous; it was primarily a northern European one that had one wish - sun. The message, though customised by language, was the same. This is no longer the case. There are now that many more markets, all of them more fragmented in terms of media and consumer sophistication or expectation, which provide competition to Mallorca and that many more markets which Mallorca has to promote to. For the tour operators, there are that many more markets to be promoted.

It may seem as if Mallorca is being held to ransom in having to chip in, but it isn't anything of the sort. The tour operators provide Mallorca's lifeblood, and the government shouldn't forget this. Peculiar though it will sound, there is a moral as much as an economic obligation to joint promotions.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Celta Vigo 1 : 1 Real Mallorca

Vigo, struggling following promotion, offered an opportunity for Mallorca to get back to winning ways after a lousy run of defeats. Without Tomer Hemed's goals, Mallorca would be in a bigger pickle than they are, and it was the Israeli international who suggested the winning ways might be returning, putting the visitors one up midway through a first period in which Mallorca had greater penetration and efforts on goal if a good deal less of the ball. Vigo's greater possession finally led to something positive ten minutes into the second half, South Korean international, Park Chu-young, on loan from Arsenal, scoring the equaliser.

A point at last for Mallorca who are 15th in La Liga, immediately above Vigo. Granada play later and their game may affect the positions.

Varas; Mallo, Vila, Tuñez, Bellvis; Oubiña, López; Fernández (De Lucas 64), Park Chu-young, Krohn-Dehli (Tomás 85); Aspas (Bermejo 72)
Goal: Park Chu-young (56)
Yellow: López (87)

Aouate; Ximo, Geromel, Conceiçao, Bigas; Pina (Arizmendi 72), Fontás (Martí 72); Nsue, Victor, Pereira; Hemed (Kevin 86)
Goal: Hemed (22)
Yellows: Bigas (31), Geromel (44), Fontás (57)

MALLORCA TODAY - Can Llobera work will start in December

Pollensa town hall, still not assured of receiving a grant from the Council of Mallorca, plans, nevertheless, to start work on restoring Can Llobera, the family home of the poet Miquel Costa i Llobera, and has dedicated 400,000 euros to the work. One concern with the work is that, given the location of the house, it may interfere with the pine that is brought into the Plaça Vella in Pollensa for the traditional climb during the Sant Antoni fiesta in January.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 November 2012

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.20am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 19C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca): East and Northeast 3 to 4 reaching Northeast 5 with the possibility of storms.

A reasonably bright start but the forecast isn't encouraging. Alerts in place for rain and storms, more likely in the afternoon. Rain due through the night but getting better and then a couple of sunny days before cloud returns by Thursday.

Afternoon update (17.45): The sun stayed around until later in the afternoon, storm clouds rolling in bringing rain, heavy in some areas. A high of 19.8C.

Mallorca Is Open To Business: Or is it?

The Balearic Government wants to make life easier for businesses. It wants to promote and encourage entrepreneurship, to simplify procedures, to make the finding of relevant information and relevant decision-makers easier, to attract foreign investors and to develop local talent.

It wants to do all these things and up to a point it is going about them in the right way. It talks the talk, but whether it walks the talk is another matter.

A gathering of mainly British businesspeople and others on Thursday last week at the offices of the Centre Balears Europa (CBE), part of the government's department of the presidency, was designed to impart information regarding "the changing landscape of business opportunity for European entrepreneurs in the the Balearic Islands". This was the title of the meeting at any rate.

It wasn't a bad meeting insofar as the most interesting aspect of it was to hear from a body that few people knew existed - the IDI, the institute for business innovation. It was interesting as there appear to be people within the institute, and by extension, therefore, the government, who do seem to know what they're talking about and who do seem to be genuinely committed to pursuing the objectives set out at the top of this article.

It was a pity, then, that I left the gathering with a distinct sense of pessimism, one formed by different factors: administrative structures, culture and attitudes.

There is an admission, and God knows why it has taken so long for there to be an admission, that governmental and agency structures that businesspeople have to confront are labyrinthine to say the least. Ultimately, what is needed is a flat structure, one which, culturally, places the user (the businessperson and/or company) above, and which serves this user. When there are as many agencies as there are, it is hard to see how such flatness can ever be achieved. Not while turf wars and vested interests remain endemic.

I give you a case in point as to how the government wanted to flatten decision-making but was denied the opportunity because of the interests of town halls and the Council of Mallorca. It was the process for obtaining permissions for hotel conversion. The town halls and Council were meant to have been taken out of the equation, but they refused to be. One-nil to the vested interests.

Changing bureaucratic structures can only come with a fundamental change of culture. This isn't necessarily a cultural change that brings about more Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards business, i.e. those which are more in tune with the needs of business and entrepreneurs, and away from an obstructive, everything in triplicate and then in triplicate again just to be sure, southern European mindset. These attitudes may well help, but there is also a question of cultural change of public sector mentality, and this is one that is universally obstinate in resisting change.

While the Balearics might look to northern Europe for guidance, it might be recalled how the British public sector once was. It still carries baggage from the past, but cultural change was one that proved hard, despite the insistence of Margaret Thatcher and then John Major. It can be done, but it doesn't happen overnight, especially if the structures inhibit or even prohibit its being effected.

Attitudes die hard. The landscape may apparently be changing for European entrepreneurs, but neither the CBE nor the IDI has fully cottoned on to the fact, if their websites are anything to go by. The best one can say is that the IDI does at least have a Castellano version; the CBE doesn't even have that. So much for an apparent wish to make English a language of business locally. Talking the talk (but only in Catalan), rather than walking it.

When there is a linguistic attempt to engage foreign investors, the attempt ends up being mind-boggling. I give you a different case in point: the translation into English of the new tourism law. Reader-friendly it most certainly wasn't.

Just how much do the Balearics and Mallorca want foreigners to invest and to pursue business activities? It is a key question, and I'm afraid that there is antagonism that stems from parochialism and even xenophobia (which is far more prevalent away from Palma and its cosmopolitan satellites, it should be noted). The reaction to Media Markt's opening from parts of the local business community has pretty much betrayed this antagonism, it being couched in an insular Mallorcan style.

But for big-ticket business, such xenophobia can be overcome. The labyrinth of bureaucracy can be worked through. Relationships can be formed easily with governmental leaders. Big-ticket business can do these things, but what of the small business or the one man? The IDI and the CBE might hope they can make life easier, and I wish them every success, but optimistic I am not.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Great Hiking Blog

Occasionally, I add links to blogs or other sites that are of real interest. A new one is to Steve Murray's blog dedicated to hiking and walking mainly but not exclusively in the Alcúdia and Pollensa area. An abundance of photos plus some brief descriptions and the odd surprise:

(Thanks to the forum (here) for this blog coming to my attention).

MALLORCA TODAY - Almost half the Balearic population in a "precarious" situation

A report by the Hacienda, entitled "Goodbye to the Middle Classes", suggests that 46% of the population in the Balearics is in a precarious financial situation, the consequence of loss of employment, salary cuts and government measures. The findings of the report indicate that there are over 75,000 adults with no income and just under 440,000 who are "mileuristas", i.e. those who manage to scrape a monthly income of a thousand euros.

See more: Ultima Hora