Sunday, June 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Boat matriculation tax to be scrapped

The highly contentious matriculation tax on yachts, which includes one on yachts of 15 metres or more that are intended for charter purpose, is to be scrapped. The government has finally seen sense in realising that no other country has such a tax and that it has been causing damage to the nautical industry. The report doesn't say when it will be eliminated.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 21C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 3 to 4 and easing by the evening to 2 to 3.

Sunday. The sun is out. It's going to be hot. The beaches will be packed. Outlook for the next few days: sun and heat.

Evening update (20.00): Lovely day, a high inland of 27.5C and just over 26C on the coast. Perfect weather really; not too hot, but hot enough.

The Honest Serving Men Of The Pollensa Festival

History cannot be defined purely by two points in time. Obsessing as to dates is an obsession with temporal factuality. An end date may denote a closing, as in someone dying, but it is never a true closing. The same is the case with a start date. One can apply only some of Kipling's six honest serving men to historical start and end points. Who, where, when and what can each apply. How and why, however, cannot be applied; they demand explanation.

Mallorca's history has been packaged into easily-digested nuggets that are in a constant state of regurgitation. These are small bags of mini-snackettes residing on an internet convenience-store shelf. They are history-lite for the searcher and surfer after factual-truth start, end or happened points in time that are of little more consequence than answers in a pub quiz. The honest serving men of who, where, when and what are not dishonest, but there is a dishonesty that stems from the all-too-often absence of the how and why honest serving men, the ones who reach beyond, behind and inside the polarities of the temporal factuality. 

We know, as examples, the happened points in time of the Romans coming and of King Jaume I coming. We therefore know the start and end points in time of Roman occupation and of Jaume's Mallorcan lineage. But what do we really know of the hows and whys? Or of the pre and post points in time?

The internet has given us these factoid nuggets. They are there for all to see on all sorts of sites. They are convenient and they are comfortable; comfortable because the surfer after factual truth can take comfort in a little knowledge not going very far. He doesn't really want any more. Normally.

I'll give another example, one that can be easily found, as it is so readily repeated in the web's convenience store. The Pollensa Festival. We know the where - Pollensa; we know the what - the festival; we know the when - September 1962; we know the who - Philip Newman. We know that Newman founded the festival and that its start point was September 1962. But then what? There are two missing questions. How did he come to found it and, more obviously, who the hell was Philip Newman?

There is a street in Pollensa town which bears Newman's name. Below the name of the street the sign reads "hijo adoptivo". Newman was an adoptive son of the town, thanks to the festival. But his adoption was the result of only a relatively short period in time. The pre point to the start point of the Pollensa Festival goes back only some months. The end point (where Newman was concerned) was a mere four years after the start point. He died in November 1966.

Newman was adopted because he became revered in Pollensa, and this reverence is reflected in the scant explanations that wrap themselves around the Newman-Festival factoid nugget. Oft repeated, they amount to little more than a declaration that he was a famous, esteemed, leading (choose whichever adjective you prefer) British violinist.

Newman was a leading violinist. Indeed, he has been described as having been one of the greatest of his time. But famous? Famous to whom? To the British? The answer is no. He was little known in his native country. His fame was cultivated primarily in Belgium (he was close to the royal family), then in Portugal and ultimately in Mallorca.

History is most definitely not the sterility of dates and points-in-time facts. But there is a semantic straightjacket in English which can bring about such sterility; the two separate words of history and story. The Spanish don't make a distinction. Nor, for instance, do the Germans. Stories are history, they are parts of the hows and whys. But of Newman, we know little of these as they apply to the Pollensa Festival.

It is important, beyond merely knowing more about this great man's founding of the festival, that there is an appreciation of the stories that have combined to make Pollensa the arts and cultural centre it has become. Important because the festival itself has widened its scope to embrace different elements of the arts. It is an international festival, and the cosmopolitan roots of the town's arts culture draw not just on a Briton, Newman, but also on artists from Argentina (Diehl and Cittadini).

This is all important because a tradition is threatened. The staggering ineptitude that has been displayed by some actors in the Pollensa Festival story could mean the curtain coming down once and for all. Were it to, then perhaps one might say that a definitive end point had been reached. It would be a fact of the when variety. But unlike the absence of how and why knowledge of Newman's founding of the festival, we will know only too well the hows and whys of its demise. And the whos.

Any comments to please.

Index for June 2013

Advertising words - 13 June 2013
Alcúdia's industrial estate - 6 June 2013
Alcúdia's mini-train - 2 June 2013, 8 June 2013
Balearics' green taxes' climbdown - 5 June 2013
Bild and Playa de Palma - 25 June 2013
Carlos Delgado and Radio Calvia affair - 29 June 2013
Catalan and 2015 elections - 3 June 2013
Cinema and illegal downloading - 24 June 2013
Education ministers - 23 June 2013
Espionage in the Balearics - 14 June 2013
Essex and Mallorca - 17 June 2013
Eurovegas and smoking - 1 June 2013
Haircuts on holiday - 10 June 2013
Hotel receptions' design - 26 June 2013
Hotels and illegal accommodation - 18 June 2013
Mallorca's safety and reliability - 28 June 2013
Management disrespect - 20 June 2013
Moors and Christians nominations - 19 June 2013
Party boats - 4 June 2013
Petitions - 22 June 2013
Philip Newman and the Pollensa Festival - 30 June 2013
Spain and the European Nations Cup - 15 June 2013 - 27 June 2013
Summer music - 12 June 2013
Super-reduced rate of IVA - 7 June 2013
Tenancy Act reform and holiday lets - 11 June 2013
Tourism history article - 16 June 2013
Tourism logos - 21 June 2013
Town hall reform - 9 June 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Protest against "privatisation" of the sea in Formentor

A protest flotilla will tomorrow register its discontent with the charging for buoys for boat users at the Punta Avançada in Formentor, a popular bay with both locals and tourists. Buoys have been here before but they were free. Now, for the first time, a private firm will oversee the collection of an eleven euro charge. Opposition parties at Pollensa town hall have approved a motion for a report to be drawn up which will guarantee the free use of the bay.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Restoration work on the Calvari completed

The government delegate for the Balearics, Teresa Palmer, was yesterday shown around recently restored sites in Pollensa, including the Calvari oratory and steps, that will form part of a cultural route in the town and one aided by the latest mobile technologies (though the report here doesn't actually say what these are).

See more:  Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Cifre threatens to drop the Pollensa Festival

The concerts for this year's Pollensa Festival finally having been sorted out, Mayor Tomeu Cifre has warned that the festival may be dropped next year because of what he calls a lack of co-operation by others parties at the town hall. The latest row has to do with seating and pricing, and despite prices being reduced, the opposition has not been happy because the mayor has acted unilaterally. This is not exactly the first time he has been accused of doing this, but on this occasion, perhaps it should be accepted that he has acted well.

Meanwhile, the festival is to extend into Alcúdia this year, Michael Nyman, who headlined the festival last year, playing a concert at the auditorium on 27 August. The festival's budget, a mere 150,000 euros, might be beefed up if other funding can be found that would allow more events to be staged. There are to be five concerts, all in August (so the festival is shorter than previously). The final programme with full details will be available this coming week.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 2 to 3 veering North 3 to 4 and easing in the afternoon to East 2 to 3.

Bright and sunny, and this is how it should be for the foreseeable future. Getting hotter over the next few days.

Evening update (20.00): An inland high of 29.2C on a very sunny day. Highs slightly under 27 on the coast, but the sun was fierce.

Carlos And The Torrent Of Abuse

My guess would be that few of you will have heard of the film character José Luis Torrente. He is an interesting character in that, other than being a policeman (I think he has moved on to being an ex-policeman), he is also a racist, a Francoist, a fascist, a sexist, a frequenter of prostitutes, a heavy drinker and, as if this wasn't bad enough, a fan of Atlético Madrid.

Torrente was/is a character dreamt up by Santiago Segura, an actor and film producer. In what has since become a series of four Torrente films, he first appeared in the 1998 "Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley", which translates as "Torrente, the stupid arm of the law".

Segura's Torrente franchise has suddenly been propelled stage centre into a new Mallorcan political drama. Carlos and the Torrente of abuse. Well, Torrente (or torrent) of abuse is rather overstating things, but it sounds good as a title and it does allude to what the master of the foot firmly in it, tourism minister Carlos Delgado, has had to say about the Guardia Civil, and specifically about a report by the Guardia into matters at Radio Calvia when Carlos was mayor. This report forms the basis of a Guardia request to a judge to subpoena Delgado so that he has to make a declaration in respect of the awarding of contracts at the radio station. By implication, the Guardia believes he may have a case to answer.

What is now being referred to as the "caso Radio Calvia" first came to light in March when the Guardia raided Calvia town hall, which was pretty dramatic stuff in itself. The Guardia was acting on a complaint lodged against Delgado by the PSOE party in Calvia. This alleged irregularities in respect of the awarding of contracts, and PSOE said that there could be evidence of "bribery, embezzlement, abuse of public office and the peddling of influence". Also named in PSOE's complaint were the current mayor, Manuel Onieva, and the current and former managers of the station. It went on to suggest that irregularities related to a period from 2005 to 2011.

At the time of the raid, Delgado insisted that the contracts were in accordance with the law governing awards in the public sector. He accused PSOE of "malicious misrepresentation" but said that if he were to be indicted (i.e. subpoenaed), he would abide by the ethical code of the Partido Popular, meaning that he would place himself in the party's hands. It could choose to relieve him of his position as tourism minister or not.

In fact, if the judge does decide to indict him, the PP would face no alternative than to force him to resign. To do anything else would make a mockery of its ethical code. Its spokesperson, Nuria Riera, has said that Delgado has the party's full support, but whether he would still have it, were the judge to accede to the Guardia's petition, must be open to doubt.

Delgado doesn't believe that he will be indicted. And he said so at a press conference, which is where the reference to Torrente comes into the story. Among other things, Carlos reckoned that the Guardia's investigation was "typical of Torrente". In English, we would say that it was like something out of a Torrente movie. At the press conference, Delgado highlighted what he claimed were inconsistencies and contradictions in the Guardia investigation report (getting dates mixed up or wrong, for instance). This might not have been so bad, but it was the terms in which he dissed the report and so therefore the Guardia which has really produced the drama.

Just look back at Torrente's character and at the title of his first film. I rest my case, m´lud might be the words of a prosecutor defending the Guardia's honour. It must be remembered that in Spain there are certain institutions you do not go around disrespecting, and the Guardia is most definitely one of them. It is not above criticism, but disrespect is taken a dim view of, and the Guardia is not happy that its professionalism has been challenged in the way that it has been.

Delgado has had his moments of gaffe, none more so than the photo of him with the deer's testicles on his head. It didn't exactly do him any favours, but that was more a case of him being opened up to potential ridicule rather than it having been a resignation matter. Now, however, and regardless of whether he is indicted or isn't, he may find it hard not to resign. If he had stuck to the inconsistencies line and that alone and left it to the judge to decide if there are indeed inconsistencies in the investigation report, then calls for him to go would not necessarily be being made pre-emptively. But he didn't. And worse still, he has picked an institution of which it makes little sense to make an enemy.

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.30am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 increasing to Northeast 4 to 5, easing in the afternoon to 2 to 3 and by the evening back to Variable 2 to 3.

A hazy morning once again. Mainly sunny but there is still a risk of a shower later. Weekend's forecast looks ok and that for next week very good with highs back towards the 30 mark.

Evening update (20.00): Remained quite hazy all day. No sign of any rain though and plenty of sun nevertheless. A high of 26.6C, the coastal areas beating the inland areas for once.

Mallorca Is A Volvo

Volvos have long been considered to be very safe and very reliable but terminally boring. In days gone by when perceived lack of safety or reliability dogged other cars, a Volvo's boredom factor was worth accepting as a trade-off against a steering-wheel suddenly coming off in your hands or the ignition flatly refusing ever to ignite. Nowadays, all cars (well, most) are safe and reliable. And most are boring. The regular family car, whatever its make, is like the regular family holiday. The family wants to know that it will be safe, it wants somewhere that is reliable and isn't prone to suffer all manner of breakdowns in service, and it will quite happily go to destinations which, while they may be boring, if only because of familiarity, are chosen as the trade-off against lack of safety or reliability. The Volvo may no longer be pre-eminent as the ultra-safe, ultra-reliable and ultra-boring motor car, but there remains a pre-eminince of similar virtues in the family holiday industry. This industry doesn't have the same homogeneity of attributes across its different makes.

Mallorca is a Volvo. Of course, it isn't boring in the sense of there being nothing to do, because there obviously is, but it is boring because of its familiarity. And this familiarity is proving to be the island's single greatest asset along with its safety and reliability. There's nothing wrong with a Volvo. Indeed, there is a great deal to commend a Volvo, the Volvo of the family holiday industry, because not all other destinations have the same attributes as the Mallorcan Volvo has.

One can understand why the local tourism industry rushes to the island's defence when a report like that in "Bild" the other day suggests that safety may not be guaranteed (if only in one or two resorts). Undermine the safety factor, and the Volvo status is also undermined. One can also understand why everyone gets into a blind panic at the mere mention of strikes affecting transport. Undermine the reliability factor, and that Volvoism is also threatened. One can also understand the pride expressed in new ventures for modernising resorts, but this is modernisation which needs to come with an appreciation of maintaining the familiar. Improve, enhance, make more beautiful, but never lose sight of why the familiarity arose in the first place.

Mallorca can anticipate its third successive bumper tourist crop. Occupancy statistics for hotels show levels to be at least as high as 80% for July and August, and these mean that they will turn out to be very much higher; last-minute will see to that. And last-minute is being aided, as ever, by the less than total presence of the two key factors of safety and reliability. Turkey has unrest, Egypt can never be totally relied upon, and even Croatia, deemed one of Mallorca's greatest competitors, if not the greatest, cannot claim reliability in one very important respect - it doesn't have anything like the hotels to accommodate the numbers which come to Mallorca.

The Volvo is being exported in ever larger numbers not just to the traditional markets but also to the newer ones. More Russians than ever are coming to Mallorca, as we knew they would be, but there are more Brits, more Germans and more Nordic types (especially, no doubt, the Volvo-loving Swedes).

So, everyone will be congratulating themselves on another excellent summer. The hoteliers will be happy and are already happy, and this will make, as always, their attacks on the so-called illegal offer seem more bizarre than ever. The government will be happy. Growth is returning. Jobs are back. But these are the usual back-slapping suspects. It will be the others out there who aren't congratulating themselves, those running on empty caused by lower tourism spends, all-inclusives and the great divergence in terms of the resorts' have and have-nots.

Safe, reliable, familiar. The Mallorcan Volvo attracts its millions, and the hoteliers and the government can laud its attributes and attribute a highly successful season to this consistency of performance. The only trouble is that, for much of the time, the Volvo never leaves the garage.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.15am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 4 to 5 easing during the afternoon to Northeast 3.

Hazy morning cloud giving way to sun. Decent enough day in store but tomorrow there is a risk of a shower in the morning. The weekend looks fine, and temperatures likely to rise next week.

Evening update (19.30): Good and sunny but with a bit of a haze all day. A high of 25.7C, temperatures pretty much the same inland and coastal for once.


There is a new website portal for travellers to Spain. It is sort of new. has been relaunched. And relaunched with some fanfare as well as some anxiety.

The new, improved, an all-Spain travel information system that falls under the national tourism promotion agency Turespaña, is going to be all-singing, all-dancing. Possibly. It isn't exactly all-singing or all-dancing just at present, despite the fanfare of its relaunch that might have suggested it would be.

The revamped system works but only after a fashion. I have put it to a few simple tests, using the "international English" version of the site. The first test was to find accommodation. Now, where does one find this? It isn't listed on the main banner menu. It must be under "What are you looking for?". No, not there. "Practical information"? Yes, there it is. How silly of me to think that it would have been listed under the more obvious heading.

By default, having clicked on "Accommodation", a search for "Hotels" comes up. There is a downwards arrow with the Hotels banner to suggest you can look for other types of accommodation. It doesn't work. Not to worry, there are five other types listed below and they have upwards arrows. How about flats? Yep, that works. So, let's find Mallorca. Enter. And what do you get? Seven pages of rental agencies and estate agents in places other than Mallorca.

Not to worry, let's try Hotels anyway. Mallorca. Enter. What do you get? Page upon page upon page, starting not with Mallorca but with Almeria. I didn't bother to wade through the numerous pages to discover if there were indeed any hotels for Mallorca.

What about transport? There's a specific "Book your trip" thing on the home pages. Flights or trains. Let's go for flights. Origin: let's use London Luton. Destination: Palma de Mallorca. Enter. What do we get? Another portal. Skyscanner. In Spanish, not English. It wants the origin and destination information again, as it seems not to have registered this. Enter. Ah, four flights. Easyjet. As I might have expected.

These few and simple tests were not wholly satisfactory, though of course one of them wouldn't be expected to throw up any information. Flats. Mallorca. If there were any information, it would be very odd and it would also be very illegal, according to the Balearics Government at any rate. Moreover, it may well become very illegal in other parts of Spain (if it isn't already), now that the Tenancy Act has shifted responsibility to regional governments to enact legislation that may (or may not) be along the same lines as that in the Balearics. Even if these other regional governments don't have the same attitude, the very presence of "Flats" on what is a Spanish Government website is odd in itself. This is a Spanish Government which, as with the Balearics Government, wants to stamp out the so-called illegal offer, and that, by and large, means flats. Maybe someone will point this anomaly out to Segittur, the governmental organisation which specialises in tourism technologies and which has been responsible for overhauling

The fanfare for the relaunch, with national tourism minister José Manuel Soria blowing the loudest trumpet, included reference to grand features such as being able to compare prices for flights, which is all fine and dandy, but isn't it a bit late? Google Flights and others are already doing this. So, the finder is useful but not exactly innovative, while it isn't actually its finder system anyway; it's Skyscanner's. 

The upgraded website has caused anxieties amongst Spain's travel agents, who were under the impression that users would be able to book direct and so miss them out. This isn't the case, so the travel agents can breathe more easily. But to what extent the portal will create additional business for them may be questionable.

Much will depend on how easy users find the system, and the initial impression is that it isn't as easy as it might be. Perhaps there are teething troubles, though it looks more like the website has been put up without having been finished. If it has been, then no one's going to be booking any hotels in Mallorca.

More than this, though, is whether users actually think to go to a site for Spain if they want to go to Mallorca (or any other part of Spain). Put another way, do travellers think "Spain" rather than individual parts of the country? Rather like the "Marca España" is now a questionable concept, so a whole-country internet travel portal is also questionable. 

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Threatened strikes at petrol stations called off

The threat of petrol stations across Spain being brought to a standstill has been removed, agreement having been reached on pay and working hours between the unions and the association which represents petrol stations.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 4 to 5. Swells of two metres easing to one metre by night time.

A clearer and brighter morning and a day with plenty of sunshine. There still remains the possibility of a spot of rain at the end of the week and into Saturday, though it does appear to be reducing.

Evening update (18.30): Clouded over in the later afternoon. A high of 25.7C.

Hotels For Space Travellers

The video for Goldfrapp's "Pilots" features a futuristic departures lounge for space-travel crews. The design is clean, extremely clean. It is a design with whites, greys, silvers. Clean lines. Minimalism. Wall decoration is confined to quadratic shapes of dark greys and off-whites. Futuristic it is, but it is a futurism of the current day.

A few years ago, an Iberostar hotel in Playa de Muro underwent a reception-area transformation. Iberostar, a chain of superlative hotels which in barely more than a generation has grown from nothing to be one of the world's top brands, does design exceptionally well, and this particular reception was no different. It was all but space age. One could have imagined Alison Goldfrapp singing through speakers in the reception. "We're pilots watching Iberostars."

Context in design is everything, be the design interior or exterior. A four-star hotel being repositioned in terms of image can well qualify for a reception-area makeover that converts it into a 21st-century airport lounge. The Iberostar is far from the only example and far from the only example where this approach has worked well. Another hotel in Playa de Muro, Las Gaviotas, adopted a not dissimilar approach and all but recreated the "Pilots" video. It is excellent use of clean interior design that has removed the clutter and has concentrated on minimalist monochromes and creams.

The excellence of this design would not be so excellent if it were inappropriate. And this is where context is relevant. Las Gaviotas, through the simple addition of "Suites" to its name and supported by the sophistication of its design renovation, changed itself totally. One of the original hotels in the resort, it went from being of the old school to the new age, and its transformation was one undertaken before all the Balearics tourism-law talk of modernisation of resorts and hotel stock. As importantly, it went in search of a four-star market in accordance with its clean-lines makeover.

The context is three-fold. One is location, the second is the market, the third is the whole marketing package. Iberostar is essentially a marketing operation. Everything it does supports its image and its preferred market, and this is not a market of the low-rent variety. But perhaps more significantly, it doesn't adopt a single approach. What is right for one hotel isn't right for another.

However, a trend towards the Goldfrapping of hotel receptions has produced some questionable results. Where Iberostar can sensibly and boldly go space-age in a particular hotel, others do so, or appear to do so, on the basis of design flavour of the era rather than context.

Plenty of hotels need and have needed new designs. This is unquestionably so. One, in Puerto Alcúdia, was of such antiquity that when you opened its formerly wooden-framed doors, their stickiness suggested that they might come off in your hand. It went the "Pilots" route, as have others with varying degrees of greys, whites and aluminiums.

In pure design terms there is little to be critical of. Indeed, and on the one hand, the sophistication of this clean approach makes a statement of respect to customers. But on the other hand, is it the right approach? Only if everything else supports it. If, though, the market remains as it has long been - three-star, mainly economy-class, traditional family - is there not more to be said for design that conveys a more homely feel rather than one that is preparing the customer for lift off to Alpha Centauri? The potential downside of the "Pilots" treatment is that a statement of sterility is made: clean lines for clean rooms; laboratory-ism for receptions.

Another example, also in Puerto Alcúdia, is fine as an isolated element, but it doesn't match the rest of its package. Indeed, its marketing package is minimal to the point of non-existence. It is re-design without re-designing the market. It is without context.

The hotel reception is just one example of how a particular concept has caught on in Mallorca and not always for the best. Another is what one sees with residential accommodation. It, too, has embraced the clean approach of monochromes and steel and placed it in a box; architectural Cubism for the modern day. It's fine, there is nothing wrong with it, but is the context right? Moorish features with the colours of Mallorca - terracottas, yellows, oranges, even blues - these are the context of heritage and of the natural environment, now being edged out by living space for a space age alongside hotel receptions for space travellers. Maybe the context is right after all.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Hoteliers attack "Bild" report

The president of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation has led criticisms of the report in the German newspaper "Bild" on Sunday which described Mallorca's "dark" side and focussed on issues such as prostitution. Describing "Bild" as sensationalist, he has said that the paper indulges in such reporting every one or two years, but has neglected Mallorca's quality.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 easing by late afternoon to 3. Swells to two metres reducing.

A morning of mainly light cloud, clearing later. Cloud about for most of the week with some risk of rain especially on Friday, improving over the weekend with temperatures set to climb.

Evening update (20.00): Cloud and coolish weather until the afternoon, picking up to a high inland of 25C; on the coasts 23+.

Every "Bild" Tells A Story

"The seventeenth state topples." Germany has sixteen states, its sixteen Bundesländer. These are sixteen states within the borders of Germany. There is a seventeenth. Mallorca. Germany's relationship with Mallorca is not the same as Britain's or any other country's. It is a great deal more intimate. Mallorca is not just a holiday destination, it is as though it is an honorary member of the Bundesrepublik.

"Bild" deals with the sensationalist. It is very popular, but there are plenty of Germans who look down their noses at it, just as there are Germans who would look down their noses at Mallorca.

The German relationship is, in these respects therefore, not dissimilar to Britain's relationship with Mallorca. And as with the British press, "Bild", where Mallorca is concerned, both giveth and taketh away. "Germany's favourite island," it headlined a special feature in May to announce its collaboration with Air Berlin to fly lucky winners to Mallorca for the broadcast of "Wetten dass ...?". With a nod in the direction of Mallorca's culture, it offered mentions of Chopin and Valldemossa before getting down to the real business and a description of the island's "dream beaches".

A month or so on and "Bild" has shown its other side. The taketh away side. The seventeenth state toppling side. The darker side. And Mallorca's "dark summer" side.

It stings when foreign media attack Mallorca. It stung Magalluf when it was discovered that the BBC had exposed its darker side. It has stung in the past when "Bild" has been critical or been sensationalist. It was "Bild" which reckoned that bird flu in Germany had been brought back from Playa de Palma. And once again, it is Playa de Palma that the newspaper has turned its attention to. Playa de Palma, Arenal, the main German tourist centre on the island.

It stings, but who is really stung? Is it the tourist, either regular or prospective? Or is it the sensitive Mallorcan or resident of the island? It depends, in part, on the novelty aspect of the sensationalism; in part, on the accuracy and the truth. The BBC claimed that it would be telling the truth about Magalluf, but then truth was a good word to include in a programme title. You knew what was coming, and it didn't disappoint. But nor did it say anything that wasn't already known. "Bild" has said nothing that isn't already known. Problems in Playa de Palma show, and have shown, that Magalluf's problems are not unique; the main difference lies with the nationality.

Has the BBC's documentary made any noticeable difference to Magalluf, either in terms of numbers or in terms of actions taken to eradicate problems? As to the former, the answer would appear to be no. As to the latter, well possibly it has. The programme was criticised, but it stung; there was truth, even if it was only a certain truth and nothing but the whole truth. Will "Bild", using the oldest journalistic trick in the book, of starting its article with a series of negatives - binge-drinking, mugging whores, criminal gangs, gambling tricks, cheap sex, fatal balcony falls - make any difference to a German public familiar with issues in Playa de Palma and with the "Bild" style? Probably not. But it might just sting Palma and Llucmajor town halls.

The Spanish media does what it typically does when a full-frontal assault is launched by the foreign media. It closes ranks with outraged local authorities and others who would protest that a foul has been committed. It brandishes the "sensationalist" charge (not unreasonably and not inaccurately, admittedly) and, as has happened with the "Bild" article, dissects the facts and stats. Mallorca is not more dangerous than it used to be. Criminal incidents were down last year. "Bild" should get its facts right. This is the reaction.

Of course it should get its facts right, but if the facts are wrong, then why are there people in Magalluf and Playa de Palma who are sick to the back teeth with enduring problems that exist? Why are there petitions to get something done?

Yet, and here is the irony, the Spanish media, while eschewing the sensationalist, feeds the foreign media with its "facts". For instance, if "Bild" uses an image of young tourists drinking from an alcohol-filled bucket, this is no different to images that have been presented in the past by the Spanish press. 

"Bild" is sensationalist, but sensationalism has lost its power to sensationalise because of its ubiquity. Nevertheless, it can have some impact. "Bild" means picture. Every picture tells a story. It may not be the whole story, but it isn't necessarily the wrong story.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 20C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 4 to 5 easing to 3 by the afternoon. Swells up to two metres.

The sea had been quite noisy overnight and there has been a change to cloudier skies. Sun is out but cloud may be a feature for the next day or so. Slight drop in temperature as well.

Evening update (19.15): A high of just 23C inland, lower on the coast, on a day with a good deal of cloud and which, for some of it, was really long trousers weather.

Cinema's Black Weekends

The weekend before last was Black Saturday and Sunday for Spanish cinemas. Box-office takings were at their lowest ever. And they weren't just slightly lower; they were, as "El País"* reported, lower by a whopping 30%. Receipts amounted to not a great deal more than two million euros.

Weather may have had something to do with lower numbers, as also may have had the absence of a real box-office draw, but the slump was of such a level that these explanations aren't sufficient. The fact is that Spanish cinemas are in their own state of economic crisis. The national economic mess has only now really started to affect them; the previous record low before the 30% fall on Black Saturday and Sunday was in April this year.

A factor in this sudden fall, and it is impossible not to conclude that it must be a factor, is the rise in the cost of going to the cinema that was brought about by the increase in IVA to 21%. Though this increase was introduced some nine months ago, Spanish cinema-goers are suffering the cumulative effect of several months of 13% higher tax and have said enough is enough. Black Saturday and Sunday and the weekend in April have not been isolated weekends; four other weekends this year mean that 2013 has registered two-thirds of the worst weekends for box-office takings.

Economic crisis, though, has affected the cinema in a different way. Watching films hasn't become any less popular; indeed, it is probably more popular than ever. What better way of getting around the cost of an evening at the cinema and the 13% rise in IVA than by watching the latest film at home for free? Spain is acknowledged as Western Europe's leader when it comes to copyright piracy. 

For some years, the international film industry and especially Hollywood has taken a dim view of Spanish laxness in tackling illegal downloads and piracy. It also hasn't taken that kindly to Spanish courts having ruled on several occasions that file-sharing and the "torrenting" of copyright material, so long as it is for private use, is legal. Hollywood has applied more and more pressure, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring Spain's responses to the accusation of piracy champion of Western Europe. It has recently looked favourably on Spain by not putting it back on the so-called 301 Watch List of naughty-boy countries. But Spain is on probation. The USTR performs what it calls "out-of-cycle reviews", which mean that it can add a country to its watch list at any time and not just when it issues its annual list (which it did in May).

The principal reason for Spain having avoided being put back on the naughty list is the law on intellectual property. Originally called the Sinde Law (after the minister in the previous government), it has become a double-barrelled law, Sinde-Wert Law. Yes, its that man again. José Ignacio Wert, this time firmly with his culture hat on rather than his educational one. The legislation was enough to allow the USTR to look kindly on Spain.

The Spanish Government has pretty much admitted that the mere threat of trade sanctions by the USA through a failure to improve its intellectual property record has been the reason for the law; it couldn't have said anything else, once Wikileaks had established the fact. Whether there would ever be trade sanctions is questionable, but the government hasn't been taking any chances. It also wanted to avoid not just being put back on the watch list but being put on the priority watch list along with international copyright pariahs such as China, Pakistan and Russia.

The probation may, though, prove only to be probation. The USTR out-of-cycle review could well unearth enough concerns to put Spain back on the naughty chair, and the reason why is because the law has been proving to be ineffective. Under the law, there is a committee which receives requests to inspect websites suspected of providing material for illegal download. A year after it was set up, the committee had investigated only just over a hundred websites that warranted serious consideration and under a quarter of these investigations resulted in content being removed. Various organisations, such as one for film producers, have already lost faith in the committee's effectiveness and don't bother lodging complaints.

While the cost of going to the cinema may be the main reason for declining box-office numbers, there is another reason, and it is one that the government is still failing to address.

* El País

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 18C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3, then Northeast 3 during the morning, increasing to 4.

Another fine, sunny, fresh morning, and though the forecast is good, chances are there will be the same cloud build up that there has been the last couple of days.

Evening update (20.15): A cracking day, though there was some cloud later on. A high of 28.9C.

Gove v. Wert: Miseducation

Who would be an education minister? It's a thankless task. Before you even introduce whatever mad idea you have dreamt up, you should know that it will bring down on top of you an entire curriculum's worth of extremely brown, yucky, stinky opprobrium stuff. But politicians like becoming education ministers. Education is one thing they can all claim to have experienced, if only the receiving end. It was, for example, pointed out that the new Balearics education minister, lacking any other credential, had at least been to school. And as politicians have all had an education, they all reckon they know best, and their best is usually at variance to what everyone else thinks.

It wouldn't be so bad if education ministers weren't supercilious, dismissive, two-brained geeks, but, because being so appears to be a qualification for the job, such geekery only serves to reinforce an impression of self-centred, ideologically-driven aloofness. Take Michael Gove, for instance. The two giant brains do not prevent him from displaying a chronic lack of intelligence. Actually, it isn't a lack of intelligence, it is the malaise of men from the ministry of education; meddle a bit, meddle some more and, just to be sure, go into meddle overdrive.

Gove's retro-modernism isn't all totally stupid. Turning the clock back to the days of the O Level exam seems fair enough, if only to put a stop to Professor Google's takeover of GCSE coursework. His taking on of the "blob", the amorphous, self-interested leviathan of the universities, local authorities and unions, is all good, handing-education-over-to-parents, Tory knockabout stuff, but unfortunately for Gove, the blob is significantly larger than his own vast intellect. "He Was Consumed By The Blob" will be his ministerial obituary, if the blob hasn't been beaten to it by the historati, who have forced him to abandon his perfectly ludicrous insistence on teaching the manic-depressive, sociopathic opium addict who was Clive of India to small, impressionable children, some of whom, one imagines, are of Indian origin.

Gove does, though, have support, unlike Spain's education minister. José Ignacio Wert has achieved the remarkable for education politics: a consensus. The only trouble is that it is a consensus based on more or less everyone disagreeing with him, and the objectors include considerable numbers within the ranks of his own party. Wert's Law, as the new education bill isn't known (and it of course wouldn't be, despite the drive towards English as part of a trilingual system), is so toxic that not even other senior PP figures dare utter its Castilian name - Ley Wert. And it does indeed sound toxic, like some poisonous weed lurking among the nettles in the back garden.

Wert, who divides his ministerial time with culture as well, was invited along the other evening to the Teatro Real. He accompanied Queen Sofia in the royal box. The Queen, who has enough on her plate as it is with the various embarrassments regarding members of the family, could have done without Wert being there to add to her embarrassment. Imagine this, Madrid society is out in its tuxedo and tiara best, and when it comes to Wert being welcomed by the theatre's director, this society turns on him, boos him, demands his resignation and calls for public education for all.

The minister has thus far managed to inspire two general strikes in education since he became minister. He has antagonised the Catalan-speaking population by a programme of "castellanisation" in Catalonia in order to make students there feel greater national (i.e. Spanish) pride. He has even antagonised staunch Catholic supporters of the PP by the importance he is placing on religious education. Now, and this was really what got the booing classes of Madrid agitated, he's refusing to budge on minimum academic attainment levels that will qualify students for university grants. This is considered to be discriminatory against families with fewer resources.

In a wider context, it goes against ambitions to improve Spain's educational performance (which isn't anything like as good as it might be), as it may well lead to a fall in those entering higher education and so reduce chances of Spain improving its competitiveness (which is also not as good as it might be).

While Wert appears to be following a course to make the nation's young - including the Catalans - good, Catholic, not-so-well educated Spaniards, Gove has been agonising over Clive of India. Gove versus Wert? Well, at least some people think Gove is right.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Thousands leave Alcúdia for Menorca's Sant Joan fiestas

Some 3,000 people are expected to travel from Alcúdia's port to Menorca for the island's Sant Joan fiestas. There was particularly high demand for ferries yesterday, around 2,000 people (mostly young) having decided to head to Menorca where Sant Joan is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Threat of petrol station strikes in July and August

Summer's here and the strike threats emerge, this one to do with petrol service stations in Mallorca and nationally. All to do with pay, union demands don't appear to be that excessive, but negotiations have broken; hence, the threat of strike action for July, which could carry over into August if there is no resolution.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.30am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 2 increasing 3 to 4 and easing by the evening to Southwest 2 to 3.

Fresh, bright morning (the nights really have yet to be especially warm) and, though there is the possibility of cloud coming in again, sunny and very warm. Tomorrow, sunny and highs around 27.

Evening update (19.45): The cloud did indeed come in again this afternoon and looked threatening for a time. A high inland of 28C, with coastal tops just over 26C.

Sign Here: Petitions

In 2010, 180,000 signatures were gathered in Catalonia for a petition against bullfighting. This wasn't any old petition. It was a collecting of signatures that was an attempt to trigger an "iniciativa legislativa popular". Depending on the size of the population in any given legislative unit - so it can be national, regional, provincial or lower - if a minimum number of signatures are collected, the petition is then presented to the relevant authority and it has to take this petition as the basis for potential reform or action. Getting sufficient numbers to sign a petition doesn't mean that the authority has to act, but if it decides to consider the demand of the petition, this has to be debated in whatever is the legislative body (a parliament, for example). In Catalonia, the petition was debated in its parliament, with the result that the petition's demand was agreed to. Bullfighting was banned.

A further example of the popular legislative initiative was a nationwide petition to try and force the Spanish Government to reconsider its smoking ban (some half a million signatories were required, if memory serves). Even if the number had been collected, the government wasn't obliged to initiate reform; as I say, it is still the relevant body's decision as to whether it takes the petition forward. In Catalonia, it had suited the government there to accept the bullfighting-ban demand.

The right to petition is, as with other expressions of protest, enshrined in the Spanish Constitution. It might strike some strange that one should have to invoke the Constitution, but then you have to consider what came before the Constitution. And that's why this legal entitlement is taken seriously and also why petitions, of all sorts, are so widely raised.

At a very different level to the Catalonian petition, there was one in Pollensa some time ago. It raised the required number of signatures (not that many) to force the town hall to get its finger out and do what it had said it would do in opening up access to a particular walk in the town. The petition didn't change anything at local legislative level, just simply gave the town hall the nudge to shake it out of its inertia.

And now, there are other petitions doing the rounds; one in Alcúdia, one in Pollensa. The Alcúdia petition has been raised by taxi-drivers. They are hacked off with the tourist train that has returned this summer. And it would appear that it is not only the taxi-drivers who are upset. There are also the likes of the operators who hire out those tourist trike things. They reckon they're losing out to the tourist train, as well.

It hasn't happened yet, but there might be a counter-petition, one in favour of the train. And who was it suggested might like to organise it? I doubt that my assistance will be needed, as I doubt that the town hall will, even with a whole load of signatures, feel obliged to do anything with the taxi-drivers petition. Why, the town hall has asked, did no one raise any objections when the process for re-introducing the train was initiated?

Then there is the petition in Pollensa, and this one is hoping to shake the town hall out of further inertia, this time to do with the state of the beach in Formentor. Winter storms caused damage to the beach and reduced it to a right old state. Some of the beach, by the hotel, is back in sandy good order. It's the part which isn't by the hotel that remains a mess.

Something should be done. Formentor beach was a key image that was used in old poster advertising for Mallorca in the fifties and sixties. It is, to use an overworked word, "iconic". It is also a beach in an extremely attractive part of the island. Moreover, it is a beach that has just got its Blue Flag status back, and much though I am critical of the Blue Flag system, if you get the damn flag back, then you should make sure you don't then lose it again.

The trouble is that I'm not sure the petition is going to the right people. The town hall itself had its own problems with getting the Costas Authority to sort out other storm damage in Pollensa, so is Formentor not similarly an issue for the Costas? Maybe there should be a petition against too many levels of government and confusion as to which body has responsibility for what. It wouldn't work, though. The petition would go to the wrong authority.

Any comments to please.

Friday, June 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Protest planned against mooring charge at Punta Avançada

A charge of 11 euros per boat for mooring at the Punta Avançada in Formentor that is set to start at the end of the month is to be met with a flotilla protest by users who say the charge is unjust.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 20C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 increasing East and Northeast 3 to 4 by midday

Unlike yesterday when cloud took over for a time, should remain good and sunny through the day. The weekend's outlook is for some cloud tomorrow and little or none on Sunday. Warm with temperatures around 27C, 81F over the weekend.

Evening update (19.00): Not so, cloud did build up, some of it a bit dark but mainly only hazy. A high of 29.6C inland.

Tourism Logos: the Sol of Miró

In the final years of his life the artist Joan Miró left behind two national legacies. One was the poster for the 1982 World Cup, the other was the logo for Turespaña, the national tourism agency. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Miro's creation, an enduring symbol of Spanish tourism and a tourism logo that perhaps remains unrivalled in terms of its originality.

The Sol of Miró, as the logo is commonly referred to, could only have come from Miró. Thirty years represent a lifetime for any logo to have been in existence, and, despite thoughts by different governments that the time might have come for a change, the Sol has remained.

The logo hasn't enjoyed universal acclaim - it has been re-named the Fried Egg of Miró - but it is, thanks to its novelty and sheer longevity, one of the best known of all tourism logos. But is it the best known or the most ground-breaking? There have been attempts to imitate it, but there is one tourism logo that has been imitated more than any other, and that is New York's. The imitation is such that critics of Palma de Mallorca's logo consider its heart to have been borrowed from New York's.

The degree of imitation has, it might be argued, devalued New York's tourism promotion, but whatever attempts there may have been to imitate the Sol, Miró's logo has not lost any power because of the flattery of imitation; it is just too difficult to borrow the idea and make a logo look as though it hasn't been nicked, which is testimony to the power of Miró's unique style.

Everywhere has a tourism logo and mostly everywhere updates its logo periodically. There are always vogues as to what is "in" at any given time in design, and the current vogue is for typography that suggests movement. Consequently, a light, brush script style has become commonplace, not that this familiarity breeds the contempt of unoriginality or of lack of appeal. Excellent logos can appear from the most unexpected places, and Haiti, as a tourist destination, is one of them; a design with a quasi-italicised font and based on the national flower, the hibiscus, is quite stunning.

Whether of course it helps in attracting much-needed tourism to Haiti is an entirely different matter. And in a world where there is so much design and so many logos, memorability and recognition are hard to achieve, which is a further reason for not meddling with Miró's Sol. It appeared at a time when a strong logo stood a very good chance of standing out from the crowd, because the crowd was very much smaller. As it was so original, it became almost instantaneously recognisable. To what extent or even whether one can attribute increases in tourism numbers to the logo is impossible to say, but were there to now be a new logo, it would have to be something that was pretty special. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If a tourism logo has any value, it has to say something about the destination. And so, with this in mind, we come to Mallorca, which, in effect, has two logos. One of them is another Miró. It was given to the Mallorca Tourist Board in 1973, at a time when the tourist board was very much the tourist board and so ten years before the first regional government and first tourism ministry in the Balearics were formed. The other is the generic logo for the Balearics, which can be adapted to use the name of the individual islands. This four-coloured affair, which looks like slices of fruit, is in need of an overhaul. It lacks dynamism and, in line with the current vogue, a sense of movement. Ideally, there should be a separate logo for Mallorca; the lumping together with the rest of the Balearics makes little marketing or branding sense.

One could, I suppose, say that Palma's new logo does Mallorca's job for it. One could say this, but it would be wrong to say it. Palma's logo may have some virtue in its lightness of typography, but otherwise it looks like an advert for a medical charity. The image is wrong, and it is only Palma's image, not Mallorca's.

Getting a logo right, therefore, is not an easy task. I'm sure Miró didn't find it easy to come up with either the Sol of Mallorca or the Sol of Miró for Turespaña. Or maybe he did. If you are a genius, things aren't necessarily difficult, though I am only guessing.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Complaints about lack of parking at Alcúdia's commercial port

As happened last year, parking is to be made available by the commercial port in Alcúdia for people travelling to Menorca for the Sant Joan fiestas. Normally, such parking is prohibited, but local businesses want there to be more parking, saying that before the new terminal was built, there was a good deal of parking available.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - New bus shelters in Muro defy summer building restrictions

The opposition at Muro town hall has attacked the council's administration over the building of new bus shelters in Playa de Muro, claiming that they go against building restrictions in summer. There has been a delay in constructing the shelters, the town hall admits, but though they have been erected and then taped off, they will be finished by this weekend when the final pieces of glass are installed.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 19C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 2 to 3 veering Northeast 3 to 4 and easing by the late afternoon to Variable 2.

Sunny morning, chance of some cloud building up later. Very warm and likely to get a bit warmer into the weekend.

Evening update (20.15): The cloud did build up and has since gone away again. An inland high of 27.9C.

Treated With The Utmost Disrespect

When people ceased to be people or even personnel and were contradictorily dehumanised into becoming human resources, companies and the purveyors of management and organisational snake oil began to discover new miracle cures that they would inflict on these one-time simple people. Typically, it was the academic-turned-consultant-turned-business-blockbuster-writer who was to the fore in this medicine show, and one of the elixirs that this self-appointed guru would tout was something called 360-degree appraisal.

Because people (sorry, human resources) were now deemed to be strategic rather than mere functionary cogs in an organisational wheel, the thinking behind this all-round appraisal wasn't as crackpot a theory as many others that the gurus had invented. The theory went something like this. A company has various "stakeholders" (there's good management jargon for you) and so does the individual working in a company. Often, these two sets of stakeholders are one and the same. So, a manager or other employee might not just have superiors who could appraise performance but also subordinate employees, customers, suppliers and perhaps even God Almighty.

This 360 system wasn't solely about giving a potentially disgruntled subordinate the opportunity to try and get a boss sacked, it was also about developing the individual being appraised in order that, in line with organisationally correct thinking, relationships with all stakeholders would be similar, i.e. they would hopefully be good and positive. By creating a culture whereby everyone was treated with the same level of respect, this should lead, so the theory went, to better performance and to better relationships with the most important of all the stakeholders, namely the customer.

It wasn't a bad theory. Treat subordinates well and with respect, treat suppliers well and with respect, and an atmosphere is created which results in the customer being treated especially well and with the utmost respect. Unfortunately, and regardless of whether businesses adhere to a principle such as 360 or not, there are businesses out there which appear to have little idea that the way in which certain stakeholders are treated may or will ultimately lead to a poorer customer relationship.

The local tourism industry comprises businesses of varying levels of professionalism. A small bar does not have to have a sound working knowledge of management theory in order to operate a successful business and one that, because such a thing is often instinctive, treats all its stakeholders with respect and so achieves the goal of excellent customer relationships. However, a bit of a theory might not go amiss when it comes to bars or other establishments which simply have absolutely no idea.

Here's one example. A bar takes on someone for a provisional period. Towards the end of this period - a month - the owner decides he doesn't need this someone. Not because this someone is no good, but because the owner has no intention of entering into a contractual agreement. What happens next? He takes on someone else, and then the whole process repeats itself and keeps on repeating itself. Is this respectful, is this treating someone well? No, it is not. And in an atmosphere where staff are hired and not so much fired as tossed aside, how does this impact on the customer?

Here's another example. Let's say that a hotel engages someone for the season. Not even two months into the season, this someone is sent a text which informs him or her that services are no longer required. Again, this isn't because the employee isn't any good. Indeed, Trip Advisor reviews are overwhelmingly positive where this employee is concerned, thus improving the hotel's reputation and its overall relationship with the customer. Why would the hotel dismiss such an employee? Well, it's a very good question. Why would it? Perhaps it has come up with a different arrangement that can save it some money. And as for sending a text, well, if you can't give bad news face to face, then how good can you possibly be with dealing with customers face to face?

There are other examples. Too many. The local tourism industry cannot be tarred with one unsatisfactory management/business brush. On the contrary, there is a great deal which is very good, be it the bar, the hotel, wherever. And it is very good because the working atmosphere is right. Most businesses don't need the snake oil because it should be obvious. Treat everyone with respect, and the customers are happy. So happy, they plan on coming back. Until they learn on Trip Advisor that someone has been dismissed.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Demands for improvements to main roads linking Muro town

Muro town hall is to demand that the Council of Mallorca makes improvements to the main roads from Muro to Santa Margalida, Sa Pobla and Can Picafort, pointing to the accidents which occur on these "carreteras".

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Access to Cap Pinar in Alcúdia still restricted

Despite apparent agreements between Alcúdia town hall, the regional government and the Spanish Ministry of Defence, the Cap Pinar area in Alcúdia (a military area) remains off-limits to civilian access. These agreements were meant to have allowed limited numbers of people and vehicles to have access to Cap Pinar during the summer months.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3; South 4 at intervals in Capdepera and Northeast 3 around the middle of the day.

The sun is back and a fine and warm day in prospect, breezes swinging southerly again later on. The outlook into the weekend - remaining sunny and quite hot, with highs in the upper 20s.

Evening update (19.15): Good sun all day, some touches of cloud and the occasional stiffish breeze, but an inland high of 29.2C; 27 on the coast.

I Wanna Be Fiesta Elected

Fiesta time rolls around once more and so, therefore, do the fiesta elections. There are two key by-elections held each summer in northern Mallorca. One is to choose the angelic La Beata to parade along the streets of Santa Margalida and thumb her nose at the temptations of the devil, the other is an altogether bigger affair as there are that many more positions up for grabs - the Moors and Christians bundle in Pollensa on 2 August.

If anyone fancies getting himself put up, he had better get a move on. The chief returning officer, or whoever presides over the election and maintains good order, expects names by 21 June. But I'm afraid that the election isn't open to all-comers. If you don't live in Pollensa, if you don't speak Catalan (at least for one of the positions) and if you are younger than either 27 or 35 (depending on position), then you can forget it.

The various positions that are up for grabs, as they are each year, are those of the local hero, Joan Mas (Christians party), Dragut, Lloctinent and Abanderat (Moors party) and the four members of the old town hall (presumably also Christians party, though given Pollensa town hall's traditional chaos, they could be almost any party).

The position everyone really wants is Joan Mas. The chance to portray the saviour of Pollensa and to actually win the great battle (the result is a bit of a fix, as everyone knows who's going to win) is more attractive than being the perennial loser, as is the case with Dragut. To make his position even less attractive, he of course isn't a Christian, he gets referred to as a pirate (which he may well have been, but then so also, where the Spanish are concerned, was Francis Drake) and he doesn't appear to be required to speak Catalan. Which, to be honest, as a good Muslim boy from Bodrum in Turkey, he shouldn't be. 

The Catalan stipulation would seem to only apply to Joan Mas. Not even the old town hall chaps are expected to speak it, which will no doubt be something well received in Partido Popular circles, those in which the Balearics president moves. Catalan has, as we all know, in theory been removed as a requirement for employment in the public sector, but this doesn't apply to local heroes from the sixteenth century. Joan Mas can parlar away in Catalan to his heart's content. Which is as well, because the "Joan" is expected to deliver the great request for heavenly assistance against the pirates, and it would be distinctly odd if he were to do it in Spanish.

When the original Moors and Christians match-up occurred back in 1550, poor old Dragut wouldn't have had much idea what Joan's "Pollencins, alçauvos, els moros són aquí; mare de Déu dels Ángels protegiu-nos" yell was all about. Or would he? Lloctinent might have told him, as Lloctinent wasn't a Moor. He was a dirty, rotten, stinking traitor. Joan Xumet was his name; Lloctinent means lieutenant, his nickname. Whoever gets to play Lloctinent nowadays pulls the really short straw.

There is, though, one aspect about the elections which doesn't play well with a modern society. There are no women. The role of Joan really ought to be thrown open to both sexes, perhaps to a woman with the name of Joan. As for the Moors, well, you wouldn't expect there to be any women, but a town hall that is male-dominated? It sounds like Bauzá's regional government cabinet before he cottoned on to the need to get some females in to attract the feminine vote at the next election.

There again, political correctness plays a minimal role in the Moors and Christians. In fact, it plays no role whatsoever. Were it to, and doubtless this would be the case in some countries, it would have been banned by now. Or if not banned, then at least the Moors should be allowed to win now and then. There has to be a fear that one of these days a mad radical cell linked to Al-Qaeda is going to turn up at 7pm on the second of August brandishing real swords and not the toy wooden ones. Not that this would get them very far, because someone would point out that they hadn't been elected and, moreover, that they might well not be resident in Pollensa, might well be younger than 27 and hadn't got their nominations in by 21 June.

It's good to know that rules of elections still count for something.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia taxi-drivers raise petition against tourist train

The taxi-drivers of Puerto Alcúdia, unhappy about the return of the mini tourist train in the resort, have started a petition against the train, considering a possible "denuncia" against it on safety grounds.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 to 4; at intervals 5 and veering Northwest during the afternoon. Swells to one metre around Capdepera.

Cloudy, hazy morning. Due to be more sun than had previously been forecast but not as hot as yesterday with winds swinging away from the south and being predominantly northerlies.

Evening update (19.00): Not a great deal of sun all day but still pretty warm; a high of 30.2C.

Illegal Offer?: Blame it on the hotels

At the start of the 1970s and so just prior to the recessionary impact of the oil crisis, there were 691 hotels in the Balearics. There were other types of accommodation, but the actual classification of accommodation focussed solely on hotels. And by hotels, one meant hotels.

By the start of the following decade, the number of hotels had increased only marginally, but there was a new classification of accommodation that was registered alongside the "hotel". This was "tourist apartments", and these meant a type of accommodation that hadn't existed until the mid-1970s - the self-catering apartment hotel. By 1981, there were 709 hotels and 458 "apartamentos turísticos".

A further ten years on, this new category had grown to such an extent that the traditional "hotel" was now in second place when it came to the number of establishments offering the different forms of accommodation.

The rise of the tourist apartment can be put down to two key factors. The first of these was the oil crisis. This didn't stop Mallorca's tourism in its tracks but it had a negative impact from which it took several years for the island to recover. One consequence of the crisis was that some hotels were forced to close. Another was that there was a determination to re-build the tourism industry and also re-shape it. This meant a new wave of hotel building but also a diversification both in terms of countries from which tourists came and in the type of accommodation that was offered to them. The previous one-size-fits-all model of the standard hotel was outmoded, and so another important factor was at play - the desire on behalf of tourists to have greater choice of accommodation and also greater flexibility when it came to how their days were spent; they didn't want to be constrained by hotel times and schedules.

This new mix of accommodation appeared to suit everyone - tourists, the Balearics regional government and tourism ministry (both established in 1983), hoteliers and tour operators. However, what had not been foreseen was a consequence of the construction boom and permissiveness that had allowed the tourist apartments to come about. Private accommodation. In 1981, there were no statistics to show the level of the "non-regulated tourist offer". By 1991, there were. Between 1991 and the start of the current century, the number of tourists taking advantage of this non-regulated tourist offer rose far more dramatically than the number going to hotels or hotel tourist apartments. Figures for tourist stays show that the non-regulated offer equated to 10% of the hotel/tourist apartments total in 1991. By 2002, it amounted to almost a third.

Such a statistic, dramatic as it was, helps to explain why the hoteliers have been and still are so agitated when it comes to private accommodation (not all of which is now non-regulated). But the statistic only tells part of the story. There is another statistic. That for passenger numbers through the airports.

The oil crisis meant that there was a relatively small increase in passengers over the period 1971 to 1981. But from the start of the 1980s on, the number rocketed, more than doubling in twenty years. In effect, it was the non-regulated tourist offer which enabled passenger numbers to rise so significantly. It wasn't the hotels or even the tourist apartments.

Yet, much as though it may have come as a shock to the hoteliers to discover that there were all these tourists opting to stay in someone's private flat or house, it shouldn't have been a shock. It had been the hoteliers who, in the 1970s, had recognised the need for more flexible accommodation, which is primarily why the tourist apartments ever came about. It was they, the hoteliers, who helped fuel the demand for what now exists - an enormous unregulated/partially regulated sector of the tourism industry that the hoteliers don't like.

An irony of economic crisis, 21st-century-style, is that the response has been the opposite to the crisis in the 1970s. The hotel offer has gone into reverse and brought about the further growth of the all-inclusive. But the hotels know only too well, as do the tour operators, that the tourist market wants multiple solutions. Hence, there is the bizarre situation whereby tourist apartment establishments can also offer all-inclusive deals. The hotels want it all ways, which is fair enough given their investment levels, but there is a question that the hotels and the regional government cannot or will not answer. Where, oh where, can all the tourists stay? Because they cannot all stay in a hotel or a tourist apartment.

Any comments to please.

Monday, June 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Just another crazy night in Magalluf

A report of just one night (presumably Saturday) in Magalluf, the Guardia Civil having intervened when a group of four Britons were attacking and beating people up for no reason. This led to a pitched battle (possibly an exaggeration), one officer injured and the arrest of the four "hooligans". Added to this were sexual assaults and robberies with violence.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 30C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 4 to 5; 6 at intervals around the middle of the day. Swells occasionally to one metre.

Another hot day with uninterrupted sun but a change occurring overnight that will bring cloud tomorrow. The cloud is likely to be something of a factor during the week as temperatures go back to more like normal, so mid-to-higher 20s.

Evening update (21.00): With the Saharan air having been a major influence today, the high has very nearly broken the 100F mark. 37.6C.

The Only Mallorcan Way Is Essex

17 all out was something of a low point for the school under-15 cricket team. Mr. Mace the geography teacher, who doubled as an alleged cricket coach, was not greatly amused. Irresponsible batting, he said sternly, his eyes fixed on the number-three batsman and team captain. True, I had missed the ball, but the intent had been good; attempting to hit the fastest bowler on the Surrey schools cricket circuit back over his head before I had even scored.

As school sporting nadirs went it was about as bad as the defeat for the rugby XV when it played its first match after having been revived following a four-year hiatus. It started to become clear why the rugby team had previously been scrapped. It also became clear when we saw the opposition for that first game get off their coach that we were all about to die. The Army's Junior Leaders. The score would have been worse than 102-0 had the whistle for full time not been blown a good five minutes before it should have been.

But sporting embarrassments have to be placed in context. New Zealand once beat Portugal 108-13 in the Rugby World Cup and the other day Essex were bowled out for 20. Admittedly, both performances represent an improvement on my school's disasters (Portugal actually scored) but they go to show, as always, that it's not the taking part that matters, it's the losing.

How misfortunes change. Thirty years ago Essex skittled out Surrey for 14, so clearly the development of Surrey schools cricketers of the early 1970s had filtered through to the benefit of Surrey CCC. But how can one explain such a reverse in fortunes? One factor that is generally overlooked in any analysis of English cricket is the harmful influence of the foreign holiday, that to Mallorca in particular. Why? Tides. Tides and sand. It is impossible to have a decent game of beach cricket in Mallorca.

Back in the '70s and '80s, people still went to British seaside resorts and so they still put stumps in hard sand, were able to extract decent bounce off a short length with a tennis ball and were also able to demonstrate the art of the hook or pull shot even if this didn't result in a boundary. That was because the boundary, the sea, had disappeared halfway to Belgium or France. Once everyone started going "foreign" and heading off to destinations without miles upon miles of dirty, muddy, hardening sand, cricket lost one of its great learning grounds. In fact, it lost loads of them. Just as county cricket is no longer played at the likes of Clacton or Southend, so cricket is no longer played on the beaches, because everyone's gone to Mallorca and is playing beach paddle tennis instead. Essex CCC, deprived of a once thriving beach cricket tradition, can look forward to more 20 all outs, I'd wager.

It is sad that Essex should lose out to an island with which it has a great deal in common. Well, one great thing at any rate. Its size. When people ask me, as you can imagine that they often do, how big Mallorca is, I tell them that it is more or less the same size as Essex. And it is, give or take around 30 square kilometres. It may not be immediately obvious that their sizes are comparable, given that Essex has other stuff around it like London, but plonk Mallorca on top of Essex, bend it around a bit and lo and behold, Mallorca is Essex. Or vice versa.

In truth, size is about all that Essex has in common with Mallorca. Clacton isn't Cala Millor and Southend isn't Sa Coma. Essex also doesn't have any mountain ranges, but what it does have is its only way. Yet, when it came to the producers of "The Only Way Is Essex" choosing a location for the programme's holiday specials, they opted for Marbella and not Mallorca. Strange decision. If Mallorca can have Stacey Dooley and "Geordie Shore", it would love to have "The Only Way Is Essex" as well. As most of Essex appears to be in Mallorca at any given time, the decision appears even stranger.

The only reason I can think of for Mallorca not having been chosen is the embarrassment of that 20 all out and some form of punishment for why it came about and so the ruination of  Essex cricket forever through the shipping of former beach cricketers en masse to Mallorca. Marbella, though, is surely equally to blame for the declining fortunes of Essex cricket. It's a pretty thin excuse and one that disguises the fact that Essex are simply useless. Rather like, it saddens me to have to admit, a certain under-15 school cricket team.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - No incidents at Alcúdia's end-of-school-year party

7,000 teenagers gathered together to celebrate the start of the school holidays and you might expect trouble. There has been in years gone by, but co-ordinated action by local police forces and the Guardia has cut incidents to a bare minimum, and this year's party (over Friday night) registered none of any note. Meanwhile, the massive island-wide traffic controls that were well publicised in advance and which were effected in all major urban centres between 11pm and 1am on Friday night and were primarily for breath-testing netted a mere three positive tests in the area.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 29C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 increasing 4 and 5 at intervals.

The alert in place for high temperatures today and tomorrow, Saharan air is hotting things up nicely. It is going to be a Sunday of packed beaches with sun all the way and highs over the forecast level and into the 30s.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 34.7C. So quite warm then. 

Voices In My Head: Article writing

There was a strange moment on Friday evening. I was listening to the playback of the latest edition of Radio 2's "The People's Songs". It went under the title "Y Viva España". The theme, as the song title might suggest, was holidays; foreign holidays as they were when the British, first discovered them. These were the days of innocent adventure, the discovery of what really was a new world or a very different world.

The strange moment was when the presenter, Stuart Maconie, made a reference to those things we took on holiday. One of them was a Harold Robbins novel. Why might this be strange? Because some weeks previously, I had written a history of Mallorca's tourism. And in it, I had mentioned the packing of the Harold Robbins novel into the suitcase to be taken away to the sun and heat of Mallorca. Moreover, I had considered how popular culture reflected those early days of tourism in the sixties and into the seventies. A key element of this popular culture was music, and in the article, I had quoted from a song which, while it was truly dreadful, summed up much about Mallorcan and Costas holidays of the time - "Y Viva España".

Invoking Sylvia's far from classic was hardly very original; in fact, it was very unoriginal. A Robbins novel, on the other hand, I had thought was less obvious. It came to mind only because my father was an avid reader of his stuff. Perhaps it was more obvious than I had thought, though, and so Maconie cited it as well.

But then there were further references in the programme. One was to Vladimir Raitz, the founder of Horizon Holidays and effectively the founder of the package holiday. In my article, Raitz played a key part, one reason having been because Raitz tends to be forgotten in tourism history, his place in it overtaken by those who came later, such as Harry Goodman.

All the references in Maconie's programme were coincidences. My article clearly hadn't informed his script. It isn't available online, and the programme was doubtless recorded some time ago, so I am not for one moment suggesting that the references were anything other than obvious or perhaps less obvious examples of two people writing from a similar page.

There is, however, something stranger. When I conceived the tourism history article, I had been influenced by a previous episode of "The People's Songs", which deals with the anecdotal. I didn't end up with the volume of personal accounts that I might have liked that went into the article in the fiftieth anniversary special of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin", but I got some. It's an idea I'd like to revisit and see if more can be generated, but that's for another time; I had wanted the article to be that much more personal.

Even more than this influence was Maconie himself. A good part of that article was written with a voice in my head. Maconie's. Much of it was structured in such a way that it was as if a radio script was being read out, one of Maconie's, so the style was similar. It wasn't anything like as good as Maconie, but his style of delivery was firmly in my head as I wrote it.

There are different influences on how one writes. Usually, they are influences found in the writing of others. But I had never written something in the way I did a good deal of the tourism history article, so it was this which was really very strange, because, as I was listening to "Y Viva España" with its various common references, that I half imagined it was me doing the talking. It was most odd.

That tourism history article isn't online. Indeed, the one that appeared in the special supplement was heavily edited because the original was very much longer. I'm minded to seek permission to be able to put it up online. If I do, then you might read it and think of Maconie. Alternatively, you might think I'm crackers. Voices in my head. Mad or what.

"The People's Songs", "Y Viva España":

Any comments to please.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Water resources plan would affect buildings in Alcúdia

Further to the unanimous decision by Alcúdia town hall to reject provisions of the Balearics water resources plan ("Plan Hidrológico), the town hall has made clear to the local environment ministry that it makes no sense to classify areas along the Via Corneli Atic and Avenida Tucan as falling under this plan, as much of these areas is already built on. The ministry is to allow a technical analysis to show that these areas are indeed not wetlands.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 28C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3; 4 at intervals.

Another glorious morning and another very warm day. The middle of next week is likely to see a slight cooling of temperatures and there may just be the risk of the odd drop of rain.

Evening update (21.00): A high of 34.5C inland and highs of over 31C on the coast. Alerts out for high temperatures over the next couple of days; heatwave time.