Thursday, October 31, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 4 to 6 easing 3 to 5 and backing Northwest 4 in the afternoon.

Sunny morning. Alert still in place for rough coastal conditions but otherwise much calmer. The outlook remains a mixed bag with possible rain for tomorrow's holiday and then better on Saturday. Temperatures around the norm for this time of the year , i.e. in the low-20s.

Evening update (18.00): A reasonable amount of sun today. Gloom coming in later. A high of 21.9C.

2.7 Million Reasons For Not Spending Money

The budget for the Balearics tourism promotion plan of action for 2014 will be 2.7 million euros. It is the same as the budget was for 2013 and the plan of action will be similar to that for 2013. It will entail 145 "promotional actions" and these will be along the same lines as the actions for this year - trade fairs (general and specialised), press trips and what are described as "direct and inverse days" (essentially conferences or forums of varying types that are concerned with specialised promotion for niche products).

2.7 million euros from a tourism departmental budget for the year of 74 million euros will strike many as being low. Too low probably. To put this budget into perspective, in 2009 it was 7.25 million euros. It was at its lowest since then in 2012 when it was only just over 1.5 million euros. The tourism minister Carlos Delgado is at pains to point out, however, that the average cost of the different actions is very much lower than it was and that there are many more of them. In 2009, there were 60 "actions" which cost on average 121,000 euros. In 2013, the number was projected to have been 107 but actually increased to 123. The average cost was therefore 22,000 euros.

Putting the budget into further perspective, how does it stack up against some other regions of Spain, those which are similar to the Balearics in being essentially sun-and-beach tourist destinations? The budget for the Canaries this year was seven million. In Andalusia it was 25 million, as it will be next year as well. In Catalonia the 2013 budget rose to 24 million thanks to the initial receipts from the tourist tax that had been introduced in November 2012. Catalonia's 2014 budget will go up substantially - probably to around 60 or 70 million, thanks to the tourist tax. Only Valencia has a budget comparable to the Balearics, 4.8 million for a two-year period.

It has to be said, though, that all of these regions have a larger overall budget than the Balearics, so they can afford to spend more if they so wish. Regardless of this, however, the argument will be that, because of tourism's importance to the Balearics, there should be a much higher promotional spend.

But when it is argued that the budget should be greater, what figure should be placed on it? And once the figure has been arrived at, what should be done with the money? There are too often some highly simplistic suggestions as to what the Balearics should be doing in terms of promotion, many of them to do with running television advertising campaigns, a means of promotion which is expensive and is questionable in terms of return. What did the Balearics ever gain from the awful ad with Rafael Nadal? No one can tell you with any honesty.

Having a limited budget is in a way a good thing. It means that the money has to be spent wisely and in the most effective manner and hopefully in the most creative way possible. But whether various trade fairs and so on that make up the Balearics promotional actions are the most effective manner is a fair question to ask, and it might be noted that Palma has opted to reduce its dependence on trade fairs for its Palma 365 promotion. There again, Palma is treated as a separate "brand" and has specific promotional actions under the Balearics plan of action, so perhaps Palma doesn't need to devote so much of its own attention to trade fairs.

The key to any promotion, regardless of the budget, is its effectiveness. While I doubt the effectiveness of traditional campaigns, such as TV ads (very difficult to evaluate in any event), I have to also wonder about the effectiveness of trade fairs and the other "actions". At least these events give the opportunity to get close and personal with tour operators and other important decision-influencers, but as the regional government effectively gave joint-promotional campaigns with tour operators the boot a couple of years ago, it's important that lines of communication are still maintained.

Behind this tourism promotion, though, is the thinking contained in the government's comprehensive plan for tourism 2012-2015 that was drawn up by the current government. It is comprehensive. 120 pages of it, replete with all manner of tables, graphics and strategy-speak. It is an impressive document, and contained within it is an explanation that public promotional spend on tourism has been inversely proportional to results. There is also a policy announcement, one that places emphasis on "below the customer" promotion (trade fairs etc.) and "embrace the customer" (all manner of technological applications) versus "above the customer" (TV, press ads for example).

This is the Bible from which the tourism ministry is operating. It may not be the right Bible but God knows it's an impressively thought-out one. Instinct suggests that promotion that is being undertaken, and which is being justified by this comprehensive plan, is something on the cheap. But when one looks at this plan in detail, there is much about which makes a lot of sense, if only it were to be realised. All the stuff about web technologies is fine, but where, as yet, is the proof.

But if you want to know why there is only 2.7 million euros being spent on tourism promotion and if you can be bothered wading through 120 pages of what is akin to an MBA thesis, then you can find the reasons why.

Index for October 2013

Air Berlin, hoteliers and Sea of Experiences - 4 October 2013
Aragon tourist apartments regulation - 30 October 2013
Balearics and state investment budget - 7 October 2013
Balearics tourism promotion - 31 October 2013
Bill Gates and foreign investment - 29 October 2013
Bull as a tourist image - 14 October 2013
Cala Millor - 21 October 2013
Calas de Mallorca, Cloud Destination - 24 October 2013
Creative city and creative island - 22 October 2013
Danny Higginbotham and Gibraltar football - 6 October 2013
Demolition of old buildings in Pollensa - 12 October 2013
Education reforms in Spain and the Balearics - 10 October 2013
Holiday rentals - 11 October 2013
Ibiza hippie island - 9 October 2013
Joan March: illustrious or notorious - 13 October 2013
Magalluf greater security - 20 October 2013
Menorca biosphere - 5 October 2013
Palma promotion - 25 October 2013
Regional government financing - 15 October 2013
Religion and Mallorca's alternative tourism - 16 October 2013
Sa Canova holiday complex - 18 October 2013
S'Illot tourism history and prehistory - 26 October 2013
Spain and the economy - 19 October 2013
Spain's amnesty law challenge by UN - 2 October 2013
Teachers strike - 1 October 2013, 3 October 2013
Tourism commissioner - 23 October 2013
Tourist tax - 17 October 2013
Zapatero's memoirs - 8 October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 22C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North and Northeast 6 to 7. Very rough.

Very windy, as it was through the night. Some rain around in parts but only light. There may be showers during the day, though the alerts are only for wind and especially for coastal conditions (amber). Staying windy and possibly rainy as the weekend approaches.

Evening update (20.30): A high of 20.1C. Not brilliant therefore. No rain but plenty of chilly wind.

Aragon's Solution For Tourist Apartments

Aragon is a strange region of Spain. Historically, it vies with Castile in terms of importance. It was the fifteenth-century marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile which brought about a union that created something approximating to a Spanish state, though it was to be over two hundred years before a truly centralised Spain was formed, and one that was formed at Aragon's expense.

This was a land that once upon a time had its own kingdom and more importantly crown. It was the Crown of Aragon under which Catalan-speaking regions - Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearics - were joined. It was a crown that was dismantled as a consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession and of the formation of a centralised and Castellano-speaking Spain.

Mallorca has a strong association with Aragon. It was Jaume I of Aragon who liberated Mallorca and the Balearics from their Islamic occupiers and Jaume who introduced Catalan to the islands. Yet despite its history, Aragon lacks things that Catalonia and the Balearics have. Politically and socially, there is not a strong Catalanism. Indeed there is only the one official language - Castellano - though there is a growing awareness of the Aragonese dialect. Economically, there is not a reliance on tourism. Aragon isn't terribly well known and it doesn't have a coastline.

Aragon is the fourth largest region of Spain but its population isn't vastly greater than that of the Balearics. It is a region dominated in its north and south by mountains. In its centre there is a semi-desert area. It was here that the Gran Scala, a tourism complex of hotels, casinos, theme parks and golf courses, was due to have been built. It won't be. In truth, it was probably never viable.

Gran Scala would, though, have placed Aragon on a tourism map in a way that it otherwise isn't. In its absence, the regional government set about initiating a plan for tourism earlier this year, one with the goal of forging a distinct identity and brand and with the intention of putting in place regulations for accommodation. Hotels, many of them in ski resorts, are one main aspect of this. The other is tourist apartments, otherwise known as holiday lets.

From a tourism point of view, Aragon is in no way comparable to Mallorca and the Balearics, but it shares one thing in common - a requirement to regulate the use of private accommodation for tourist use.

The legal reform by national government by which responsibility for regulation was farmed out to the regions was peculiar in one particular way. Nationally, residential tourism is considered to be a strength (it says so in the government's tourism plan). But Madrid was in an awkward position. It could not pass a law applicable nationwide because it knew full well that the strength it spoke of under the national plan drawn up a year before would have been compromised had it simply complied with the demands of the strongest hotel lobby groups, most obviously the one in the Balearics.

Instead, it placed regulatory onus on the regions, no doubt aware that some regions would institute legislation which did indeed compromise this "strength". The Balearics had already done so. Other regions, without similar laws to the Balearics, are now catching up, and one of them is Aragon.

The mere mention of "regulation" may be taken as implying a tightening-up and a restriction. But it doesn't have to. Tightening-up has occurred, as in Catalonia, in respect of standards, but regulation has meant permission not prohibition. Aragon's own law that regulates tourist apartments was passed on 22 October. It is a comprehensive piece of legislation but it is not overly proscriptive. Indeed, what it does is to establish four categories of apartment with specific requirements that have to be registered with the regional tourism ministry. And importantly, the Aragon law outlines minimum services that these apartments must have. This is important because, by comparison with the Balearics, as soon as services are offered here a private tourist apartment becomes in effect illegal.

It has been noted in a report by La Caixa bank that the level of tourist stays in unregulated apartments in Aragon is almost three times as great as those in regulated accommodation. The importance of these tourist apartments is therefore undeniable. And the Aragon government has recognised this importance.

Aragon is very different to Mallorca and so it has adopted regulation very different to Mallorca's. But it is regulation which goes to reinforce the incoherence and confusion that national government has brought about. Residential tourism is a strength but only if a particular region agrees that it is.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (7.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 24C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 5 during the morning and 6 during the afternoon. Showers.

Quite blustery, grey and generally looking threatening. Alerts in place for the lot - rain, storms and poor coastal conditions, the wind increasing and moving to amber tomorrow for the coast and seas.

Evening update (18.45): A fair old storm hit the island in mid-afternoon. The north, up to this time (quarter to seven), had things lightly. Some heavy rain, quite strong winds and thunder and lightning but in the south it was a different matter. 51 litres per square metre of rain fell in Andratx in only 15 minutes and there has been extensive flooding and some damage. A high of 22.4C.

Bill Gates And The Spanish Recovery

You would have to think that Bill Gates has some shrewd investment advisors. You would also have to think that the co-founder of Microsoft might typically invest in technology stocks. Thinking this, then what does one think of Gates having acquired a six per cent holding in Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas? Yes, a construction company. One that deals with bricks and mortar and one that is also Spanish. Remember Spanish construction companies? The ones who helped push the country to the edge?

The purchase makes Gates the second largest shareholder in FCC, some considerable distance behind Esther Koplowitz, who developed a construction firm that she and her sister had inherited from their father, and one that, through merger, became FCC in 1992. Sra. Koplowitz controls 53.9% of what is one of Spain's biggest construction concerns.

But why would Gates be interested in a construction company, and a Spanish one at that? And why would FCC be interested in him becoming a shareholder? The answer to the latter may have to do with the company being in the midst of a restructuring of both debt and strategy. It returned a significant loss in the first quarter this year, partly because of a write down in the value of its renewable energy assets, a move probably in response to the Spanish Government having gone cold on renewables, especially solar, as it seeks to tackle the enormous energy tariff deficit. Otherwise, FCC was, as with the rest of the construction sector, badly hit when public-sector projects were cut and when the property market went belly-up.

Nevertheless, FCC is a company in reasonable shape thanks to its diverse operations and its global status. It is active in 55 countries and its business operations are not confined to mere bricks and mortar. There are environmental services, for example, as well as construction of an industrial nature. It is said that  Gates is taking a punt on a recovery in the Spanish construction market. I'm not so sure that someone like Gates either takes a punt or takes one on something as potentially volatile as simple construction. My guess is that it is FCC's global operations, its investment in various technologies, such as with environmental services, and potential in emerging and less-developed markets that has attracted Gates. One can perhaps be persuaded too much that he is an investment benefactor and philanthropist rather than a hard-nosed investor, but I would suggest there is a fair element of the former about his interest in FCC, and FCC would probably feel it could benefit from an association with a universally recognised businessperson who has become known for wishing to pursue good works. As FCC says on its website, it invests globally in "technology, improving processes and developing eco-efficient communities". Bill Gates as part of this? Yes, it would make some sense.

However one interprets Gates's investment, it is an encouraging vote of confidence in a major Spanish company, and it is evidence of what the president of the Santander bank said recently about money "coming in from all directions" into Spain. FCC, with its overseas operations, is evidence also of the export-led recovery of the Spanish economy. These are feelgood elements which will allow the government and others to point to the corner having been turned, but how real are they? The economy may move into growth on the back of exports - tourism and global actors like FCC - but how much impact does this have on the home market, given that, for example, so much of the export earning from tourism is not actually kept in the home market because it is earned by overseas tour operators and airlines? Moreover, what are the targets for all the money that is coming in from all directions? One is real estate, the consequence of an adjustment in property markets which has made Spain attractive to inward investors. Yet, there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that much of this investment is being directed towards speculative commercial real estate and in particular the rental returns on investment from commercial property. The feelgood element is also being felt in the stock market, but where it isn't being felt is in actual, productive investment, something which might stimulate the domestic market, create employment, increase consumer demand and so effect a more balanced growth in the economy.

Still, things are better and psychologically, if nothing else, Spain may be moving in the right direction. But for the time being it is a psychological boost enjoyed more by investors and bankers than by the man in the street. There is a long way to go yet.

Monday, October 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 28C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4.

Nice morning and nice day ahead, but a day to make the most of; it's all going downhill tomorrow with storms possible. The rest of the week will be unsettled, improving by the weekend.

Evening update (18.30): A high of 29.3C, but all change tomorrow. Alerts in place for storms and rain from 9am all day. 

Manolo Escobar And "Y Viva España"

For far too long, ever since 1974 in fact, the British holidaymaker, when having partaken of sufficient numbers of cold drinks, has been prone to burst into song - song being relative both in terms of what is actually being sung and how it is being sung (badly usually). The song in question is of course "Y Viva España", a manifestation of musical vandalism and criminality for which, almost forty years later, Spain has been unable to atone.

But "Y Viva España", famously enough, wasn't written by a Spaniard. It was the product of two Belgians, Leo Caerts and Leo Rozenstraten. The English version - and the song was covered in various languages - was sung by the Swedish singer Sylvia Vrethammar. It acquired its anthemic status for the British holidaymaker to Spain thanks to its lyrics having been the work of one Eddie Seago who, having teamed up with an school friend, Mike Leander, was also one of the powers behind Gary Glitter, something which might now be looked back on with less than total satisfaction for reasons unrelated to Gary's question as to whether anyone wanted to be in his gang.

Seago's lyrics were very different to those in the Spanish version. When one compares the two versions, it seems clear that in the early '70s the British holidaymaker was still very much viewed as a product of the saucy postcard, end-of-the-pier seaside holiday in Blackpool, Bognor and Bridlington. The lyrics were of their time in having been "racy": all those señoritas by the score and kisses behind the castanets. They bore no relation to the lyrics of the song that made Manolo Escobar, already famous, even more famous. His single came out in 1973 and it also appeared on an album of the same name. It is one of the biggest-selling Spanish albums of all time.

Escobar's song spoke of Spain "the land of love" (in a totally unsaucy fashion), of a land that only Gods could have made "so beautiful", of the bullfight (so there was a nod in the direction of matadors being chatted, as Eddie Seago revealed), of a great national party and of people singing with passion. Its final line is "España es la mejor" - Spain is the best. It was in fact a song of Spanish sentimentalism and patriotism, one that was fit for the times and fit for the regime of the times. There is a sort of early music video in which Manolo gives the song his full patriotic fervour, one that is peculiar for the fact that Manolo floats across various Spanish scenes and for, among the smiling entourage behind him (who don't float), there being some evidence of multiculturalism. I had not seen the video until the other day and was surprised to see two black faces.

It is possible to now look back at "Y Viva España" and to view it as an exercise in propaganda. The story of the song and its part in Spanish nationalism of the time becomes that much more interesting when one realises that, although Leo Rozenstraten (who was otherwise an actor) wrote the original lyrics, they weren't actually in Spanish. The song never was Spanish. Samantha, who had the first hit with it, sang in Dutch. The Spanish version (there were two slightly differing versions) appears to have had two lyricists, one of whom, Manuel de Gómez, was described as a diplomat. So, "Y Viva España", which from the outset had its familiar tune and Spanish style, was taken and moulded into a patriotic song with a heavy dose of holidaymaker appeal. It was the perfect combination for the tourism-dependent but nationalist Franco regime and it was the perfect combination to be unleashed on the Spanish population by a popular singer and television presenter, Manolo Escobar.

Escobar was, in the later years of the Franco regime, an important entertainment symbol for the dictatorship. He also appeared in musical comedies, thus reinforcing the fact that entertainment in the Spain of those years was never controversial and and only ever lightweight and happy.

Despite his association, if only indirectly with the Franco regime, Escobar remained popular for decades after. He was one of a group of singers and entertainers who acquired national fame from the sixties onwards and, as such, was an older contemporary of Julio Iglesias. He died on 24 October, aged 82. "Y Viva España" had brought him his greatest fame, a song that lives on with holidaymakers even if it isn't the song he sang. He died at home, and there were perhaps few more appropriate places for his home to have been. Benidorm.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - League leaders Recreativo prove too good for Mallorca

Recreativo Huelva 3 : 1 Real Mallorca
Away at the leaders of Liga Adelante, Mallorca were pretty much a match for the team known as the doyen of Spanish football on account of the club having the longest uninterrupted history of all Spanish football teams. Linares put Recreativo into the led after a quarter of an hour, but Mallorca equalised ten minutes later through a Moreno header from a corner. Linares put the home side back in front on the 58th minute and though Mallorca had chances to come back again, the victory was sealed in the final minute when Arana beat Miño in the Mallorca goal from a distance of almost 40 metres. Mallorca slip to eighth for the time being.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.00am): 22C
Forecast high: 26C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West 2 to 3, locally Northeast during the afternoon.

A lighter morning of course, the clocks having gone back. A little bit of mist before the sun gets to work fully. The forecast into next week isn't terribly good. Storms predicted from Tuesday and rain for the rest of the week with temperatures down to mid or upper teens.

Evening update (18.00): A high of 30.1C, so pretty warm. Sun going down that much earlier though. 

Let's All Meet Up In The Year 2030

"Good morning, Tourist, how does the morning find you on our paradise island? The high today will be 44 degrees in the shade. Warm enough for you?" "Morning, RepBot. All good thank you, and yourself?" "Oh, you know how it is with we RepBots, I'm totally creamed and totally crackered. Up all night, party, party, party. I am sorry to say though that I missed the Miley Cyrus concert at your resort complex last night. My Tourist Integrated Televisualisation System went T.I.T.S. up, so to speak. I am being taken into maintenance to be given a thorough seeing to later. Lol." "Ha, ha, you RepBots are so funny." "Oh yes, everyone a winner. How was Miley though?" "Glad to say my system was in perfect working order. She was amazing. To think you can have international stars right here at your own resort complex through the wonders of technology." "It certainly is, Tourist. Not like the days when a fat boy from Warrington would pretend to be Justin Bieber and the karaoke machine would break down. Did Miley reveal her breasts? Oh, what am I asking? You can of course have Miley reveal everything if that is what you wish with the aid of your T.I.T. System (trademark Club Allinclusivana)." "Let's not go there, RepBot." "No, let's not. She hasn't been the same since she started having Harry Styles's babies. But enough of this small talk. I need to know where you would like to go today." "Erm, just the one virtual visit today, please. I thought I'd give the Resort 2000 trip a go." "OMG, you really are one for ancient history, aren't you. Do you really want to mingle with all those sweaty bodies which once milled along the streets and gathered on terraces in bars and restaurants outside your resort complex?" "Point taken, but it would be interesting to see and feel how it was in the, you know, good old days." "I'm sorry that does not compute. Good. Old. I'm sorry, these concepts are mutually exclusive. Are you sure I cannot interest you instead with a tour of the mountains that were once here on this paradise island before they were levelled in order to make way for gated estates of villas to house Middle Eastern businessmen and their several wives?" "No, you're ok, another day perhaps. Resort 2000 please." "Oh well, don't say that I didn't warn you."

The Tourist mindsets the T.I.T. System that is chipped into his Club Allinclusivana Free To Go Where You Want, Free To Do As You Wish, Free To Order Anything For Free intelligent and interactive sunglasses. He is no longer lying by one of the several pools at the resort complex. He is walking along a road lined with many different bars, shops and restaurants. It is thirty years before. He mindsets the same road to the current day, experiencing simultaneously both the present and the past. He is astonished. "Where have all the people gone? What happened to all these bars?"

In his Resort 2000 mindset he goes into one of the bars. He asks for a pint. He talks to the bar owner. He is English. He asks how business is. "Pretty good thanks, but it's not like it was. This road here. Even a couple of years ago, you couldn't move for people in the evenings. There are fewer people around, I'd say. It's ever since a couple of hotels started all-inclusive. Don't know where that will go. Some reckon it'll take over. What happens then ... well, I'd rather not think about it."

The Tourist can smell the different food being prepared from the various restaurants. He stops and has a crêpe from some funny guy who has a small kiosk by the side of the road. He listens to the strangulated singing from a karaoke bar. It's rubbish but it's fun. He wanders into the terrace of a large restaurant that is packed with people. They are tucking into vast plates of steaks. They are listening to an act on the stage in one corner of the terrace. Who are they meant to be, the Tourist wonders. "Let's all meet up in the year 2000, won't it be strange ..."

He unsets his mind. He looks up at the sun. It is half ten in the morning and the heat is already unbearable. He thinks about Resort 2000 and about now. "I'm part of this, aren't I," he mumbles. "I'm the consequence of Resort 2000. I'm living a holiday through a pair of sunglasses. Am I right to be? Or am I wrong? Have I been wrong for many years?"

"RepBot, are you there?" "I am always here, Tourist. Did you enjoy Resort 2000?" "Sort of. But I wonder, can I have another trip after all? I'd like to try Resort 1990. Before there were any all-inclusives."

"Before. All-inclusives. These concepts are mutually exclusive. They do not compute. Club Allinclusivana wishes you a nice day. Do not compute."

* The shot is from the video for Pulp's "Disco 2000".

Saturday, October 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (6.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 28C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 4 to 5, occasionally 6 in Formentor until midday.

A fine Saturday awaits with plenty of very warm sun. Remaining good over the weekend, but the forecast into next week is looking a bit dodgy with a storm predicted to come in on Tuesday.

Evening update (20.00): Remarkable. A high of 30.2C.

A Price On Prehistory: S'Illot

Where do you reckon was the first and most popular "chiringuito" (beach bar) in Mallorca in the 1960s? Playa de Palma perhaps, Palmanova possibly? Neither. It was, or so it is said, in S'Illot, the resort on the east coast that is shared by the towns of Sant Llorenç and Manacor. The chiringuito, which had remarkably enough opened in 1951, was known as Bar S'Illot, so there was nothing remarkable about the name, but it was a genuine beach bar back then as there wasn't anything between it and the beach. There is now, while Bar S'Illot assumed a new name earlier this year - Fifty Seven (and no, I don't know that there is any connection with Heinz).

That the bar should have been as popular as it was back in the day is surprising for two reasons; there was pretty much nothing and no one there and there was an almost complete lack of utilities. S'Illot was back-of-beyond Mallorca and when, in 1963, Jaume de Juan arrived in S'Illot, there was no electricity, no water and no telephone. There were a couple of hotels which ran off generators, to which was to be added Jaume's own hotel. He was honoured a few years ago for his contribution to tourism, having become a co-founder of the Mallorca hoteliers federation, and having shown that, along with the most popular beach bar of a bygone era, S'Illot was at the forefront of Mallorca's early years of tourism.

Why do I mention all this? The reason is to highlight the fact that tourism had humble roots and that it grew up in parts of the island which might have been unexpected. And in S'Illot there doesn't appear to have been any obviously thought-out plan for development in the early 1960s. Jaume de Juan has said that in 1963 he turned up in a Seat 600 bringing with him a shovel. There was a plot available and he got on with it, though one suspects there was rather more to it than a spot of digging.

It's a good yarn, nevertheless, and one packed with nostalgia for the fifty years which have passed since he began his hotel adventure and since the Bar S'Illot, now restored and renamed, was somehow defying its out-of-the-way location to have acquired the reputation it had. It's a yarn which also confirms the fact that there is a whole, largely untold story about Mallorca's tourism, one whose starting-points can be movable. To take S'Illot's as an example, though Jaume de Juan was to become the most celebrated of its hoteliers and the one who created a breakthrough for S'Illot as a resort, in the mid-1950s the first hotel to have opened in Cala Moreia was owned by one Pere Caldentey, a native of Sant Llorenç and, at the time the hotel was being built, the third-choice goalkeeper for Barcelona.

One can't call the people of the prehistoric talayot period tourists, but S'Illot has something of an oddball charm about it that is the result of having, only some 200 metres from the beach, a talayotic settlement. To be honest, you don't tend to get too many talayotic settlements more or less slap bang in the middle of a tourist area, but in S'Illot you do. But, and especially given where the settlement is, the modern day comes firmly into play, this modern day being in the form of land law, one that S'Illot tourism pioneers of the 1960s would not have given a great deal of attention to. In 1976, however, a national law was passed which, when applied to the prehistoric settlement, determined that it was green land liable to have to be expropriated. Over thirty years later, this law finally swung into action, and Sant Llorenç town hall came to realise that it had to expropriate the settlement's land, i.e. it had to pay the owners a market value, and the owners were the ones who pressed for the council to pay. Sant Llorenç is now in for some three million euros which will be paid in instalments. It could have been more, had a court been involved and arbitrated.

It seems bizarre that there can actually be an owner of a prehistoric settlement and that a local authority is legally obliged to hand over a fair old wedge for something it is already managing and which would surely not be subject to any form of development because of other laws. But bizarre is how things often are and how altogether more complex things are compared with the days when Jaume de Juan could take a shovel out of his Seat 600 and start digging.

* Photo of part of the talayotic settlement from the PDF from

Friday, October 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 21C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 to 4 backing Southeast during the morning.

Another good-looking morning and another very warm day on the cards. The weekend should be good as well, but the forecast from Tuesday into next week begins to look less than good.

Evening update (19.30): A high of 28.4C; it has been unusually warm for the time of year.

Passive Passion For Palma

There has been a good deal of criticism of the promotion of Palma since the forming of the city's tourism foundation, Palma 365, and the launch of the "Passion for Palma de Mallorca" slogan and logo. I have been critical, especially of a slogan that is passé and of a logo that looks more as though it is marketing a medical service than a city. But Palma is stuck with both, so it may as well get on and do the best it can. Or rather, better than it has been doing. This is where the principal criticism comes in. What actually has the city and the foundation been doing with its 365 promotion?

One of the oddities of the foundation is that, as it consists of representatives of both the public and the private sectors, it brings together precisely the interested parties that should, working together, make for a more integrated and hopefully more professional approach to marketing. It may well be that the foundation will reveal itself as a sort of benchmark for public and private sector tourism promotion co-operation, but it has thus far hidden whatever promotional light it has under a bush of indeterminate action.

There is to be one notable change of tack, though. Palma is to drop its concentration on travel fairs and focus instead on direct promotion with four countries, or with the capital cities of four countries at any rate. Tourism emissaries are to be sent to London and Berlin in 2014 and also to Stockholm and Moscow in 2015 in order to meet with and speak directly with tour operators, airlines and the media. Palma town hall, which doubles as the co-ordinator of the Palma 365 campaign, will open to tender contracts to the value of 40,000 euros for agencies in the different cities to set about communication plans to promote Palma.

Well, I don't quite know what you get for forty grand but I can just about understand the change of tack. The foundation will be talking to the same sort of people it would talk to at a travel fair, but perhaps a travel fair isn't the right environment as there are too many others wanting to do some talking. A more focused approach makes some sense, especially when it comes to promoting out-of-season tourism. The town hall's tourism councillor, our old friend Álvaro (Sporting) Gijón, says that fairs are basically about sun-and-beach tourism, therefore summer rather than winter.

He does also admit that what will be done will be fairly basic stuff, and while there is nothing wrong with getting some basics right, it doesn't really inspire a great deal of confidence, and so one comes back to the criticisms. Palma has its campaign, it has its foundation, it has its slogan and logo. Now what?

There is also apparently going to be a new portal. Costing sixty grand, this website will bring together all the relevant information about the city and a bookings system for hotels, hire car and what have you. It remains to be seen what it will actually entail but I fear that it might end up as just another example of essentially passive marketing.

The contracts for the agencies in the four countries will, one imagines, be aimed at getting increased media coverage for Palma. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but it, like many a website as well as other forms of promotion, such as TV advertising, is too passive for a contemporary market. Yesterday I looked at the ambitious project for Calas de Mallorca. This is essentially an approach which is far more in keeping with how tourist and user behaviour has changed. It is an active one. Through social marketing it engages with the tourist, learns about him or her, can adapt to what is said, know more about motivations and interests. Palma's approach, on the other hand, appears stuck in passive mode.

Palma 365 gives all the impression of a campaign that has been undertaken completely the wrong way round. Its starting-point has been the PR kudos of sloganising and logo-making, public relations which appear to have been performed more in order to demonstrate that something is being done rather than something being thought through. The starting-point is now much easier than it ever used to be: genuine engagement with the market and the tourist. Does Palma 365 really understand that this is how it can now be? It seems to have allowed passive passion to have got in the way of active attachment.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South and Southwest 3 to 4, locally Variable during the afternoon. Possible shower in the afternoon.

Fine, bright morning and a fine day ahead. There may be a chance of some rain out at sea but little possibility of any on land. Sun and warmth, with maximums still in the upper-20s.

Evening update (19.45): A whopping 29.3C high today.

The Cloud Revolution In Calas De Mallorca

There I was, one day saying how little one tends to hear about resorts on Mallorca's east coast and the next day talking about creative solutions to tourism and to Mallorca as a whole. And then, blow me, the two subjects suddenly appear together in perhaps one of the more unlikely parts of the island.

Or maybe it isn't an unlikely part. Calas de Mallorca is one of the island's resorts which falls under what the tourism ministry refers to as "mature" resorts (an odd categorisation as there are few resorts which aren't mature, but be this as it may). Such resorts, the ministry has stressed, need modernising, and in the case of Calas de Mallorca, it would be modernisation of what was initially created in the 1960s. It hadn't been one of the even more mature resorts that had been earmarked for development between the wars, such as Cala d'Or, a short distance down the coast. It was one which caught the wave of the great tourism boom.

Despite its maturity, one suspects that Calas de Mallorca would not be the first resort name on a prospective tourist's list of Mallorcan resorts. I am unaware of research which has ever done this (though there probably is some), but in terms of name recognition or awareness my guess would be that Calas de Mallorca would be some way down the list behind the more usual suspects. Indeed it is said that it is one of the more forgotten of Mallorca's resorts. It could benefit, therefore, from a spot of marketing. And this is exactly what it is to get, and it is marketing with an innovative edge. Calas de Mallorca is to be the first tourist "Cloud Destination" on the island.

Cloud Destination is a registered trademark. It is one for an initiative that has been financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (itself part of the Ministry for the Economy) which has been in development for some three years but which was first being advanced at the Madrid tourism fair in 2011. It involves a consortium of technology companies, three of them Mallorcan, in putting together a web-based "strategy for comprehensive touristic management" and in creating a "new business model for ICT (information and communications technology) tourism".

These quotes come from a PowerPoint presentation which explains Cloud Destination. You can see it for yourself if you so wish**  but to give an idea as to what it entails, it embraces cloud computing in establishing a platform to cover the life-cycle of a tourist and to provide web services for different stages of this life-cycle. And by life-cycle, this refers to the tourist "experience" before, during and after he or she has stayed in a destination.

If this all sounds like jargon heaven for techy and management-technique freaks, then that is what it is. The before, during and after encounter is littered with acronyms and concepts that appear to be light years away from simply flogging a sun and beach holiday. But its jargon does not detract from what, on the face of it, is a pretty decent innovation. Included are elements such as a "touristic observatory", basically the gathering of data on all manner of things that the tourist gets up to, including how he spends his money, and something called TURSEM, which features a "travellers' social network", an objective of which is to "define the motivations and emotions of travellers when they choose a tourist destination".

In January next year, a new tourist web portal is due to go live which goes under the title "Calas de Mallorca, a window to nature". This will be the visible front page of the whole exercise and it will include the kinds of things you might expect, such as different activities, special offers, information on hotels and beaches, booking system. Linked into all of this will be different social media channels.

But it will be what goes on behind the portal that will be of crucial importance, as the system will enable the type of data gathering and profiling which will give a more sophisticated understanding of the tourist and greater ability to mould promotion accordingly.

It's an ambitious scheme and it will be fascinating to see how it works in practice and also to see how it translates into actual business generation. Much would depend on how the technology is used. So, for example, having the social media channels will require, at the least, constant interaction with the users. It looks like a very good idea and one that might just transform Calas de Mallorca and especially its "mature" image.

** (straight download)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 3 to 4, occasionally Northwest 2 to 3 during the afternoon.

Cloudy, though the forecast rain may just stay away. Brightening up during the afternoon, and the outlook is pretty good the rest of the week.

Evening update (18.30): There was rain in some areas but not much and most parts escaped any, save for the odd spit. A high of 27.2 once the sun emerged. 

Finger In The Dyke: Tourism commissioner

In an ancient copy of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" is a photo of a group of tourists gathered in a hotel to watch the 1966 World Cup final. How civilised things were back then. Some were even wearing ties. It was football from a different era, one of the Bobby gentlemen - Moore and Charlton - though one shouldn't of course forget that there was always Nobby Stiles. Different era but a time when England ruled the footballing waves and Mallorca had come from almost nowhere to scoop the tourism crown.

Mallorca's tourism doesn't have the same longevity as the English Football Association (unless you throw in the likes of the Archduke Louis Salvador and his intellectual tourist chums of the late nineteenth century) but it has its history, and, like English football, it had its time of isolation. The FA, secretarially led in the 1930s by Stanley Rous, a former referee with a strange moustache, looked down on the playing of foreign johnnies for the title of world champions, while Mallorca, from the mid-1930s, went into a period of tourism shutdown thanks to a military man with a strange moustache who didn't much care for any foreign johnnies (unless they were Italian).

By the mid-1960s this had all changed. But after those heady days there were times in the doldrums. England failed to qualify for successive World Cups in the 1970s, while the fallout from the oil crisis in the mid-1970s left Mallorca temporarily short of tourist numbers it had become accustomed to. Better times lay ahead. England rejoined the elite, while Mallorca was very much the elite. Then there was recession at the start of the 1990s. Tourism was hurt for a time, while Graham Taylor did not like the fact that England missed out on the 1994 tournament.

There was recovery and so we are where we are today, England preparing to head off to Brazil, unlikely to pull off a miracle of Roy of the Rovers proportions and settling instead for some Roy of the Rhesus monkeying around when presented with the fear of the penalty spot, and Mallorca being regular qualifiers and among the bookies' tourism favourites but only securing victories thanks largely to off-the-field carryings-on among the competition.

Greg Dyke is proof of the rule that whenever successful businesspeople go anywhere near football they rat on previous rationalism and that, if they are mad enough to end up at the FA, they end up sticking their fingers in dykes in seeking to cure symptoms rather than attacking causes. Dyke might maintain otherwise but a one-time management style of cutting out the crap (Birt's BBC variety) has been turned on its head. The make-up of the FA's commission, initially and partly an exercise in FA politics schmoozing, belatedly diversity tokenism, will mean that he will do well to even get as far as sticking the finger in the dyke.

Why bother with a commission anyway? Get thee from Wembley, Mr. Dyke, and go and talk yourself to whoever you can find about technique, coaching and all the rest. Rather than having Hoddle shouting across a table at Wilkinson, talk to them separately. Counsel opinion, counsel views, ask questions and listen.

Mallorca has a tourism chairman of sorts. He is the tourism minister. Mallorca doesn't have a tourism commission but if it were to then it, too, would be populated with the politically acceptable usual suspects, most of whom have contributed well enough but who have failed to address underlying concerns. Performance on the tourism pitch obscures a lack of service technique, conceals the dominance of the hotel long-ball game, masks the disconnect between all-star all-inclusive and the simple bar owners on their terraces, hides the presence of a system which works well enough on the sun-kissed sands of summer but which falls apart when the winter winds disrupt this high-season tourist tiki-taka, papers over the cracks of Mallorca premier league status caused by modern-thinking competitors.

Mallorca needs a tourism commissioner, one who cuts through the crap. One who talks to the grassroots, those within the tourism industry locally so not just the CEO class, and to the grassroots who are not within the industry but who give it its living - tourists themselves. A commissioner wouldn't even have to leave his office to do this. He can have conversations with this grassroots from his desktop.

It might all seem unnecessary. Mallorca is metaphorically on its way to Brazil and it maintains one hand on the trophy. But there are plenty of others who are going to their Brazils: to Croatia, to Turkey, to Egypt ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 4 occasionally 5 around Capdepera during the afternoon.

Overcast but due to brighten up. Rain coming in from the mainland for tomorrow but then better on Thursday. Staying warm.

Evening update (18.45): Another exceptionally warm day, a high of 29.6C. Rain is a possibility overnight and into tomorrow.

Mallorca: The Creative Island

Charles Landry is probably not a name with which you are familiar but it is a name with which you may become more familiar. Palma might, or rather should, become a Landry city. And what does this mean? Professor Landry is the person who came up with the concept of the creative city.

Landry's creative cities entail an approach to urban planning which goes well beyond the physical infrastructure of a city. It is an approach which is intended to drive innovation in order to make a city distinctive. It is one which demands the right conditions for people to apply their imagination in developing opportunities, in solving urban problems and in transforming cities in ways which still retain their cultures. It is also one which requires traditional structures, be they political for example, to be dismantled or changed in order to allow the space for ideas to develop.

Antoni Riera, professor of applied economics at the Universitat de les Illes Balears, is something of a Landry disciple. He believes that there is vast untapped potential which could make very much more of Palma than is the case. Fundamentally, and although Palma has much to commend it, the city lacks a certain distinctiveness, it lacks a specialisation. The creative city concept aims to address both these deficiencies. It also challenges decision-makers to consider pretty basic questions:  what is the city for? what does the city do? how can the city be better?

It all sounds terribly blue-sky but in fact it isn't. The creative city concept is in essence the urban application of thinking that has gone into reinventing many business organisations. It takes some of the attitude that has prevailed along the American west coast from Oregon to Silicon Valley in establishing a campus mentality and the room for minds to be able to come up with innovative solutions. Creative cities have sprung up. Barcelona is one such.

But perhaps Professor Riera is being too narrow in even his broad vision. Palma, it is true to say, generates almost half the gross domestic product not just of Mallorca but of the Balearics. It is vital in being the economic driver but it is not alone. The problem is that sometimes it appears to be.

So, rather than a creative city, why not a creative island? The same sorts of questions that would be asked of Palma could be asked of the island as a whole. What is it for? How distinctive is it? What does it specialise in? The answers might seem obvious. Tourism would be one, but this is a specialisation which lacks distinctiveness. If there were distinctiveness, we wouldn't forever be having endless debates about winter tourism. We have them because other places have similar problems and come up with similar half-baked solutions (if any). They end up chasing a largely illusory market by offering similar products. And why? Because they have not thought about what they (as destinations) are for.

Tourism is only part of the equation but it is a pretty important part. Yet it is importance that is derived from a massive strength which is also a massive weakness. The strength of summer tourism has been built on enormous capacity - hotel places most obviously. In winter, though, this capacity is all but worthless. It cannot be supported. Hence there is an economy with a gargantuan in-built imbalance. The winter tourism debate reflects this. One moment there are days of plenty, the next moment there are days of poverty. And all because no one had the foresight to appreciate the imbalance that was being established or to ask what the island was actually for or what it could be apart from just tourism.

The Landry-Riera prescription demands different structures. To continue with the tourism theme, there is one structure that either needs junking or radically altering. It is the regional government's tourism agency and its equivalents at island council level. What has the agency and its predecessors ever really achieved? What have tourism ministers ever really achieved? The first, Jaume Cladera, did more than most, but who else? Two of them are currently in prison. And why on earth is responsibility for tourism promotion being handed to the island councils? Are there great minds of tourism strategic thinking lurking within their cosy regimes? I would very much doubt it. The private sector needs to be driving all this, just as it did until 1983. 

Tourism is only one aspect. The creative island would need visionaries to make it a reality, to re-think what Mallorca is for, to make it distinctive. To make it new. Where, though, are the visionaries?

Monday, October 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 18C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3 backing Southeast 3 around midday; 4 at intervals.

Clear, sunny morning with a touch of mist. Should be a very good day with plenty of sun and highs probably above the forecast.

Evening update (19.00): A good day it was. A high of 28.7C.

Mallorca's Forgotten Tourist Resorts

One of the clichés about football matches is that if you don't notice or hardly ever hear a commentator mention the referee, then the ref must be having a good match. He is getting on with what he's supposed to do, not making a rick and not drawing undue attention to himself.

If Mallorca's resorts were like football referees, then there are some which constantly do make a rick. For all the wrong reasons, the refs of Magalluf, Arenal, Playa de Palma and Cala Rajada have been too liberal with their red cards, have missed obvious penalties or offsides or have been conned by a dive. There are some resorts which do a degree of preening and bring attention to themselves. Alcúdia is one. It shouts about its marina and watersports, at the same time overlooking its Mile. But drawing attention is not as bad as making a rick, so long as the attention is merited.

As with the performance of the ref on the day, the reports in the papers the following day will make no mention of the man with the whistle if he has put in a solid and undemonstrative shift. Occasionally, he will be mentioned for having had a blinder: for rightly not issuing a red, for correctly not awarding a penalty and for not being conned by a dive. But usually it's the making of a rick which produces the reporter's column inches. Bad performance equals good copy.

So it also is with Mallorca's resorts. The reporting of them almost inevitably centres on the bad. Why? Well, what is there to be said about resorts that just get on with things, don't make a fuss and never experience any trouble? Of course, it isn't always the bad, which is why there are reports of the good. Alcúdia might be showing off when it shouts about its cruise ships arriving for the first time, but then why not.

But how many resorts ever really get mentioned? You would be forgiven for thinking sometimes that there were only about half a dozen, yet there are many more about which little is ever heard. These are the resorts which, like the sound-performing, undemonstrative ref, just get on with being resorts. If there is one thing wrong with some of them, it is that they don't indulge in more of the Alcúdia promo exercises. But then they don't all have cruise ships and supposedly award-winning marinas.

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about Mallorca's north-south divide in which I said that "if you are unfortunate enough to live right out on the east coast, you will know that, for all intents and purposes, you don't exist".

If one takes the east as stretching from Cala Rajada to Cala d'Or and Santanyí, ask yourself how often you ever hear about the east-coast resorts. Cala Rajada, yes, but mainly if you are German and you are concerned that it has become the New Arenal. Porto Cristo? Usually only when they are knocking bridges down. Other resorts?

If you take the three resorts along the bay of Alcúdia, their combined tourist population isn't that much lower than that in Calvià, which has the highest concentration of tourists and which attracts the greatest attention, mainly because Magalluf and to a lesser extent Santa Ponsa are considered to equate to Calvià when they quite plainly do not. But the bay of Alcúdia covers a fair distance. By comparison, the bay of Cala Millor, something of a misnomer admittedly, covers a far shorter distance. Yet, from Costa dels Pins to S'Illot there is a tourist population greatly in excess of Alcúdia on its own. In terms of tourist populations, it ranks third behind Calvià and Palma.

So why is so little heard of it? The reason lies with the ref analogy. It doesn't make a rick. There is no bad performance. Both police and politicians say that it is quiet. Nothing really happens other than tourists, in great numbers, getting on and enjoying themselves. There is, though, going to be a bit of showing-off. A tourist consortium has been formed by the two municipalities, Sant Llorenç and Son Servera, into which Cala Millor falls. It is something of a pioneering move for town halls to combine in order to undertake a joint promotional drive, one aimed at enhancing the bay as a tourist destination.

It's good. One can argue that it has taken the town halls a hell of a long time to get round to something as obvious as joint co-ordination and co-operation, but let's not be too critical. One fancies we'll be hearing more. And there won't be any ricks.

* Photo of Cala Millor from Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Easy for Mallorca against Real Madrid reserves

Real Mallorca 2 : 0 Real Madrid Castilla
Mallorca at home to bottom-of-the league opponents, Real Madrid's reserve side, and against whom a fifth-minute header by Nsue set the home side on the way to having an untroubled evening. Moreno added a second at the end of a counter-attacking move in the 38th minute, and the second half, bereft of any real incident, was something of a stroll for Mallorca who climb to seventh (though other results may change this).

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 25C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South and Southwest 2 to 3; at intervals Northeast 3 during the afternoon.

A similar start to yesterday with a fair bit of light cloud which should lift to give another good day, the threat of a shower seemingly having gone. The outlook is generally fine for the week.

Evening update (20.00): Took a while for the cloud to clear but a good day once it had with a high of 28.1C.

Tackling Chaos In Magalluf

So, Calvià town hall has come up with a cunning plan to beef up security and to tackle delinquency in Magalluf next summer. For the record, these measures will include illuminating the beach at night (assuming this does not affect aircraft), closing the Punta Ballena to traffic at night, installing surveillance cameras and extra policing. The town hall also intends talking with the "responsible authorities" to deal with the matter of party boats and with businesses to address issues to do with bar crawls.

To say that the town hall has come in for a fair share of criticism this summer would be an understatement. Whether measures it has now announced will satisfy its critics and whether they will have any real effect will only be known next summer. At least it has reacted, though.

The problems in Magalluf are that well-known that they really don't require my repeating them. It is the fact that they are well-known, however, that has prompted the level of criticism aimed at the town hall as well as the kind of accusations made about local police which will only go away if future action is concerted and is seen to be applied with evenhanded rigour.  

For all this, the town hall, as with Palma and Llucmajor town halls, deserves some sympathy. The problems in Magalluf, Playa de Palma and Arenal are many, and not all of them are ones that town halls or local police forces are equipped to deal with or should even be expected to deal with; people falling off balconies comes into the latter category, organised criminality comes into the former.

These many problems can be defined in two main ways. One is that of what might be called anti-social behaviour (drunkenness and its attendant issues). The second is crime pure and simple. Anti-social behaviour may slip into crime when violence occurs but it is essentially, if not always in practice, containable by the different police bodies. A manifestation of such behaviour which could have become violent but which didn't was the way in which cars on Punta Ballena have been surrounded by drunk and offensive young tourists. The videos of this - and Javier Pierotti was the one who did most to draw attention to it - were shocking. The town hall will now close the street to traffic. It's a simple enough measure, thus proving that some incidents can be contained and even prevented.

It is the crime, though, which is by far the greater problem. It is one that the town halls cannot tackle. Only the National Police and Guardia Civil can, but even they are presented with obstacles. The most obvious criminality is that of the mugging prostitutes. These women, for the most part, ply their trade against their will. It has been shown by the arrest of gang organisers in Playa de Palma that women had been brought from Nigeria and forced into what they do. 

The police can round up these women, just as they can round up looky-looky men who are in Mallorca illegally, but doing anything with them is a very different matter. The impotence of police forces - the National Police, the Guardia and local police - is mirrored elsewhere on the island where problems are not as they are in Magalluf but are there nonetheless. Lock a looky-looky man up for the night, and then what? Fine him? How's he going to pay? Deport him? It's a very long, complex and expensive business. It is the same with the women in Magalluf or Playa de Palma. Many of the looky-looky men are exploited, most of the women are, and in the women's case, they have essentially been victims of human trafficking for subsequent exploitation. This is the prime criminality. Not what they themselves might do.

The success that the National Police had in arresting gang leaders involved in mugging prostitution in Playa de Palma has to be repeated. It is the only way to try and bring an end to all of this, and in Magalluf there is surely one very powerful business interest that will want it stamped out there.

Meliá are transforming Magalluf. They and their partners are investing heavily in bringing about a change to a resort which, even since Meliá's plans for it were revealed two years ago, seems to have deteriorated. This cannot be good for Meliá when the manifestations of crime are right there on the doorsteps of their new up-market creations.

Gabriel Escarrer, the boss of Meliá, apparently spent his summer holiday in a "chalet" in Magalluf. One wonders what he saw at night. Or maybe he didn't need to see. More than the small bar owners who complain about the looky-looky men and about alleged local police inaction or favouritism, it is Meliá which have the muscle to force improvements in Magalluf. Over to you, Sr. Escarrer.

* The video, "Magaluf Caos 2013", was the first posted by Javier Pierotti this summer.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 20C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 to 4. 

A dullish start, brightening up later. Tomorrow, there may be a shower. The week ahead looking reasonable with temperatures still in the mid-20s range.

Evening update (19.30): Pretty good day. It brightened up quickly. A high of 28.7C.

King For A New Day?: Spain going forward

The Spanish Government has unveiled its latest plan to reduce the country's budget deficit and to bring it within the European Union's 3% requirement by 2016. The plan will mean yet more cost-saving and revenue-raising measures and hefty ones, too. Four billion euros will need to be found in 2015 on top of the four billion for next year. Taken together, these measures don't sound like confidence will be returning to the economy any time soon.

Yet, there are signs of possible improvement even if they are only brought about by temporary economic activity and by some talking-up. Tourism is bound to create some better performance, but if it didn't, then something would be seriously wrong; Spain's summer tourism, if not its winter tourism, is benefiting from uncertainties and unrest in key competitor destinations. This better performance has been highlighted in the Balearics, though the talking-up has been based on statistical evidence which doesn't, in itself, equate to actual economic growth. A nine per cent increase in tourism spend in the Balearics over the first nine months of this year is not an especially reliable indicator, though it is up by five percentage points over the same period in 2012.

Let's say, therefore, that there are some encouraging signs, but tourism would need to keep its performance going and indeed improving. Tourism's contribution is essential while other sectors remain moribund, one of them being retail, and it is small wonder that this sector, and so increased consumer spend, continues to languish. Increased rates of value added tax (IVA) and of income tax have done nothing to encourage consumer confidence or to lend a hand to growth.

The chances of tax rates going down - the government had said that increases would only be temporary - are remote for the foreseeable future. They are likely to remain at least into 2015. Righting the deficit is, therefore, a greater priority than effecting genuine growth, despite what the government might say about growth prospects.

Most Spaniards give politicians' pronouncements or prognostications on growth in the short-term little credence. In the Balearics, there is little credence given to President Bauzá's ham-fisted use of tourism spend information as evidence of improvement. The most recent Gadeso survey of consumer sentiment showed that there is negligible confidence in the real economy.

It is, however, the utterances of non-politicians which might help with the talking-up. If politicians are not believed, then maybe bankers will be. What am I saying? They were the ones who helped to bring about Spain's economic problems. Can, therefore, the words of the chief executive of Santander, Emilio Botín, be trusted? He has said that money is "coming in from all directions" - to the stock exchange and in the form of direct inward investment into Spain. Perhaps he can be trusted, but he will surely know that there are certain aspects of economic life in Spain which are not especially welcoming to inward investors, those who want to operate in Spain anyway. These include, as an example, the harmfully high levels of social-security payments. This, social security, is something that requires serious attention. It cripples many of the self-employed as well.

If not the politicians or the bankers, then what about the royal family? King Juan Carlos, recently in hospital again, is a declining figure. But while he declines, his son, Felipe, grows. At a business conference in Panama the other day, he echoed what the boss of Santander said about increasing investor confidence. He probably would say this, but nevertheless Felipe is cutting an altogether more impressive figure these days.

For so long in his father's shadow, Felipe's stock has risen. He has been unaffected by the corruption scandal involving his brother-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin, which has harmed his father and both his sisters (Elena far less than Cristina but still so because of links to the same financial advisor). Despite persistent rumours as to possible problems with his marriage, Felipe does seem to be benefiting from better PR. He was the one representative at Madrid's somewhat shambolic Olympic bid presentation to come out with any credit. He spoke well. He showed the right blend of gravitas and communicativeness. He was impressive.

If Spain does come out of the doldrums, it needs to look forward and to show a new face. Too much of what is being shown by politicians is looking backward, an example being with the renewed emphasis on religion in education. If there is to be a new dawn in the hopefully not too distant future, then a young(ish) figurehead should be there to herald it, one who is increasingly confident both nationally and internationally and who would be representative of what might become a new but more sensible Spain.

Friday, October 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 17C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3 to 4. 

Quite cloudy this morning but likely to be less so later. Forecast for the weekend not as positive as was with more cloud tomorrow and possible shower on Sunday, but the breezes are predominantly southerly, so warm air coming in.

Evening update (18.00): A high of 29C once the sun came out. 

A Torrent Runs Through It: Sa Canova

Sa Canova in Artà lies just over the municipal border with Santa Margalida. One way of getting to Sa Canova beach is to go to Son Serra de Marina and then take a short walk. The other way is to walk from Colonia Sant Pere. Sa Canova was in the news earlier this year because the first official naturist hotel in Mallorca was opened nearby; part of the beach of Sa Canova has long been popular with naturists. It is in the news again because four municipalities in Mallorca have placed it in the news. Two of these - Santa Margalida and Artà - have a clear interest in Sa Canova. But why are Petra and Manacor getting involved?

Council meetings at the four towns have all voted in favour of rejecting a development proposal for Sa Canova. But the rejection is not just confined to Sa Canova, its beach and its dunes, it also includes the torrent of Na Borges. This is the longest torrent in Mallorca. It originates between Porreres and Felanitx and passes through Petra on its way to the bay of Alcúdia. There is a torrent from Manacor which joins it. Na Borges is, where the four towns are concerned, a "place of common interest" which requires a specific plan of management to look after it. Studies have been going on for several years into the torrent's sediments and drainage and also into erosion of farming land that it passes through, so ecologically it is far from unimportant. The torrent enters the bay of Alcúdia at Sa Canova. Indeed, it is the torrent which forms the borderline in Son Serra de Marina between Artà and Santa Margalida.

While this is all very interesting in its own right, it is what has been proposed for Sa Canova which is very much more interesting and which is why the four towns have objected. The development envisaged at Sa Canova is for a holiday complex comprising some 200 bungalows. It was one which the Balearic parliament approved last year, despite Sa Canova being protected as an area of special natural interest and also despite the fact that, in theory, Artà town hall have the final word as to any development.

Artà's word is no. But one doubts that its word is the final word for a development which would occupy some sixty hectares of land that had been earmarked as a golf course back in the 1980s. This development was stopped when the land classification was changed, but there is some development there - five houses, roads, water supplies but not full electricity connections. Some of you might know this area. It is a semi-urbanisation called Ravenna.

The plan for the Sa Canova holiday club would entail the bungalows being built to five-star standard. There is much provision for environmental management, while investors behind the project have proposed that they fund restoration and maintenance work on the various prehistoric sites in the area (one of these, along the coast in Son Real, suffers from almost complete financial neglect). The club would employ up to 150 people in summer but, and crucially, it would remain open all year.

It is the all-year nature of the development, its location in an essentially rural setting and the fact that the investors are Belgian that makes one think of certain other holiday clubs. It is a coincidence that news has come through of Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs opening an all-year holiday complex in Benidorm. P&V, a French company, has its sights set on expansion into Mallorca. It might not create the type of Center Parcs that exists in, say, the Netherlands, but maybe it would.

The Sa Canova development would be in a location that would fit quite closely with the original Center Parcs concept. That's not what it would be, just as the P&V Benidorm complex is also not, but I am far from alone in having thought for many years that it is precisely this type of concept that should be considered for Mallorca.

I know the Sa Canova area reasonably well. There is much to be said for it keeping its "rustic" and unspoilt charm, but then the development wouldn't sit right on top of the beach. It would be set back and probably mostly obscured. As a project it has much to commend it, but whether it would ever go ahead is highly questionable. One thinks of the objections to the development at Es Trenc and so one knows how vociferous the lobby against such developments is and knows also that the competing demands of the environment and of tourism commerce seem to be almost irreconcilable in Mallorca.

* Photo of Sa Canova from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 19C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southeast 3; 4 at intervals.

Sunny morning but may be cloudy later. Pretty warm though. Forecast into the weekend is ok for Saturday but Sunday may bring a shower.

Evening update (18.45): A high of 27.9C, so not hot like yesterday and there has also been a fair amount of cloud.

Is It Time For A Mallorcan Tourist Tax?

The CCOO union in Catalonia has produced a report on tourism performance between January and August. The report includes figures for the number of visitors over this eight-month period, the number of overnight stays and for the average length of stay. To sum up, there has been a slight fall in the total number of visitors, one brought about by a dip of over 7.5% in the national market. Foreign tourism has, on the other hand, increased by more than 2.5%. The volume of tourism is not as interesting, however, as the figures for overnight stays and length of stay. Both have risen, not dramatically by any means, but they have still risen; respectively, they are up by 1.1% and 2.5%.

Why is Catalonia's tourism performance of interest and why in particular is information regarding stays of interest? The answer is Catalonia's tourist tax. It was introduced at the end of last year. It has not resulted in a fall in either the number of overnight stays (on which it is charged) or in the average length of stay.

One can always look to external events in order to explain tourism performance. Those in Egypt and Turkey can be and are used to partially explain why Mallorca's tourism performance has been better this year. So they can also be used to explain performance in Catalonia. But setting external events to one side, the fact is that Catalonia's tourism appears not to have been unduly affected by the introduction of the tourist tax.

While the CCOO has been producing its report, the hotel association on the Costa Daurada, which includes Salou, has been producing its own report. Included in this is a call for hotels and the private sector to have a greater say in how the tourist tax is used, as it is devoted to tourism promotion. This in itself is interesting. Nowhere does the report question the tourist tax, merely how it is allocated and who gets to decide. And this is a hotel association.

Last month, the Catalonian minister for enterprise and employment announced that the number of foreign tourists between January and August had risen by 6% over the same period in 2012. The figure is therefore higher than the CCOO has reported. Even allowing for different means of calculation and different motivations for presenting information, the government and the union agree that there has been an increase. And this increase had, by the end of the second quarter this year, contributed to bringing in 19 million euros from the tourist tax. The expectation is that, once the high-summer quarter is factored in, the tax will have raised 42 million euros by the end of the year.

Catalonia attracts more tourists than Mallorca and the Balearics. An indicator of this is that by the end of August the total number of tourists was already higher (11.35 million) than that which the Balearics can probably expect for the whole year. Though a larger market, Catalonia isn't that different to the Balearics, except in one quite important regard. It has a very significant camping holiday market, while the number of hotel places is in fact lower than the number for the Balearics. The hotel lobby in Catalonia is, while powerful, not as all-powerful as it is in the Balearics. It is revealing that the Costa Daurada hotel association appears to have embraced the tourist tax, and this contrasts with how the Balearics hoteliers perceived the old eco-tax. They were horrified and did whatever they could to get rid of it. And they succeeded.

The Catalonian tourist tax is different to the eco-tax in that it is not discriminatory. All types of accommodation are included. The eco-tax placed the onus on hotels and excluded certain types of accommodation. It was partly because it was discriminatory that there was the level of objection that, not unreasonably, there was.

Opposition parties in the Balearics, notably the Més grouping, continue to press for the introduction of a tourist tax. The regional government has consistently rejected the call. The hoteliers have made it perfectly clear that they don't want one. But Catalonia has shown that the tax does not seem to have had a negative impact. It will provide funds for tourism promotion of the level that the Balearics can only dream about.

A tourist tax would be unpopular, but there is a moral argument for one as well as an economic one. Tourists use resources for which they do not contribute in a direct monetary way, unlike businesses and residents. A tourist tax for the Balearics does at least deserve a new and full debate.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 27C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Northwest 3 to 4 easing North 2 to 3 by the afternoon.

Sun and clear skies. Sun and clear skies all day, so the forecast reckons.

Evening update (18.00): Well, 31.5C is quite a high for mid-October, and that was what it was in Sa Pobla earlier. A bit cooler on the coast.

Is Religion Mallorca's Alternative Tourism?

What has happened with the proposal for a Christian theme park (last heard of somewhere near Inca)? It may well have been quietly forgotten, which would be unsurprising as it is/was a bit odd to say the least. This said, the religious element, where tourism is concerned, is not in the least bit odd.

Religious tourism is the oldest form of tourism. It is not, in its original manifestations, what we would call tourism nowadays, but pilgrimages were a type of tourism. They still are, and nowhere in Spain receives more pilgrims than Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims, though, are only one facet of religious tourism. Indeed, it is not necessary for a tourist to be a pilgrim or in any way religious in order to take part in and to enjoy religious tourism. The very word "religious" may turn many visitors off, but religious tourism embraces several different elements. Spirituality is or can be one, but there are others - history, culture, architecture, music, literature, folklore, ethnology and the weird niche known as "dark" tourism (cemeteries, atrocities and other such stuff).

On 28 March 1515 Teresa of Ávila was born. She became Saint Teresa of Jesus. She is considered an important figure in the history of the Catholic Church and in Spanish history. A national commission may be established in order to draw up events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of her birth in 2015. Meantime, the tourism minister for the region of Castile and León has already announced a tourism "product" related to Saint Teresa and one that will include collaboration with four other regions of Spain.

On 24 November 1713 Miguel Joseph Serra was born in the Mallorcan town of Petra. He became Father Junipero Serra, an important figure in Mallorcan history and in the history of California. 2013 has been Serra's "year". The climax of this year, one guesses, will be on or around the twenty-fourth of next month. One guesses, but what has really been made of the 300th anniversary of the birth of this significant person?

While the Ávila celebration would clearly be much grander in scope and would focus on a very much better known religious figure, a fear might be that a tourism product would be mainly or only religious. Similarly, one fears, it is only the religion and the missionary efforts of Father Junipero that have dominated thinking regarding his anniversary.

Increasingly, I have come to question the notion of niching tourism products which are alternatives to the Mallorcan mainstream of sun and beach. The marketing mantra is that of niching, but a problem with niching is that it establishes a limit in terms of scope and appeal. Some niches do reasonably well by concentrating on a single product. Cycling is a case in point, but far from all cyclists are interested only in cycling. There are examples of businesses in Mallorca which promote essentially niche products, including cycling, but which offer a far wider experience. And they are right to do so.

Religious tourism as a niche is not or should not be solely about religion. If it is, then it comes with an in-built limit. To take Father Junipero, it may come as a shock to some Mallorcans to know how little his name means anything outside Mallorca and California, but had there been a genuine tourism "product" built around his anniversary and to be maintained going forward, then he would be but only part of a vastly bigger product. Mallorca's religious history is far from unimportant but it is a history whose appeal lies with the island's fabulous cathedral, churches, sanctuaries and hermitages. And these fabulous buildings are to be found everywhere, in every town on the island, in every town with a different landscape and a different story to tell, in every town with varying other interests, be they wildlife, gastronomy, wine, agriculture and fiestas and fairs.

The celebration of Saint Teresa would envisage a "route" that stretches as far as Seville. It will be a most interesting route, but it will be a long route and one that may neglect more secular interests. Mallorca as a religious tourism destination has one huge advantage over such a route. It is small, compact. And within this small and compact island there is masses of religion to be seen and enjoyed alongside everything else on the island. It would not be called religious tourism because the term would be a turn-off for too many. It would be The Mallorca Experience, the collective experience of all the different niches and one that is set apart from sun and beach because in winter Mallorca cannot compete on sun and beach.

Niching has its place, of course it does, but perhaps it has dominated thinking too much. It has become marketing religion, but real religion, marketed as a collective Mallorcan whole, could form an answer to prayers to address the drought and famine of winter tourism.