Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 March 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 13C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 1 April - Cloud, sun, 19C; 2 April - Sun, cloud, 16C; 3 April - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4.

Fine, clear sky and good sunshine expected through the day. Weather a bit mixed over the next few days. May be a shower tomorrow, better for Thursday. Reasonably warm though.

Evening update (22.45): Very decent. A high of 27.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Spring Breaks: Where's the quality?

The history of the spring break vacation for university and high-school students can be traced back to a film made in 1960 with the same name as the novel "Where The Boys Are". Prior to this, Fort Lauderdale in Florida had been a destination for college students, but the influx was not huge and nor did it cause any problem. The release of the film changed this. It was a kind of promo for the spring break. The number of students heading for Fort Lauderdale doubled, and so the spring break became an established tradition. By the 1980s, the numbers had reached over a quarter of a million. Residents became distinctly hacked off with noise, damage and drunkenness. Within a short space of time, a change to Florida's drinking law, which raised the age to 21, had all but put an end to the spring break in Fort Lauderdale.

American students moved on to other places where the law was not as restrictive, but the spring break vacation, for all its popularity in the US, took years to cross the Atlantic. It is perhaps surprising that it took so long, but it is now firmly established, and its growth in recent years can probably be attributed to one thing - lower numbers of tourists in the non-peak months of the summer tourism season coinciding with the impact of economic crisis. Resorts and hotels needed different markets, and one that offered itself was the Spanish and European student spring break market.

This Easter in Magalluf, there is an offer for four nights of a "Spring Break Festival Mallorca". It is an offer aimed at Spanish kids and includes entrance to different clubs, drinks and pool parties. Here is just one example of the organised spring break holiday. There are others. Several others.

May is a month when hotel occupancy is not at its highest. In Magalluf and Palmanova it might not even reach 50% of the total hotel places open. 1200 or so Swedish students will thus do nicely for the odd hotel that needs to bump up its occupancy rate and for the odd club owner who wishes to increase low summer season trade. These Swedish students, typically aged 17 and 18, have, so we are told, rather more money to spend than, say, their British counterparts, but it is not solely spend on alcohol. It probably isn't, but who's to say that a good chunk of it isn't. The Swedes as a whole have a reputation for being good tourists, well behaved, well mannered. But there is big attraction other than the sun when it comes to holidaying in Mallorca. Booze is significantly cheaper than back home. It is much more easily obtainable. Assiduous checking of ages is not quite the same as back home.

There is a German tour operator called PartyUrlaub Reisen. It says that Mallorca is more than just binge-drinking and parties. There are crystal-clear waters and picturesque landscapes, but it doesn't dwell on these alternatives. There are gorgeous bodies in skimpy bikinis, bars, clubs and discos to turn night into day. The word "party" in the name should say it all, and this is what is being sold to a German spring break market heading predominantly to Arenal.

Then there is Finalia, the Spanish company which offers later spring breaks. Resort Bellevue Club, Alcudia. 250,000 square metres of paradise beaches, nine pools ... open-air concerts for more than 2000 people etc. etc. This is the "Mallorca sin profes" package, something which, the company's website suggests, has collaborating organisations that include the regional governments of the Balearics and Catalonia. Do these governments know exactly what happens on these vacations? People in Alcudia can tell them. A few weeks of living hell.

To come back to the Swedish students, the organisers of their spring breaks, a company whose address is given as Punta Ballena, offer "four weeks of madness" in May. And where is this madness likely to take place? Well, let's look at the hotels. There is a selection. One of them is the BH Mallorca, the four-star makeover of what was Mallorca Rocks on behalf of the clubowners, Cursach.

No one can blame students wishing to come on holiday and enjoying themselves in a fashion that any of us who were once students ourselves will recognise and appreciate. No one can really blame hotels or tour operators in arranging such holidays. It’s business after all, and if business is quieter at times of the summer season then it has to be sought wherever it exists.

But it is this, the almost desperate need for hotel occupancy and for quieter-month business, which betrays the public relations exercises which would have us convinced that resorts like Magalluf, Arenal, Alcudia and Cala Ratjada are on an upward curve of quality tourist.

Students should not be categorised as “non-quality”, but as a tourist niche they do not fit the profile of the tourist of ever greater quality. And when they are raising merry hell in resorts, elements with the island’s tourism industry might question their own publicity of responsible tourism.

Index for March 2015

Ageism in tourism - 18 March 2015
Alcudia industrial estate - 28 March 2015
Andalusia election - 23 March 2015
Balearics Day - 1 March 2015
Beach exploitation - 11 March 2015
Berlin ITB fair - 6 March 2015
Biosphere and responsible tourism - 13 March 2015
Catalan rumba - 30 March 2015
Daevid Allen - 16 March 2015
Democratic regeneration - 3 March 2015
Eco-tax: Més - 9 March 2015
Goats in Mallorca - 29 March 2015
Irish and Mallorca - 14 March 2015
Love Island, Ses Salines - 17 March 2015
Loyalty and Mallorca branding - 10 March 2015
Palacio de Congresos - 12 March 2015,  21 March 2015
Palma - best place in the world? - 27 March 2015
Performance pay and online reviews - 24 March 2015
Picadors of Mallorca - 15 March 2015
President Bauzá: desperate for a pact with PSOE - 7 March 2015
Representation of the people - 26 March 2015
Saving campaigns: conservation/preservation - 2 March 2015
Sóller prawn fair - 8 March 2015
Son Ferriol - 22 March 2015
Spring breaks - 31 March 2015
Statistics obsession in tourism - 5 March 2015
Sustainable tourism - 19 March 2015
Tourism education - 25 March 2015
Tourism law - 20 March 2015
Working day - 4 March 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 March 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 20C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 31 March - Sun, 22C; 1 April - Sun, 16C; 2 April - Cloud, sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West - Northwest 4 to 6 easing Variable 2 to 3 by the afternoon.

Warm overnight and a warm morning. Cloudy in part giving way to sunshine, a strong northwesterly wind easing by midday. Prospects for Easter - looking quite good.

Evening update (20.15): Very windy for much of the day and quite cloudy, but warm - a high of 25.7C.

No Frills Excursions

World Heritage For The Catalan Rumba?

Rumba, as in the musical genre, originates from Cuba, though strictly speaking its origins are African. Slaves introduced styles of singing, percussion and also dance to Cuba, and thus was born a hybrid of Afro-Cuban music which truly became popular in Cuba in the first half of the nineteenth century but which found itself coming into conflict with authority; or at least the dance did. It was considered to be all a bit too wild and so it was banned. This prohibition didn't really stick and by the 1920s rumba had become hugely popular once more. And so they tried banning it again.

By now though, rumba was breaking out from its Caribbean base. Latin music and dance of different types were well known in the US and in Europe and so it underwent further processes of adoption and hybridisation. And one place where it eventually really took off was Catalonia.

The Catalan rumba started with the Romani gypsy community in Barcelona in the 1950s, and it crossed over with a further offshoot, the flamenco rumba, itself a hybrid style of music. So, what you get today with rumba acts in Mallorca, of which there are a number, is the influence of this Catalan version. And in line with the process of ever more crossing-over, contemporary rumba music in Mallorca has pulled in yet more influences: jazz, rock and even punk. This musical inter-breeding is very much in line with the way in which flamenco has been given various branch lines - the flamenco chill and the flamenco jazz - and the blurring of musical (and dance) lineage becomes fuzzier because of the shared Romani roots of both the flamenco of Andalusia and the Catalan rumba.

It isn't possible to identify an exact time in the past when flamenco became flamenco, though the Andalusian historian Blas Infante wrote in 1933 that its first stage of development was from the second quarter of the sixteenth century and that the word flamenco came from Arabic. This connection is quite important in the story of flamenco because, as Infante proposed, it represented the allying of Muslim Andalusians with the Romani. As such, it firmly establishes the Andalusian origin of flamenco and dismisses a theory that flamenco had something to do with Flanders; the word flamenco can mean Flemish.

Though the precise origins are unclear, what is obvious is that, as far as Spain is concerned, flamenco is considerably older than rumba and is much more rooted in Romani culture than rumba.

This history and cultural uniqueness were instrumental in flamenco being declared a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010. And this status is one now being sought for the Catalan rumba. On Saturday, a meeting involving representatives of various musical associations, musicologists and the European Commission's presence in Barcelona, Ferran Tarradellas, proposed taking forward the rumba's claim.

The way that these UNESCO awards work is that the request for consideration has to come from a government. The Spanish Government, for example, is looking into presenting the case for Moors and Christians fiestas to be given UNESCO status. In the case of the rumba, it would need the support of the government in Catalonia and then either national government or European backing, and the EU is said to be sympathetic. The justification for seeking UNESCO status is that the rumba is an identifiable part of Catalan culture, but there are possible drawbacks. One is being able to pinpoint exactly what Catalan rumba is. Another is its history, while a third is the authenticity.

By comparison with flamenco, Catalan rumba has neither the history nor a claim to uniqueness. There may be an authentic and original strand to the music as it exists in Catalonia, but it was one that had come about through the cross-breeding and exporting outlined above. And moreover, it simply isn't that old.

Uniqueness is not a total pre-requisite for UNESCO status, as can be seen in the case of the Mallorcan Sibil-la. This chant didn't start in Mallorca, but it was Mallorca where its tradition was maintained following proscription by the church. It became recognisably Mallorcan because it had died out elsewhere. The Catalan rumba, on the other hand, grew out of something that was alive and kicking.

Despite these drawbacks, the musicians of Catalonia want UNESCO status in order that the original Catalan rumba is recognised and is therefore afforded some protection. It is the very process of cross-over with other genres that has put the original at risk, but then one still comes back to one of the drawbacks - what actually is it? Its comparative newness has meant that almost from the word go it has been exposed to a dynamic of musical alteration and experimentation, a process which pretty much characterises the past sixty years or so of contemporary music.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 March 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 11C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 30 March - Sun, 21C; 31 March - Sun, 20C; 1 April - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Clear morning, albeit clear an hour later. A good sunny and warm day in prospect. Forecast going towards the Easter weekend suggests rather more by way of cloud and not as warm.

Evening update (20.30): Not quite as sunny as had been hoped, but ok. High of 22.4C.

No Frills Excursions

The Dwindling Fortunes Of The Goat

4,500 years ago the first goats turned up on Mallorca, and of the two varieties of goat on the island, one of them is the same as those very first goats - the "boc balear" otherwise known as the Mallorcan wild goat. The other variety is more recent - the feral goat, a one-time domestic animal that went AWOL. The two of them live in relative peace and harmony in the wild, the boc a supposedly more eco-friendly goat than its feral cousin on account of having a more varied vegetation diet. This supposition, long held it would seem, turns out not to be the case. Scientists, who enjoy studying things like the feeding behaviours of wild goats in Mallorca, have discovered that there is no discernible difference between the two when it comes to any negative influence on the island's natural vegetation. So, we can all be thankful for this, one supposes.

This research has only recently been published - this year in fact. By its very nature, it is a study that will only set the pulses racing of fellow animal behaviour scholars. For the rest of us, it will not. But nonetheless, it indicates the importance of goats to Mallorca; something which should be obvious. If they've been around for four and a half millennia, then they have every reason to be considered to be important.

Of course, not all goats are wild. The domestic and farm goat, one that has avoided going feral, has its own, centuries-long importance to Mallorca, but how important has it ranked alongside the three other main farm animals - cattle, sheep and pigs?

Of the four, it is fair to say that sheep have long been the most prized. When King Jaume I conquered Mallorca in the thirteenth century, he received as part of the spoils of war some 90,000 sheep in Arta alone. There were also 10,000 head of cattle in this part of the island's north-east, but the latter's population has fluctuated enormously over the centuries. By the end of the eighteenth century, while over 150,000 sheep were being raised on Mallorca, there were only 7,500 cattle.

Two centuries earlier, a very detailed census of livestock had been undertaken so that the Viceroy of Mallorca, Luis Vich y Manrique de Lara, could know exactly what there were by way of farm animals on his patch. Of 257,917 animals in all, 70% of them were sheep. Trailing a fair distance behind were the goats - 18%. But they were well ahead of both pigs (4.5%) and cattle (2%).

These percentages remained fairly stable until the nineteenth century. Pigs, which had never been considered to have great farming value, acquired a value when agricultural land usage diversified away from being predominantly cereal-based. The cultivation of fig trees was the making of the pig. It could be fattened in double-quick time and to a larger size thanks to the fig.

Coming up to the present day, the livestock breakdown has changed significantly. For the Balearics as a whole, a census has registered 479,000 animals. Sheep remain way ahead of the pack with 364,000. Pigs, though, are now firmly in second place, having attained a position not that much short of that which the goats of the sixteenth century had. Cattle amount to just over 5%, but goats are back in last place with only 4%.

The decline of the goat isn't difficult to explain. Of the cattle, these divide fairly evenly between beef herd and milk cows. Their yields in terms of meat and milk are far greater than those of goats. Of the 19,000 or so goats which are now reared, only a quarter are used for milk, which still leaves a fair number that make their way on to a restaurant's table. But the popularity of goat as a meat is nothing like it was, unlike lamb, and the consequence has been that goat herds have become something of a rarity on Mallorca.

Nevertheless, the goat retains its importance as much because of its ancient association with Mallorca as its current-day production. Way back when, in pre-Roman times, the island's economy, where livestock was concerned, was a sheep and goat one, and it is this combination that provides the theme for this weekend's fair in Calvia village. There is a gastronomy element to the fair, dedicated to the traditions of cuisine that sheep and goats offer. "Cabrito" will be on offer, and so does the fair hint at a revival in the popularity of goat meat? Probably not. The decline in the farming of goats is unlikely to be reversed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 March 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 12C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 29 March - Sun, 17C; 30 March - Sun, 19C; 31 March - Sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3.

Patchy cloud first thing but plenty of sun expected on what should be a pretty warm day. Outlook still good into next week.

Evening update (22.00): Spring arrived! A high of 23.3C.

No Frills Excursions

The Industrial Estate With No Industry

14 August 2006:
"The new industrial estate in Alcúdia. There is a lot of preparatory clearance work going on, the actual construction due to start in October. The environmental issue, especially important given its proximity to the Albufera nature park, has led - or rather will lead - to this “polígono” being granted an environmental certification, the first of its kind in Europe. Specifically, 25% of its total area will be “green”, a significantly higher proportion than other estates on the island. Rainwater will also be collected in subterranean deposits and used for around 50% of the estate’s water consumption, while materials used in the actual construction will be recycled. Bet it still doesn’t satisfy the environmental lobby."

Satisfying the environmental lobby has, as things have turned out, been the least of the worries. Alcúdia has its own Palacio de Congresos, a will-it, won't-it construction, and has had for even longer than the Palacio has been partially built, paralysed and restarted. But at least the Palacio has been under construction. Alcúdia has an industrial estate with no industry. That's because no industry has as such ever been built.

Ca na Lloreta, which is its name, has always been controversial. Its 220,000 square metres were created on what were formerly woods and farm land, authorisation from the Council of Mallorca having been given in 2004. The environmental concerns were two-fold: the loss of that land and those woods and Albufera. It was with these in mind that the developers, Construcciones Bartolomé Llompart, were so careful to make the project as eco-friendly as possible. In truth, though it might have been considered environmentally damaging, it was unlikely to ever have been as harmful as what is right next to it - the Es Murterar power station - and in terms of aesthetics, when there is the enormous chimney to one side and the long-abandoned ruin of the old Es Foguero night club to the other, what harm would some industrial buildings do?

When I noted in August 2006 that construction was about to start, this was only construction on the industrial estate's layout. The roads were made, street lights were put up and once they had been, everything came to a halt. For eight years the estate has been empty, a criss-cross of roads leading to nothing. Activity since then has mostly been confined to scoundrels nicking copper cable and a road block being erected at the entrance to deter further theft.

In the summer of 2008, Alcúdia Town Hall gave serious consideration to start granting licences for the building of industrial units. This was despite the fact that there were question marks over Ca na Lloreta. Firstly, the town hall hadn't officially "received" the development, meaning that it didn't formally have responsibility for services. The delay in it taking on this responsibility had to do with the fact that there was no agreement as to the electricity supply. Secondly, there were doubts as to just how much interest there was. The then mayor, Miguel Ferrer, admitted that demand was not high, but he thought that up to twelve units might be built during a first phase. This uncertainty was a little curious, as it was also being said that a number of businesses had already acquired plots on the estate, valued at some 600,000 euros. And they were keen to get on with construction in order to get some quick return on their investment.

But the construction and the assumption of responsibility of services continued to be delayed, and that was because of the problems surrounding the electricity supply.

There were different versions of this story. One had to do with the national industry ministry not having given necessary authorisation to Endesa to undertake work to guarantee the electricity supply required to power the industrial estate. Another was that Llompart needed to build a substation with power greater than would be normal and that negotiations were ongoing with Endesa. Both of these versions may have been accurate, but what really caused the delay was a stand-off between Endesa and Red Electrica. It is, after all, Red Electrica which installs infrastructure; Endesa is the distributor.

Three years on from all this, in June 2011, it was announced that the two companies had reached an agreement regarding the building of the substation. It was two more years, almost to the day in June 2013, that we learned that Red Electrica had committed to spending 33 million euros on two new substations and high-voltage infrastructure. One of these was the Sant Marti substation in the industrial estate.

It would be wrong to suggest that all the fuss in Puerto Alcúdia regarding the laying of high-voltage cables is solely the result of the need to build the substation in order to power the industrial estate to a level that Llompart required, but that requirement has been a factor. It is clear that it has been, because the cable work has now allowed the town hall to finally go ahead and grant those licences for building to commence and for it to assume responsibility for the provision of services.

So any time in the near future, we can anticipate that the first units will begin to appear. And the question that was being asked in 2008 will crop up again. Just how much interest really is there? And what sort of interest will it be? If Ca na Lloreta is like other industrial estates, there will be entertainment centres and showrooms for this and that. As for industry, who can tell?

Friday, March 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 March 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 28 March - Sun, 19C; 29 March - Sun, 17C; 30 March - Sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 3 to 4. Swells to two metres from the afternoon.

Nice morning. Sunny. And sunny it will be today. Feeling fresh with a northerly breeze, but the sun is now getting stronger, the UV rating up to five and then to six from tomorrow.

Evening update (21.30): Shaped up well. A high of 21.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Benidorm Better Than Palma

Quite a bit has made of Palma being "The Sunday Times" choice of the best city in the world to live. The town hall in Palma has latched on to it, as have all the local papers. The publicity value is great, though there has been little or no mention of the fact that the author of the relevant article, Paul Richardson, is well-known to the press office at the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board). Be that as it may.

Though the best city to live in, it isn't the best destination in the world for travellers. Who says? Trip Advisor of course. Palma doesn't even make it into the top ten of Spanish destinations let alone those in Europe or around the globe. The 2015 Travellers' Choice awards make Barcelona the number one Spanish destination and Istanbul the top European city or resort.

Of other places in the Spanish top ten, two are somewhat obscure - La Oliva on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries (second) and Llanes in Asturias (fifth). Otherwise, the destinations are as might be expected, albeit minus Palma, and they include - at number ten - Benidorm. Well, what do you think? Benidorm better than Palma? In the end, Trip Advisor awards and newspaper reviews are all rather subjective.

When looking at comments on Spanish news websites under articles about Palma, another place in Mallorca was given honourable mentions. In the opinion of a few of those commenting, Soller is the best place to live, and Soller was in the Trip Advisor Travellers' Choice top ten last year, as also was Calvia. They are nowhere to be seen this year. As I say, all very subjective.

But who needs awards or newspaper articles when Mallorca and the Balearics can boast that it is the national leader in 2015 in terms of an increase in winter tourism. Yes, you have read this correctly. In January and February, the Balearics registered the greatest increase of any region in Spain - 40,000 more tourists, a rise of 20%. This good news has to be placed in perspective, though. The figure of 230,000 tourists is substantially lower than the 380,000 who came to the islands in January and February not so long ago - in 2008 before crisis really struck.

The increase this year cannot disguise the weakness of Mallorca's winter tourism and also one of the laments that German tour operators have, i.e. the fact that so many hotels are closed. The German market rose by 34% in January and February but so also, according to the Frontur survey which measures these things, did the number of tourists opting to stay in private holiday accommodation. This was up by 24%. Who was it who said that private holiday lets add to the impact of seasonality rather than lessen it? Might it have been the tourism minister by any chance?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 March 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 27 March - Sun, 18C; 28 March - Sun, 18C; 29 March - Sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing West 4 by the afternoon.

A distinct improvement on yesterday. Quite chilly first thing and some cloud, but a decent sunny day in prospect. The forecast through the weekend and into next week is very good - sunny and warm.

Evening update (19.15): Quite sunny and quite warm - a high of 17.7C - but also quite a chill breeze.

No Frills Excursions

Misrepresentation Of The People

The Partido Popular has lost a vote in the Balearic parliament. It is the first vote that it has lost during this administration. It will be the last. It was a vote lost because despite the PP having a clear majority, the majority is too low. A qualified majority of two-thirds of the parliamentary deputies was required for them to act like turkeys, vote for Christmas and to see sixteen of their number removed from the chamber. The PP motion to cut parliamentary representation was always destined to fail. The party has no friends in parliament. The motion, the debate, the vote were no more than symbolic.

Nevertheless, the process was worthwhile. Before President Bauzá got it underway, had anyone stopped to ask why the Balearics needed 59 deputies? His opponents refused to back the motion because they feared that a reduction would merely strengthen the PP and would "alter the basic rules of Balearic democracy". Bauzá argued that it was only a cost-cutting exercise: an annual saving of seven million euros. Neither view focused on the core issue. Why 59? And neither view addressed an underlying issue. Just who do these 59 represent?

The opposition speak of basic rules of democracy, but what do they mean? The representation of the people in the Balearics is significantly greater than the Spanish benchmark of one parliamentary deputy per 40,000 people. Basic rules of democracy were not about to have been broken had the Balearics ratio changed from one deputy per 19,000 people to 1:26,000, which is what would have happened if the motion had been accepted. But whether 43 or 59 deputies, there is the subsidiary question - who do they actually represent?

At present in parliament there is only deputy who can be considered to in any way represent a constituency, and that is Margalida Font, the single deputy for the island of Formentera. None of the others can be, because no deputy, including Sra. Font, has a constituency. Comparing the parliamentary system here to the one in Britain may not be fair, and it would be wrong to assert that the British system is by any means perfect or truly representative, but the constituency basis of that system does give greater accountability: an MP is, not always in practice of course, accountable to his or her constituents. In the Balearics there aren't constituents to be accountable to. The consequence of this is that a deputy's allegiance is to the party and to the party alone. There are no constituents to muddy the waters and potentially divide that allegiance.

Coming back to the number of deputies, it is hard to accept the opposition's argument that democracy would somehow be diminished if there were fewer of them. By standards of other parts of Spain, the Balearic parliament is over-represented and would still have been with 16 fewer deputies. But over-representation, even at an unnecessary cost of seven million euros a year, is preferable to under-representation, which brings us to Andalusia.

There, the ratio of deputies to population is one per 77,000, almost double the national benchmark, and it has of course just had a parliamentary election. For a population approximately eight times greater than that of the Balearics, Andalusia doesn't even manage to have twice as many deputies: 109 play the Balearics 59. The representation, whether too little or too great, is cockeyed. And in Andalusia it will be even more so if Susana Díaz does as she has said she will, which is to govern in minority.

The PSOE minority in Andalusia isn't to the tune of one or two seats. It is eight short of the 55 needed for a majority, a far from insignificant shortfall in terms of what her PSOE colleagues in the Balearics might deem to be the "basic rules" of democracy. And the 47 seats have been gained with a percentage share of the vote of just over one-third. How can governing in minority when the minority is as small as it is be considered to be adequately representative? It can't be. Díaz's proposal, supported by PSOE's national leader, Pedro Sanchez, is little short of a disgrace.

Why does she appear intent on minority government and so on avoiding coalition partners? Let's hazard a guess. The partner would have to be one or other of Podemos or Ciudadanos, both of them rivals to PSOE nationally. The last thing PSOE wants at present is to give either of them the credibility that would come from inclusion in a coalition and so also potentially strengthen their support nationally. But between them, Podemos and Ciudadanos gained a quarter of the share of the vote. Denying either of them the chance to be in government would be a snub to the electorate and an abuse of the system of proportional representation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 March 2015


Morning high (8.00am): 9.5C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 26 March - Sun, cloud, 15C; 27 March - Sun, 15C; 28 March - Sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 7 increasing 8 at times this afternoon. Waves to five metres.

A wild morning. Rain and wind. Warnings in place for more rain and for wind and pretty awful conditions at sea. An improvement due tomorrow, and the general outlook is very much better.

Evening update (21.30): Cold, wet, windy, rubbish. A high of 10.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Tourism By Default Not By Design

In a former life as a publishing-company owner, and indeed since that former life, I was and have been asked by friends and acquaintances if I could offer some advice to offspring or other relatives regarding "getting into publishing". It wasn't that I was being awkward, but for the career advice-seekers I would start with a question: what do you mean by publishing?

This is a fundamental question. It should be obvious that, as with any industry, publishing is the sum of very many parts, most of them decidedly unglamorous. But it is the glamour which is attractive. Getting into publishing was often a euphemistic phrase one fancies for becoming the features editor of "Vogue".

Tourism as a career is not dissimilar. It has its glamour but beneath this alluring surface is the humdrum: the laws and rules, the processes, the systems, the operations and the human contact.

The teaching of tourism doesn't vary greatly from country to country. Its components are essentially the same wherever it is taught. In Mallorca, an example is a university diploma for "international hostelry management". It has four courses. The first has to do with restaurants and kitchens, hygiene, equipment, level one English and German. The second deals with the "theory" and "practice" of the reception, finance, marketing, labour relations, law, English and German level two. The third goes into issues of quality, the environment, more finance, technology, higher levels of English and German. And finally, there is the fourth: the anthropology of tourism, tourist regions of the world, the history of gastronomy, managerial skills, business communication and culture.

Armed with all this lot, students from the Balearic School of Hostelry went along on Monday to a milk round at which various hotel groups and others were represented. The school's director said that in the last few years these businesses had been paying greater attention to the need for training and for professionals who are ever more specialised. As such, there was something of a giveway in what he said. "In the last few years." What had these businesses been doing before?

The tradition of tourism training in the Balearics is about as old as the tourism boom. The Balearics School of Tourism was founded in 1964. It is now part of the university, as is the hostelry school. Academic tourism education has, therefore, existed for years, but the comment from the hostelry school's director makes one wonder how much it has been valued and indeed how valuable diplomas and degrees are. Not that long ago - in 2011 - there was a fair old debate going on about just these questions. For too many graduates, their training was leading no further than the reception. This, though, was partly the consequence of tourism being the default industry and career in Mallorca and also of a concern that the courses were just not relevant. 

Tourism can of course be taught, and its teaching in Mallorca is due to become more elite and more in line with learning at business schools. The big-four hotel chains and TUI, together with the Esade business school, want to create a post-graduate, executive tourism school on the island. This, though, would be something quite different to the education for someone embarking on a career. Yet, the mere fact that leading tourism companies should want to create their own business school begs a question about the industry's involvement in all forms of tourism education. When the director of the hostelry school suggests that the industry is only now paying greater attention to the need for training, perhaps it is more a case that the industry hasn't considered the training to be relevant to its needs. And he offers a clue about the nature of this training when referring to ever greater specialisation.

Are catch-all diplomas required when what the industry needs are specialists in core areas of tourism to match the realities of Mallorca's tourism, such as marketing, such as customer service, such as cultural understanding? An implication of what the director has said and of the big-four creating their own school is that the industry has been too distant from tourism education. Yet, it is the industry which should be driving this education and moulding it in order to meet the challenges of a hugely competitive global industry.

Tourism as a career has been one by default and the education would appear to have reflected this. It has been training by default rather than by design. Design to adequately address these challenges and to adequately identify the skills and knowledge required and to so adequately identify and develop those capable of delivering these skills. The training should, therefore, become more elite and so should those undertaking the training in the first place. A world-class industry in Mallorca demands world-class training, and it needs to be the world-class tourism businesses which are guaranteeing it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 March 2015


Morning high (8.15am): 14C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 25 March - Rain, wind, 14C; 26 March - Cloud, sun, 13C; 27 March - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 4 to 5 backing Northeast by the afternoon.

A bit of rain around and very much more forecast with a warning in place for heavy rain in some areas. Tomorrow, wind will add to the rain, but Thursday should see an improvement.

Evening update (22.30): Dull old day with rain on and off. A high of 14.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Lousy Review, Less Pay

Once upon a time, employees would be assessed only by their managers. This was the traditional performance appraisal, an often worthless exercise if, as happened to me on one occasion, it was conducted over a lunch at which the boss, a couple of pre-lunch G&Ts on board followed by a whole bottle of wine to himself, forgot why we were having lunch.

Other systems of appraisal were introduced. There was the upward feedback. Staff could assess the manager, a process which had inherent risks. If Employee A didn't like Manager B, then Manager B could well get a bum assessment. But the purveyors of appraisal systems would insist that these systems would filter out such subjectivity without ever truly convincing everyone that they did, and this was also the case when so-called 360-degree feedback became popular. Anyone could have his or her say. Customers, suppliers, colleagues: they could all have a pop.

These systems weren't of course a free-for-all. Bias was ironed out as much as possible. They wouldn't have been effective or have become as widespread as they did had they just been means of expressing dislike. But they were something of a culture shock for employees or managers who were to discover that there were a number of "stakeholders" whose assessment of performance fell some way short of how the employee or manager would have assessed his or her own performance.

These broader systems of appraisal were all part of a wider culture shock, that of changes to organisations' culture and their ways of doing things. By subjecting personnel to closer scrutiny by these different stakeholders, performance would improve and do so in line with new cultures that were more open to the needs of customers and others.

Into this appraisal mix came technology, and now there is the technology of social media. Customers can have their say like never before, and certain businesses are embracing this customer voice in their assessment of individuals' performance. Comments on Trip Advisor and similar websites are now being used to determine just how much people get paid.

Since the explosion of social media and review and comments' sites in particular, a whole industry of online reputation management has grown up. ReviewPro is one of the leading examples of this monitoring, and its Spanish division works with a whole host of hotel chains. Look at its clients and very familiar names appear: Meliá, Iberostar, Viva and so on.

Meliá is said to be one of the pioneers of using customer comments as part of a quality system through which performance can be measured and remuneration adjusted. Variable pay is partially determined on the basis of these comments; variable pay meaning performance pay, i.e. meeting and exceeding personal and company performance targets. At Meliá, this pay can apparently equate to as much as 20% of overall remuneration, so there is a strong incentive for management to ensure that customer satisfaction is high and also to respond in a thoughtful fashion to any negative comments.

The underlying philosophy is or should be obvious. Customers are at the heart of everything Meliá does, as is the case with any hotel chain. But how well this philosophy is understood by other chains or within Mallorca's tourism industry as a whole is open to some debate. Even among the clients that ReviewPro has, there are individual hotels which are part of certain chains that receive numerous negative comments and little or no response from management.

From surveys that Trip Advisor has done, it has been shown that responding to comments, both negative and positive, is as powerful as the comment itself. Yet, too often there are no responses and when there are they are standard ones issued not by, say, the hotel's director but by someone with a vague public relations job title. 

As with any system of appraisal, using online comments is probably not foolproof. There is greater scope through social media for biased or malicious assessments than there ever was with more traditional appraisal methods. There is also the potential, once it becomes widely known that pay is directly being influenced, for online blackmail, something which does already occur. But then this is something for devisers of systems to take account of.  

In principle, using customer comments is a very good tool for chains to not just monitor management and hotel performance but also to improve it as part of ongoing quality management systems. It should, therefore, be far more widely adopted by the Mallorcan tourism industry which, despite criticisms of standards, is using other methods to improve quality, the SICTED system of quality being one of them.

But there are limits to how useful such a tool is. Many negative comments stem not from poor management at specific hotels but from a lack of investment by chains which leave hotels open to such negativity.

Monday, March 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 March 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 March - Rain, 16C; 25 March - Rain, sun, 11C; 26 March - Rain, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4.

Cloudy again and with a risk of showers later, though these haven't been materialising over the past couple of days despite being forecast. Still looking dodgy for much of the week, though an improvement is in sight by Friday.

Evening update (18.30): Well, so much for forecasts of showers. Really quite a pleasant day. A high of 18.6C. Warm sunshine in the afternoon.

No Frills Excursions

Andalusia Is Spain: Regional election

Andalusia is the Spain we were sold. When the country ended its exile, the world was sold Andalusia: a vivid kaleidoscope of reds, blacks, oranges and yellows. Flamenco, bullfighting, citrus and heat: searing heat. Where Europe met Africa, Andalusia was a place apart, the exotica of its imagery etched firmly into a foreign consciousness. Spain was Andalusia.

Andalusia is still a place apart. While the whole of Spain suffered because of economic crisis, Andalusia suffered more than most. But it has always suffered. For all its imagery, complemented by the Costa del Sol, the golf courses, the marinas, the grand cities, it has always been a poor region. GDP per capita is the second lowest in Spain; only its neighbour Extremadura is poorer. Not that help has not been forthcoming. Over the years, roughly 50,000 million euros of European funds have been spent on it, but it has never remotely looked like becoming "one of Europe's most prosperous regions", as its former president, Manuel Chaves, said that by 2020 it would be. Youth unemployment, at desperate levels because of crisis, were at their worst in Andalusia and still are. The young of Andalusia, seduced by the good money of construction for tourism and foreign property buyers, preferred the building site to education, but when the building stopped they had nowhere to go except back to their families when the houses they had bought with the wages of concrete and with all-too-easy mortgages were repossessed.

It is a place apart in a political sense. Since it obtained autonomous community status in 1981 and started to elect its own regional government the following year, Andalusia has never known anything other than socialism; the PSOE brand of socialism. On Sunday, the people of Andalusia voted, the opinion polls confident that the PSOE dynasty was not about to be ended.

Susana Díaz became president in September 2013 when José Griñán stepped down. In January she ended the coalition with the IU (United Left) that PSOE had been forced into after the last election. The relationship between the two parties had deteriorated, as had that between Díaz and the leader of the IU, Antonio Maíllo. An election had to be called. Two months before other regional elections, the interest in it has been greater than it would otherwise have been. Here was the first real measure of how Podemos would do. Here also was a test of the centre-left Ciudadanos, which has appeared from almost nowhere to feature significantly in national opinion polls. But here also were potential indications of what other elections - regional and national - might hold for PSOE and the Partido Popular. For PSOE, defeat in Andalusia would be unthinkable, but a lowering of its percentage of the vote in 2012 (39.6%) would border on the disastrous; a confirmation of the inroads made by Podemos. The PP would know that the 40.7% of the 2012 vote was going to slump. But by how much? Though a PSOE stronghold, its share of the vote had generally been an upward one since 1990 when it could only just muster 22%.

As things turned out, disaster did strike. Susana Díaz said the victory was "historic", and it was; historic in the low percentage of the vote. PSOE won the same number of seats (47) as in 2012, but its share of the vote was down by over 4%. For the PP, a loss of 14% and 17 seats was bad but not as bad as opinion polls had suggested. Podemos, as had been expected, came in third, its performance in line with those opinion polls (15 seats and almost 15% of the share of the vote). The Ciudadanos surge was not as great as had been predicted (9 seats and just over 9% of the vote).

So, how does one interpret all this as an indication of what might happen in the other elections to come? Because of the strength of PSOE in Andalusia, it was always going to win, and this despite the corruption cases that have afflicted it in the region. Its 35.4% share of the vote is vastly greater than how it is performing in national opinion polls, the latest three of which have given it an average 19.3% share, but it probably says very little about other elections, other than to confirm that PSOE has failed to reassert itself against the PP. It is a hollow victory, and the PSOE hierarchy will know that it is.

The PP's share of the vote, poor though it was, was higher than how it currently rates in national opinion polls. There may be some consolation in this but it is certainly not a performance that will fill it with confidence. For the PP, PSOE isn't really the threat; it is the other parties.

There is a misguided view that Podemos is only killing PSOE. This simply isn't so, as the loss of support that the PP is suffering is due in no small part to Podemos and others. For Podemos, the Andalusia vote went much as had been anticipated. The share of the vote is seven points lower than how it is rated in national opinion polls, but the strength of PSOE in Andalusia was always going to mean that it couldn't match these national levels.

It would be overstating things to say that Podemos was the real victor in Andalusia, but the vote proves that when the electorate turns up to vote it doesn't suddenly have a change of heart and opt instead for the status quo of one or other of the two main parties. Podemos, and to a lesser extent Ciudadanos, have genuinely arrived.  

Andalusia, as it always has been, is a place apart. The election confirms this only in terms of PSOE's victory. Otherwise, the election shows that it is Spain, and for Spain, Andalusia now poses a big question - with which party does PSOE form a coalition? If it is Podemos, then the shape of Spain's politics for the next four to five years may well have been formed in Andalusia.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 March 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 14C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 23 March - Rain, sun, 16C; 24 March - Rain, 15C; 25 March - Rain, 13C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3. Possible storm this afternoon.

Grey morning. Sun likely to be in limited supply during the day. Rain more likely. And cloud and showers dominate the forecast for the first part of the week ahead.

Evening update (19.00): Well, no rain but a good amount of cloud and only occasional hazy sun. A high of 15.4C.

No Frills Excursions

The Iron Men Of Son Ferriol

The surname Ferriol is one of a group of names common to Mallorca which share a linguistic root. Like Ferrer or Ferragut the origin is Latin and the name Ferriol is, essentially, "man of iron". The migration of these various iron men was such that they came to predominantly settle in Catalan-speaking parts of the mainland. From Aragon, the Ferriols spread out, moving south to Valencia where there is a place called Ferriol in Alicante, but they appeared to be from a lineage that could be traced to an Aragonese knight called Francisco Ferriol, and at the time of the Catalan-Aragonese occupation of Mallorca, Ferriols crossed the sea from the mainland and established themselves here.

The area of Son Ferriol in Palma has a vague history. The name suggests that it would have been one of the great "possessions", the estates formed long ago. Yet it doesn't appear in the list of Palma's possessions. However, in modern times, it was created as an urbanisation almost one hundred years ago when a priest by the name of Bartomeu Font acquired the "possession" from an Anna M. Bonafé in 1917. So it was indeed a possession, even if now it is not listed as such.

The history does, though, go very much further back in time and to the years after the conquest of Mallorca, when the existence of a possession called Son Ferriol is noted in the story of one Pere Maurí. He was a Cathar priest, and Catharism, denounced by the Catholic church as being "the church of Satan", was subjected to persecution. Maurí came to Mallorca in 1321 and he was directed to the possession of Son Ferriol where there were descendants of Cathars.

By this time, Catharism had all but died out. For nigh on two hundred years, wars had been waged and barbarities committed because of it. An Inquisition against Cathars still existed when Pere Maurí arrived in Mallorca in the same year as his mentor, Guillaume Bélibaste, was burnt at the stake. Bélibaste was considered to be the last Cathar priest, though this did leave Maurí. His stay at Son Ferriol was not long, a month or so. He left Mallorca on a merchant ship that sailed from Soller. He was eventually imprisoned but there is no further record as to what happened to him. It is probably fair to assume that his fate was not a pleasant one.

Maurí might have believed that he could find a refuge. Though the Inquisition against Cathars remained in place, Cathar descendants were being allowed to live in relative peace so long as they confined themselves to communities away from cities. Son Ferriol was such a place, separated as it was from the "Ciutat" (Palma), and among the people that Maurí encountered there was a Ferriol.

This Ferriol wasn't necessarily a Cathar descendant. Son Ferriol was inhabited by some families who were descended from those who had joined Jaume I during the conquest. It was normal for them to end up with Mallorcan land, so in the case of Son Ferriol its name would have been derived from the Ferriol family. But it is here where more vagueness creeps in. Descendants of Jaume I's compatriots came to form the Mallorcan nobility, but, rather like Son Ferriol appears to be missing from the list of old possessions in Palma, so the name Ferriol fails to appear in the inventory of this historical nobility. There are Ferrers and Ferraguts but no Ferriol. Why not is something of a mystery. Maybe, after all, it had something to do with Catharism and the intolerance shown to it.

Though the Son Ferriol of today is part of Palma, its former separateness is reflected in how it is often described - a village within Palma. This motif is to be found on the poster for the Son Ferriol fair, the twenty-third edition of which takes place today. This is a fair which generates more expectation than many other fairs, partly because it heralds the arrival of the spring fair season in Mallorca. The baton of its themes - agriculture, livestock and commerce - will be handed to Santa Margalida and Calvia next weekend; the typical rural-style fair cropping up across the island.

Amidst the farming and the animals, the horse show, the painting, embroidery and photographic exhibitions, the pipers, the folk dance and the fireworks, there is also an exhibition entitled "carts and tools". Residing in the agricultural memory of Son Ferriol, as with so many other parts of Mallorca, is the recollection of how the land was worked, how vehicles were made, how horses were shod. The memory of wood and of iron. The ancient iron men of Son Ferriol would no doubt be proud.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 March 2015


Morning high (7.45am): 14C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 22 March - Rain, sun, 15C; 23 March - Rain, sun, 14C; 24 March - Rain, sun, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 to 3 by the evening.

Cloudy but not heavy cloud. Rain a possibility later but also some sun. The general outlook is still pretty ropey right into next week.

Evening update (20.15): Very much more sun than had been on the cards. Warm day. A high of 21.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Aina And The 30 million Euros

When Aina Calvo, the erstwhile mayor of Palma, was promoting herself as leader of PSOE in the Balearics, the video which formed part of what proved to be her losing campaign ended with a sample from the dance hit by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: "put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us". Why this should have featured was frankly anyone's guess, but we may now have a clue as to what it was referring. It was the plafond of the Palacio, the roof cover for congresses. Hands were being put up to provide support and thus prevent the ceiling from collapsing along with the rest of the project.

Aina inherited the Palacio. It was a gift from Jaume Matas and the PP. Not that there was a gift as such to inherit when she assumed Palma's mayoral throne in 2007. Building didn't actually start until the following year. And then building stopped three years later and Mateo Isern inherited the increasingly poisoned gift. But before building was suspended because the construction company hadn't been paid, Barceló, the hotel group which was going to run the Palacio, had already waved the project goodbye. Four years later - i.e. now - it is riding to its aid with fellow white knights of the Mallorcan hotel industry, Melià. And only now do we learn that Barceló had, according to Aina, been indulging in a spot of extortion.

This extraordinary accusation does require qualification. Aina said that it was "like an extortion". (This is a translation from the Spanish. In English extortion is a mass noun that doesn't require the article "an".) It was like it because, as she acknowledged, Barceló had the right to make a demand for 30 million euros in order to complete work on the Palacio. Nevertheless, and despite the apparent  legality of the demand, it was taken as a "threat" to paralyse work on the project. Moreover, Aina maintains that it was a demand that was not necessary in order to finish the work. The work was eventually of course suspended anyway.

Simón Pedro Barceló, the co-president of Barceló and the person who Aina says rang her one night and made the demand, responded as you would have expected him to. "I have not extorted anything in my life," he said. It was all covered by the contract that Aina had signed.

The choice of word seems somewhat ill-judged. If Barceló had a right to request this money, then it didn't amount to "an extortion". Aina may have said that it was "like an extortion", but such a modification does not disguise the use of the word. Simón Barceló, for his part, appears to be fairly relaxed about what was said, placing it in the context of upcoming elections. But then do these elections not help to explain the current frenzy that is surrounding the Palacio project? Still, at least there is no longer any possibility that the ceiling might collapse on it. You can put your hands down now, Aina.

Friday, March 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 March 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 14.5C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 March - Rain, 17C; 22 March - Rain, 14C; 23 March - Rain, sun, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 5 to 6, swells to two metres.

A dull start but a mild one, the easterlies dragging in warm but cluttered weather for the start of spring. A wet weekend in prospect, and the forecast into next week isn't a lot better.

Evening update (22.30): Not much of a day. The rain mainly held off until the later afternoon though. At least it washed away some of the pollen coatings on cars. A high of 14.6C.

No Frills Excursions

When A Law Isn't A Law

A peculiarity of Balearics legislation is that it isn't as legislative as it might appear. Laws are drafted, debated, red-drafted and then presented, approved and posted onto the Official Bulletin, but they do not end there. Indeed, this can be only the beginning of the process. This, at least, is what we have to accept is the case with Balearics tourism law. Approved in 2012, it seems that it was more of a consultative document than the real thing. Representatives of various tourism and business associations met tourism minister Jaime Martínez on Tuesday and they expressed their approval for the law, three years after it had been approved. Or so we had thought.

The key to all this lies with the word "regulation". This might seem to be synonymous with legislation, but it would appear that legislation needs to be regulated. Confused? You should be. The final and definitive contents of the 2012 law will be revealed next month, and to add to the confusion, we understand from minister Martínez that the 2012 (2015) law will in fact be the first regulated tourism law in the Balearics because the 1999 tourism law "did not develop regulations". Meaning what precisely?

Legislative lunacy aside, it might be noted that not all the associations who met with Martínez or had met with him during the process of regulating the legislation are in total agreement with the regulations. Most are, but then most will be getting what they want, like the hoteliers. Among these associations was APTUR, the one for the renting of tourist apartments (holiday lets). It is probably safe to assume that when April comes they will not be singing the law's praises.

The timing of this regulation has not gone unnoticed. Firstly, it will be issued just as the season gets underway and secondly, it will appear just weeks before the election. The timing is, therefore, both poor but also expedient - the PP is ensuring the law is fully regulated just in case it loses the election and some other lot discovers that the law hadn't been fully regulated and so applies different interpretations.

Martínez maintains that the industry has been willing to work towards achieving "consensus", but as he also says that the law marks commitments to quality and against "illegal supply and unfair competition", one would have to doubt that there is consensus. The holiday lets issue apart, it will be interesting to know exactly how fears of the non-hotel complementary sector have been addressed in respect, for example, of the so-called secondary activities in hotels which pose a direct competitive threat to the complementary sector. The chances are that they won't have been or this would have meant backtracking on what the 2012 law supposedly permitted and which has been taken as the green light by certain hotels: the Cursach BH Hotel being a prime example because its activities will be open to non-hotel guests, which is what secondary activities refer to.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 March 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 14C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 20 March - Rain, 18C; 21 March - Rain, 14C; 22 March - Rain, 12C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 4 to 5.

Cloudy start to the day, sun due later and it may be the case of making the most of it as the forecast for the next three days is for cloud and rain.

Evening update (19.45): Some sun, reasonably warm, a high of 17.7C. Be prepared to get wet tomorrow.

No Frills Excursions

The Propaganda Of Sustainable Tourism

In June 1992 world leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations gathered in Rio de Janeiro for what was officially called the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development but which unofficially became known as the Earth Summit. There had never been a gathering like it, there had never been an agenda like it. The results of the deliberations were summed up in the Rio Declaration. Its 27 principles ranged from "the role of man" through environmental legislation and impact assessments, the roles of women and youth to co-operation between the state and its people.

At that time, my interest in the Earth Summit was that of business and management applications. Together with two leading business journalists, I tried to make sense of the volume of papers and documents that the summit produced and to publish in a cogent and greatly summarised form what they meant or might mean for business. And from all the thousands upon thousands of words that Rio spawned, two words came out. The world had truly discovered the notion of "sustainable development".

With this term firmly embedded into the business lexicon, industries within industries were formed. The genuine and the charlatan leapt aboard the sustainable bandwagon. Consultants, advisors, Harvard scholars were offering business solutions to save the planet and local communities. Some meant it; others didn't. This post-Rio feverishness found no greater expression in and no better business activity than tourism. The Rio principles could have been written with tourism in mind.

Thus, sustainable development - simplified to sustainability - became specific. The leitmotif of sustainable tourism emerged, championed by those with environmental and social-consciousness integrity but also bastardised as platitudinous propaganda by elements of the tourism industry forever on the lookout for a marketing and competitive edge.

Sustainable tourism morphed into responsible tourism, the latter a more comprehensible term; comprehensible, that is, to a consumer base for whom "sustainable" was too abstract a word. The two terms are interchangeable, but whichever is used they mean the same thing or they can mean very little or nothing. It all depends on how genuine those who promote them are. A consequence is that today's tourism industry - not all of it certainly - is characterised not by sustainable development but by what I would call sustainable dissonance: an inconsistency between what is claimed and what is practised. Dissonance demands that individuals find a way of reconciling competing notions or beliefs. Thus, the tourism industry is inhabited by sustainability propagandists who, were they to be truthful, know that it is little more than propaganda.

Two years after the Rio summit, a Swedish hotel chain, Scandic, embraced sustainability in a way that no other chain had done. This commitment has been carried on, and every aspect of its business is guided by environmental and social consciousness. I was reminded of Scandic by an article for the "Hosteltur" magazine community in which the author, Arturo Cuenllas Soler, questioned how well rooted this responsibility is in the Spanish tourism industry and how committed the industry actually is to it. He recognised, as do I, that there are hotel chains and tour operators that have done a great deal in terms of environmental programmes and energy management, but the point he makes is my own: sustainability, responsibility go way beyond environmental factors and they embrace all sorts of stakeholders - employees, local people, local governments, customers, suppliers. Everyone.

If you go back to 1992, this was a time of economic recession. For the tourism industry, recession gave rise to what in the Mediterranean was then a rarely offered tourism package - the all-inclusive. Subsequent downturns have reinforced this offer, but coincidental with the rise of AI (and now also a quasi-AI) was that of sustainability. Here was something which, in public relations terms, could be used to offset the negativity of AI. Hotels and tour operators have pinned their colours to an environmental agenda mast but not to the full sustainability package. They might claim to - sourcing local produce, generating employment etc. - but all types of hotel can do this. For local communities, such as Mallorca's resorts, this has been specious propaganda, but it is propaganda that has been developed because the tourism industry and government know only too well that AI does not adhere to principles of sustainability. Sustainable dissonance, therefore.

The point about AIs and sustainability is that once upon a time in Mallorca, although the environment was treated with disrespect, certain sustainability conditions did exist. Local resort economies could flourish because of a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship. Now, however, there is tourism - and a great deal of it - which is parasitic. It leeches off resources such as sun and water and gives too little back in return. How, therefore, does this square with messages from hotels and tour operators regarding responsible or sustainable tourism?

Whether you call it sustainable or responsible, if this brand of tourism is to be genuinely meaningful it has to be far more open to the needs not just of the environment but also to those of local people and local communities. But it has to go further still. As Arturo Cuenllas notes, there are the customers as well. The tourists. Their attitudes have to change, as do those of tour operators. Corralling people into AI or quasi-AI is the antithesis of sustainability, and they know it.

Will such a change come about? It is highly unlikely, and so while it remains improbable, claims made for sustainability and responsibility are empty ones.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 March 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 March - Cloud, 18C; 20 March - Cloud, sun, 14C; 21 March - Rain, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 4 increasing 5 during the morning. Swells between one and two metres.

Light cloud to being with and cloud persisting during the day. Wind from the east fairly strong and this wind and the cloud will dominate for the next few days.

Evening update (19.45): Shaped up rather better than had been forecast. Some reasonable sun at times. A high of 17.1C.

No Frills Excursions

Ageism In Mallorca's Tourism

"There are clear business benefits to employing a work force that is age diverse and reflects our customer profile. We have found that older workers have a great rapport with the customers, as well as a conscientious attitude and real enthusiasm for the job. We firmly believe that our active policy of recruiting older workers has directly contributed to the ongoing success of our business, and in our position as market leaders in this field, we would urge other employers to do the same.” These were the words of the human resources director of B&Q, which several years ago became a founder member of Employers Forum for Age, a network of employers that sought to remove age barriers to employment. B&Q became famous for employing older people.

The Balearic Government and the Mallorcan hoteliers' federation have signed an agreement under which hotels will guarantee taking on between 500 and 600 staff over the age of 45 this season. This number equates to approximately 10% of new jobs that the hotels anticipate creating this summer.

In announcing this agreement, acknowledgement has been made of the "experience and knowledge" of employees in this age group, of the fact that this age group has in recent years been neglected, and of a need for hotels to demonstrate "social sensitivity" in recognising the contribution and positive work values that older employees bring.

Welcome though this agreement is, it is unlikely that many if any of these workers will be anything other than seasonal temporary staff; the same can probably be said for all the 4,000 to 5,000 "new jobs" that the hotel sector plans on creating this summer. But the nature of the employment contract is not what concerns me here; it is the issue of age.

Look closely at what B&Q stated several years ago and at what the hoteliers are saying and you will find a similarity without it being overtly stated. B&Q referred to age diversity and the company's business profile. The hoteliers do not.

Diversity as a means of gaining business competitive advantage was something the Americans - who else - dreamt up more than two decades ago. The thinking was simple and obvious. If the customer profile is predominantly determined by age, gender and ethnicity factors, then it makes sense for the business to reflect these in its employment practices.

Mallorca's tourism industry as a whole is as diverse as its raw material - the tourist - is also diverse. Yet the suspicion is, confirmed by this agreement, that it is an industry which has preferred youth. In certain instances this makes perfect sense: hotel entertainment teams are a good example. But in other instances it does not, and as the industry - hotel chains in particular - pursues a strategy of niching and branding along age lines, the need for diversity should become ever more apparent. The adults-only hotel, as an example, clearly has a different customer profile to the one aimed at a twentys-something party crowd.

But how well might a charge of ageism be levelled at the industry? There are sectors that make a virtue of, generally speaking, employing older, more mature personnel: villa agencies, for instance. Jet2 has a preference for older reps, thus bucking a trend that set in some years ago for tour operators to shed older staff or to, how can one put it, not encourage them to stay. Jet2, and the same can be said for many villa agencies, place a premium not just on the responsibility and reliability that an older worker can bring to the job but also on knowledge: that of Mallorca.

This is not to denigrate all younger reps by any means, but it tends to be the case that they lack the intimate knowledge that an older worker, typically resident on the island, has. There again, for any age group, there is much to be said for the presence of youthful and bubbly individuals whose vitality is in keeping with the very essence of holidays as fun times.

The point is or should be that there are roles for all age groups. Knowledge as a guiding principle for employment is laudable as is one that recognises the qualities and strengths that those from different age groups possess.

But there is a further reason why knowledge, that which often comes with age, should be being given greater attention. This is because of the avowed intentions of hotels and tour operators to act in accordance with principles of responsible tourism (assuming they are serious, which is questionable). One of these principles is to make tourists more in tune with local culture and with the local people. Knowledge of these should therefore be paramount.

The ageism charge is not totally valid, but in certain parts of the industry it is. The hoteliers are waking up to this fact. Tourists are diverse and employment should also be diverse.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 March 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 9C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 March - Cloud, 17C; 19 March - Sun, cloud, 15C; 20 March - Cloud, sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 2 to 3 occasionally 4.

Some cloud first thing, chilly in areas - down to three degrees. Should be mostly fine today, tomorrow less so with cloud and a stiff easterly wind predicted.

Evening update (22.30): Pretty decent day. A high of 16.9C.

No Frills Excursions

Loved Up In Salt Lands

Despite salt being a fairly crucial ingredient for the Mallorcan summer trade, the tourist would generally only contemplate its existence when it comes to showering off a crusty salty layer, having dwelled over long in the briny, or when it is positioned next to a pepper pot. Resorts built on salt are somehow not the stuff of brochures, even though salt is everywhere, and officialdom even determines and classifies land in terms of salt. The Costas Authority have this thing about land that is "influenced by the sea", of which there is of course a great deal all around Mallorca, and this influence translates as salt land.

There are a few, small "salinas" dotted along the coastline, but in a part of south-eastern Mallorca there is a place with so much salt and so much salina - dried-out salt land - that they named it after the salt: Ses Salines. A municipality of some 5,000 people, apart from all that salt, Ses Salines is principally known - where the tourist is concerned - for its resort: Colonia Sant Jordi. Controversy reigns here at present, the consequence of the plan for a floating waterpark to bob on the gentle sea, aided by the buoyancy of salt water.

But this is not the only controversy. Ses Salines could find itself propelled into the world of reality television, a genre which in Spain is commonly referred to as "telebasura": telly rubbish. This reality TV would not be some Spanish production, it would be one for ITV2. "Love Island" is returning and in all likelihood it will return in Ses Salines.

For those of you with memories that can recall reality TV as it was nine years ago, "Love Island" involved various Z-listers being flown off to Fiji and being voted on in order to determine whether they got to know each other more than just fleetingly in the "love shack". One doesn't know if there was a moral to be found in the winners of the second and final series in 2006, but they were - for what it was worth - Bianca Gascoigne and Calum Best, famous for not being famous other than having very famous footballing fathers who went astray (stepfather in the case of Gazza).

It seemed as though it had been consigned to the scrap heap of telly rubbish for all eternity. The ratings for the second series were not as good as had been anticipated, which may have had something to do with the fact that the "celebrity" part of the title from the first series had been dropped: the producers came to the stunning realisation that there weren't any celebrities. So, after series two, the axe was wielded.

Nevertheless, it is back but in a rather different form. "The Mirror" says that the celebrities (such as they were) have gone and that the new show will feature ordinary Joes and Josephines living like celebrities in the resurrected island of love. "The Mail", on the other hand, suggests that celebrities will be "mingling with members of the public", whatever that's supposed to mean. The "Derby Telegraph" usefully informs us that ITV2 are "looking for single people from Derbyshire to take part", so perhaps we can anticipate the potential lovers referring to each other as "youth".

Whoever the contestants finally are, the biggest difference is the location. Mallorca does qualify as an island but it is a fairly large island. Love will therefore be confined to one small part - Ses Salines - so long as opposition from residents doesn't scupper its chances. A further difference, according to "The Mail", is that the title will be changed. It will be "The Resort", which doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though it is better than if it were to be named after the designation of the land on the town hall plans. "Love Parcela 317, Polígono 4", it can safely be assumed, will not be the title.

This "parcela" (plot) is in Sa Carrotja, and residents' concerns appear to centre on the potential harm that might be caused because of the filming. Temporary parking, catering facilities etc. will have to be established for a period from April until the end of July. However, these concerns are almost certainly being exaggerated. TV production crews are typically pretty assiduous when it comes to ensuring that locations are returned to how they were prior to filming; indeed they are often returned in better condition than they were.

So, there can be little good reason for "Love Island" or whatever it will be called to not be filmed in Ses Salines. Though some might consider the show to be telly rubbish, is there not a potential benefit to be gained from promoting this part of Mallorca and indeed the whole of the island? It would, after all and for once, not be Magalluf. Love island? Love the island? Why not?

Monday, March 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 March 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 6C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 17 March - Cloud, sun, 16C; 18 March - Cloud, 15C; 19 March - Cloud, sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Partially cloudy first thing, not much by way of sun forecast for today and with a strong chance of some rain. Tomorrow should expected to be sunnier, but the week's outlook is for predominantly cloudy conditions.

Evening update (20.15): More sun than had been forecast, but then the cloud gathered. Rain in some areas, not in others. A disappointing high of 13.7C.

No Frills Excursions

Soft Machine In Mallorca: Daevid Allen

In the 1960s youthful Australians gravitated to the UK in search of what didn't exist in their homeland - culture - though it is fair to say that not all went in the hope of finding intellectual or creative fulfillment. There was also the type that Barrie Humphries, one of those Aussie culture-seekers, parodied to drunken, boorish perfection in the form of his Barry McKenzie character. But of the more cerebral, there were, among others, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Richard Neville, whose greatest contribution to 1960s' counter-culture, "Oz", resulted in him getting a fifteen-month prison sentence for obscenity.

These "new" Australians had some form of association with each other. James knew Greer at Cambridge and he also knew Humphries. He had also at one time edited the University of Sydney's student newspaper, "Honi Soit". Neville knew a later editor and together they created the original "Oz". In the UK, "Oz" was the voice of revolutionary anti-establishment and thus went much further than the satirical "Private Eye", to which both Humphries and Greer contributed. And Neville was a good friend of Greer's.

But before any of them, a young musician by the name of Christopher David Allen had arrived in England. The gravitational pull that he was to experience was not one of association with his Australian contemporaries. He was drawn to Canterbury and to a musical scene whose alumni included and were to include Robert Wyatt and Mike Oldfield. The group which best represented this Canterbury scene was Soft Machine. Of its four original members, Wyatt was the drummer, and the lead guitarist was the young Australian, whose name had by now adopted a slight affectation: Daevid Allen.

If there was an association between Allen and other Australians like Neville and Greer, it was that of the counter-culture, and for Allen and members of Soft Machine that meant hippydom and psychedelia. The bass guitarist with Soft Machine was Kevin Ayers, and he and Allen were to follow paths that were to bring them into the orbit of a faux-hippy, Richard Branson, and, though not because of Branson, to the village of Deià.

The story of how Ayers and Allen both came to know Deià and eventually live there (Allen not for that long) usually points to a time after they had left Soft Machine. In fact, both Ayers and Allen had come to Deià well before Soft Machine were formed in mid-1966. And so had Robert Wyatt. In Wyatt's biography it says that in the summer of 1964 he came to stay with Robert Graves for a second time. With him on that trip was Kevin Ayers, and they were soon to be joined by Daevid Allen. It was in Deià, however, that they began to lay the foundations for what would eventually become Soft Machine: "the music really began to gel". And someone who helped to make the music gel was Graves' son-in-law, Ramón Farrán, who ran the Indigo jazz club in Palma. Farrán also had to keep an eye on two of the musicians. Wyatt could be trusted, as he refused to take drugs. Ayers and Allen on the other hand ... "Deià is a bit dangerous for a person who hasn't got a strong personality. It's really easy to lose yourself in doing nothing, in just having parties, smoking pot and things like that," Farrán is quoted in the biography.

Allen was to also visit Deià in 1966. He said that during a stay with Graves at Easter of that year he took some particularly strong LSD and had a vision of himself as a rock musician playing at what, he reckoned, was to become the Glastonbury music festival. In 1971, he did indeed appear at Glastonbury, then a very different event to now. He had long left Soft Machine by 1971 and had formed Gong, a band that was a kind of musical collective and one whose experimentation drew on the avant-garde music that had inspired him: by the likes of Terry Riley, who he knew from a time in Paris when he also got to know William Burroughs - hence, the Soft Machine name.

But before that appearance at Glastonbury, Allen had established himself in Deià, and in 1969 it was in Deià that the first Gong record was made. It featured the flautist Dider Malherbe, who supposedly had been living in a cave on the Graves' finca. In 1973 came the Branson connection. Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" was the first album to be released by Virgin; Gong's "Flying Teapot" was the second.

Allen's association with Deià was not as strong as that of Kevin Ayers, who lived there for several years and who died in 2013, but nevertheless his death last week has evoked many a memory of his time there and his role in the story of the hippy colonisation of Deià and of Soft Machine in Mallorca.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 March 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 8C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 March - Cloud, 15C; 17 March - Sun, cloud, 13C; 18 March - Rain, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4 to 6 easing rapidly 2 to 3 during the morning.

Patchy cloud first thing and rather chilly. Possible shower later but otherwise reasonably sunny. The outlook for the week is not great: rain forecast for most days but mild nonetheless.

Evening update (21.15): Sun at times, but mostly cloudy. The high - bang on 15C.

No Frills Excursions

Parasite Of Love: Mallorca's "picadors"

A picador is the horseman who thrusts a lance into the bull during the bullfight. Is he not? He is, but there is another type of picador, one who might possibly be said to still exist but who had his heyday during the years of Mallorca's great tourism boom.

The chances are that, of things you can do over the next few days, you will not be going to the Can March Gallery in Inca on Friday or the town hall in Montuïri on Saturday in order to hear a presentation about a book written in Catalan. It's a shame. As with several other books written about some of the idiosyncrasies of Mallorca during the early boom years, it isn't available in English, but be this as it may. The book in question is by a young Mallorcan historian, Tomeu Canyelles, who first came to my attention when he collaborated with one of Mallorca's leading musicologists, Francesc Vicens, in researching the book "Beatles Made in Mallorca". This complemented a previous work by Vicens, "Paradise of Love", which looked at how pop music and tourism collided in Mallorca in the sixties and into the 1970s. They are two historians who have studied and will doubtless continue to study the ways in which popular culture was shaped and influenced by tourism in the days of innocence and not-so-innocence under the Franco regime. And into this research mix has come the latest work by Canyelles. It is a study of a social phenomenon, one that couldn't have existed without the wave of tourism from countries where attitudes were more liberal than in the Spain of the time. The title of the book in Catalan is "Els Picadors Mallorquins". Its subtitle translates as "seducers and seduced during the touristic boom". "Els picadors mallorquins", the Mallorcan picadors, derived their name not from the bullfight but from the mosquito. A picador is a synonym. You get an unpleasant bite from a mosquito, and the mosquito is a parasite. The picador, it was to become accepted, was a parasite.

So, who was he? You may have already put two and two together. Seducer, seduced, more liberal attitudes, parasite? If not, let's spell it out. The picador was the sleazy, smarmy, greasy Latin lover, the tourist gigolo of legend. He wasn't a myth. He genuinely did exist. And there were few places where he existed in greater number than in Mallorca.

It has been said that the early days of tourism made young Mallorcan men distinctly uncomfortable - probably in more ways than one. They had not previously been exposed to the amount of female flesh that now presented itself. There were many who couldn't handle the cultural and psychological upheaval typified by the bikini once it was legalised. On the other hand, there were many who could handle it, and handling was what they principally hand in mind. And this was a mind firmly devoted to the body and to its pleasures.

The picador's modus operandi was pretty straightforward. Eye up a young foreign girl, use some well-practised foreign phrases, charm her with Latin looks and, with any luck, bingo. The picador's territory was also pretty obvious. The beach was ideal and so was the disco, the latter in some ways better on account of alcohol that was in those days cheaper even than chips and served in measures equivalent to a small bucket.

Once it became apparent, fairly early on during the tourism boom, that this new industry was spawning whole legions of lecherous young men with dodgy moustaches who showered in some concoction that made Brut smell good, moral outrage began to raise its head. The church, never a great fan of tourism in any event, condemned the lack of morality, while, and the reverse of how it is today, British newspapers highlighted the perils of the picador. In the 1960s, the young Mallorcan male was the sexual predator who was worthy of contempt. Nowadays, as we know, the loose morality flies in en masse wearing lads-on-tour t-shirts, heads for Magalluf and gets filmed with its pants down.

However, there was, as with contemporary Magalluf, another side of the coin. Despite the indignant stereotyping by Fleet Street and becoming the target for British comedians and dreadful film spin-offs from sitcoms, the picador had his appeal. Tomeu Canyelles admits that, in some respects, the picador may have actually helped to boost tourism, though by the same token he did very little to give Mallorca a good reputation in the eyes of many, including mostly all other Mallorcans.

The picadors didn't last. Or not in the same way. Many clubs were forced to close because of economic crisis in the mid-1970s, while female attitudes were changing. They were less impressed and less easily won over, while there was also far greater awareness of sexually transmitted disease. The picador story ended at the turn of the 1980s, but it lives on in different ways, and one is Tomeu Canyelles' book.