Thursday, June 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2016

Morning high (7.30am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 July - Sun, 28C; 2 July - Sun, 25C; 3 July - Sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 occasionally 4 in the afternoon.

Some cloud around early on but due to disperse but to give a fine and sunny day.

Evening update (20.45):  Once the cloud went away, fabulous: high of 31.2C.

Showing The Black Flag: End-of course holidays

The people of Arenal are fed up. In demonstrating how fed up they are, they have taken to hanging black flags from balconies. It is a black flag against "the tourist who doesn't respect Arenal".

One needs to explain that this is the Arenal which is part of Llucmajor. Arenal falls into two municipalities, Palma being the other, and in Palma they have an ordinance under which "special intervention zones" have been established. The Palma Arenal is one of them. The zones mean that there is to be "zero tolerance" of anti-social behaviour and especially street/beach drinking in groups. It is debatable as to how well the Palma police are capable of keeping on top of this, but at least they have this bylaw. Cross the municipal border and there isn't one.

The legal niceties of all this are frankly lost on many of us. There are all manner of bylaws that all manner of town halls have to deal with behaviour. Why they need to have specific ordinance is anyone's guess, but it appears that they do. But when it comes to getting round to instituting ordinance, they run up against technicalities of legislation. This is what has happened in Llucmajor, and one should bear in mind that Palma had a whole raft of measures to control behaviour and what have you under a wide-ranging civic ordinance. This was deemed unacceptable by the courts. There are the technicalities for you.

Control via local bylaw is thus forever pitted against some grander law. Palma had exceeded the scope of its powers, it was said. Therefore, it dropped this all-embracing ordinance and fell back on what already existed but which seemingly hadn't been implemented. How daft is that?

To come back to Arenal, the Llucmajor bit, the reason for the black flags is the noise, mess and general misbehaviour caused by end-of-course holiday parties. These are for students - school or university - though one wonders how liberally the term student is used. They come from Spain and elsewhere, and in Arenal this year things are apparently worse than ever. The town hall has been unable to stop the "uncontrolled parties", which take place mainly on the beach. Its ordinance won't be in place until August - too late for this year, so the locals will have to see how effective it is on 2017.

Llucmajor cannot prevent there being such vacations. The same applies to other parts of the island: Alcudia, Cala Ratjada and Magalluf. In Alcudia, and specifically in Bellevue, the mayor said last year that he couldn't tell the hotel which clients it should have or not have. Which is absolutely true. Of course he can't.

Despite Alcudia saying that there was to be "maximum control" this year and despite some logistical alterations with what goes under the title Mallorca Island Festival, things are as bad as ever. Worse in some respects, given that one whole part of Bellevue has been devoted to it: all of the blocks to the right-hand side of the entrance road.

The difference between Alcudia and Arenal is that the "party" is for the most part confined to Bellevue. But not at night. The coming and going of coaches to take these "students" to a club means noise not just from the coaches but also the hundreds who make their way to the coaches. And that's just the going-out. Then there's the coming-back.

One could give chapter and verse about what is occurring in Bellevue, but you probably don't need telling. You can well imagine. At times it is total chaos. But again, because this is chiefly within hotel grounds, it is a case - in part - of out of sight, out of mind. This is not like Arenal. But there are residents affected nonetheless: those who live on the same open campus of the one-time Bellavista urbanisation. There are also the residents who live nearby, who are exposed to the noise of those who haven't got a club pass as part of their package. They instead hit the clubs of Alcudia, taking noise, mess, incivility to much of the tourism centre.

Saturation is a popular word with Balearic politicians at present. It's a word to describe, in essence, too many tourists: too many in specific places, be it Palma city centre or certain beaches. This saturation has a highly negative impact on the psyche of the locals. Used though they are to summer tourists in high numbers, when they are high numbers and are out of control, the impact is compounded many times.

The black flags of Arenal should be flown in Alcudia too. But of the apartments principally affected, there would doubtless be some idiot of a community committee member reminding people that things cannot be hung from balconies, normally towels. And herein lies part of the problem: too many stupid people worrying about stupid trivial matters like how long it might take the maintenance guys to fix something and doing absolutely nothing about wider matters. They get the problems they deserve.

Index for June 2016

Accountability and Facebook - 10 June 2016
Alcudia: tourism issues - 29 June 2016
Brexit - 26 June 2016, 27 June 2016
Car parking and overcrowding - 9 June 2016
Colonia Sant Pere - 25 June 2016
Control in Mallorca - 21 June 2016
Corruption route in Palma - 14 June 2016
Cruise ships and overcrowding - 11 June 2016
End-of-course holiday parties - 30 June 2016
Following Magalluf's lead - 17 June 2016
Foreign property purchasing - 16 June 2016
Holiday rentals - 24 June 2016
Mallorca promotion - 22 June 2016
Mallorca rich and poor - 1 June 2016
Muhammad Ali in Mallorca - 19 June 2016
Pablo Iglesias and Marxism - 8 June 2016
Podemos and Ikea - 13 June 2016
Pueblo Español - 12 June 2016
Ryanair and holiday rentals - 18 June 2016
Sa Pobla's old beach - 5 June 2016
Spain's election - 6 June 2016, 20 June 2016, 23 June 2016, 28 June 2016
Tourist saturation and hotel places - 7 June 2016
Tourist tax - 4 June 2016
Town halls and other authorities - 2 June 2016
Tramuntana appreciation in Mallorca - 15 June 2016
War graves in Mallorca - 3 June 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2016

Morning high (6.58am): 21.6C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 30 June - Sun, cloud, 29C; 1 July - Sun, cloud, 25C; 2 July - Sun, 25C.

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

Muggy and cloudy morning. The risk of rain has decreased. Due to brighten up this afternoon and so be good for this evening's flotillas and fireworks (Puerto Alcudia, Colonia Sant Pere) for the fiestas of Sant Pere.

Evening update (20.30): Well, the risk of rain hadn't decreased enough. Persistent but light rain for some of the morning, cloudy after that until the sun got its hat on mid-afternoon. High of 28.7C.

Alcudia: Some tourism and other issues

Some selections from a detailed discussion with Alcudia's councillor for tourism, institutional relations and public works, Joan Gaspar Vallori.


The town hall has a great deal on its plate in terms of infrastructure projects. These include work on the sewage-treatment plant that is due to start in September and will take fifteen months to complete. Meanwhile, there are some other major works in the pipeline, such as the renewal of the street lighting all the way along the Carretera Arta from Magic to Playa de Muro. This is to be replaced with LED lighting, which is more economical and efficient to run.

There is also, starting in August, a project for the wall and general area from the Porta Sebastià to the Porta Roja in the old town, something important for the town's patrimonial heritage. A further project, to start later this year and concluding next year, is for a new tourist information office in Ciudad Blanca. This has been on the cards for a few years, but is now budgeted for. The new office will be in the Avenida Palmeras, i.e. the road that leads to the beach from the small roundabout at the top of the Bellevue Mile. It has been felt necessary as the existing office is not in the best location.

Cruise ships
This new office leads on to Joan's tourism portfolio, and a key theme for the town hall is the continuing development of cruise-ship tourism. Joan says that any controversy about cruise ships is an issue for Palma, the situation is obviously very different in Alcudia. In his words, it is a "boutique" port that will bring in luxury liners with limited passenger capacity but tourists with high spending power.

But do the tourists stay in Alcudia? This is a question that the town hall is well aware of. Joan notes that other parts of Majorca, such as Valldemossa, are very attractive, but the aim is to have cruise tourists visit parts of Alcudia. To this end, there is work being done to develop an "excursion Alcudia" product that would include, for instance, the Roman town.

In Palma, one of the arguments about cruises is the level of spending by passengers. Critics say it is comparatively low. In Alcudia it isn't yet possible to provide any clear indication what this is because the number of ships that have visited since the commercial port terminal was opened has been low. But data on spend is something that is being worked on.

Holiday rentals

One of the great debates at present in Majorca is the regulation of holiday rentals. Joan says that there have as yet been no discussions with the tourism ministry as to how this regulation might be implemented, but in his opinion it will be difficult to put something into place in the municipality within six months after regulation comes in. (There is talk of zones being created in municipalities where holiday rentals will be permitted and where they will not be allowed.)

He accepts that it is a complex subject and also a contentious one, not least because the town hall is very aware of the pressures on accommodation for young people and seasonal workers. These have increased because so many apartments are being made available to tourists, and they represent, as he stresses, a very different situation to a chalet or a finca. There is also, he appreciates, the issue of "co-existence" in blocks between apartments used residentially and touristically. It isn't straightforward.

Joan confirmed that BlueBay's project for a total redevelopment of the Bellevue complex remains very much on the cards. The town hall looks upon this very favourably, he observes, and will do all it can in order to facilitate it, which means licences and permissions. There is as yet no time frame as to when work might start, but there is regular contact with the BlueBay management; the most recent meeting was some three weeks ago.

Something else that came up regarding Bellevue was the confusion that surrounds responsibilities for the roads and other services on the complex. The roads in particular are in a poor condition. Joan, wearing both tourism and public works hats, says that roads, street lighting and maintenance are not the town hall's responsibilities.

The photo here shows the state of part of the road passing by the Siesta apartments: all of it is like this. There is added danger because drivers look to avoid the holes. When there are cars parked on one side, there is even more risk as a result.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2016

Morning high (7.11am): 19C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 29 June - Cloud, sun, 28C; 30 June - Sun, cloud, 24C; 1 July - Sun, 25C.

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

A good day coming up. Tomorrow is set to be cloudy with a low risk of showers.

Evening update (20.00): High of 30.5C.

All Over The Shop: Spain's election

What a peculiar election that was, and one that went to show again how opinion polls can mislead. Nationally, the Partido Popular, though still 39 seats short of a majority, gained fourteen. If there is any moral sense to elections, then the PP should now not have obstacles placed in front of it in forming a government. Both PSOE and Ciudadanos (C's) lost ground. Podemos only added two, the equivalent to what its partners the United Left had in December.

The peculiarity was mirrored in the Balearics. The expectation had been that Podemos, in alliance with the left-wing nationalists Més and the communist United Left, was going to take a seat off PSOE. That didn't happen. Though the Podemos share of the vote was up, this corresponded to only 6,000 plus votes. There are different ways of interpreting this, and one way is not good news for Més. It received almost 34,000 votes in December. Where did they all go? Plus, and although El Pi is a centre-right nationalist party, it didn't stand this time. Its almost 13,000 votes certainly didn't head the way of Més: they probably went to the PP, which increased its share of the vote by six percentage points and by some 22,000 votes.

Biel Barceló, the Més vice-president of the Balearic government, has suggested that one reason for the PP doing that much better was Brexit. Voters sought "refuge" with the PP. Which doesn't say much for his party or others, therefore. He probably wasn't wrong in his conclusion, though by how much the combined Podemos vote was affected by voters opting for the PP instead would be highly debatable. Més also lost out because of the wacky Sobirania per les Illes (SI), the nationalist-independence grouping formed only a few weeks ago and led by leading "glosador", Mateu Matas aka Xuri. There were over seven thousand votes for them while Pacma, the animal-rights party, added more than two thousand to the December poll.

SI may well have held appeal for the nationalist vote, having been created as a direct result of Més getting into bed with Podemos, characterised by SI as a "Madrid" party.

The results, both nationally and regionally, go to show how all over the shop voting is. But something now has to give. Were there to be yet another election, which itself appears to require a constitutional amendment, the rivals to the PP would be aware that this would most likely only play more into the PP's hands. What has to give are the entrenched positions that were developed after the December election. The PP should be given the job in some way or another, which wouldn't be great news for PSOE's Francina Armengol and her "pact" of Balearic government. But at least PSOE can point to the fact that it gained votes this time round in the Balearics, which wasn't the case nationally. All over the shop.

Monday, June 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2016

Morning high (7.16am): 19.2C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 28 June - Sun, cloud, 28C; 29 June - Cloud, sun, 25C; 30 June - Sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4, occasionally 5 in the morning.

Lovely morning. The day may see some patchy cloud at times, but sunny otherwise.

Evening update (19.30): High of 27.2C.

Failure Of Tourism Planning: Brexit

Scenario planning is not necessarily a complex process. It may need some imagination to attempt to come up with all possible scenarios, but even then some will not dreamt up. There are, though, ones which are relatively easy to consider. A decision to leave the European Union by the people of the United Kingdom is one of them. That possibility doesn't even require the complexity of scenario planning. It is something inherent to Business Studies 101 - the SWOT analysis - and it comes under the T, i.e. threats. It is so basic a tool that any business or government should have no difficulty in working up a SWOT.

For the Balearics, the threat of Brexit should have been abundantly clear. It was of course a decision totally beyond Balearic control. But that is the point. You seek to manage events beyond your control. You plan, you make decisions based on probability. How probable did Balearic businesses or government rate Brexit? At all?

The government made a decision some months ago to introduce the tourist tax a week after the result of the referendum would be known. Perhaps it did consider the probability. Indeed, perhaps it believes that it planned for the probability. At least there will be some tax revenue to compensate for losses through other revenue generation, it might believe.

The tourism advisory council is to meet this week. It comprises President Armengol, the tourism minister Biel Barceló, representatives of town halls, island councils, business associations, unions, plus "prestigious professionals" from the tourism sector. Its meeting is expressly to consider Brexit. It's about the closest the Balearics get to a sort of war council. The islands have got an emergency on their hands.

A sensible emergency measure, on account of the size of the British tourism market, would be to stall the tourist tax. With the pound going through the floor, spending power will be greatly reduced, and yet of course so much has been bet on tourist spend this year. The government's four per cent growth figure for 2016 is now looking unattainable. Its revenues will not be what they were - the tax from property sales will be just one lost stream. The tourist tax revenue, modest by comparison with other sources, will not compensate, but take it out of the equation and spending might, just might, not plummet as much as it would otherwise do.

The government won't do this. Or you would think not. If it did, it would be proof that it hadn't factored Brexit into the equations, when it should have done. Furthermore, while there is chaos all round because of Brexit, there is the chaos which surrounds the regional government. At least this has not yet been heightened, given that the election did not give Podemos what it (and Més) had sought - a third seat in Congress. Nevertheless, while Armengol might want to move in one direction, others would prevent her.

No one seems to have seen this coming. Take the hotels and tour operators. They announce that there will be price rises for 2017 of up to 15% at the very time the referendum is taking place. British tour operators are already asking for discounts.

What a complete and utter mess. Yes, it was out of anyone's control, but a modicum of planning and awareness of the T-threat might have helped to limit the damage.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2016

Morning high (7.28am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 27 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 28 June - Sun, 25C; 29 June - Cloud, sun, 25C.

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

Another fine morning. Expected to cloud over somewhat this afternoon. Week ahead looking pretty normal: mainly sunny, with Wednesday at present forecast to be quite cloudy.

Let's Play Risk

"Let's play Twister, let's play Risk." I don't for one moment imagine that Michael Stipe and REM entered the thoughts of protagonists debating you know what, but they should have. Let's play Risk. Or initially, let's play a simple card game involving risk. One option is the known (or as known as can possibly be known). The other is unknown. Stick or twist? Let's play Twister, moving into precarious positions and then falling.

The British, though imbued with a streak of entrepreneurial risk-taking, are generally a conservative people (small c). They are a middle-of-the-road society with middle thoughts who more or less invented middle class. Down the middle. But then that's what happened. Right down the middle. Split apart. One half has opted not to stick. Let's play Risk. If you are given those options, and be truthful, which would you take? Status quo or the mould-breaking twist of punk raging against the machine? How very contrary the British can also be.

Let's play Risk. It's not about occupying every territory on the board, more about retreat. Ah yes, but it's a game of strategic conquest. Victory! All hail the risk-takers. And now what? The Risk map could be re-drawn. London, the Scots, the people of Ulster forming a union, declaring a separate nation. Don't be daft, that wouldn't happen. But who knows what will happen? Really happen. Down the line. Back to the Risk board, and the dotted armies of populists who roam the hinterlands of the European continent.

Drawing up a post-European map was the easy part. Predicated on hypothesis for the obvious reason that waters are not charted. Lack of precedence. Though one could say the same for European union, wherein lies the rub. They forgot to make people love it - union, that is. Middle-of-the-road societies still need to express love and to feel that they are being loved. Let's play Risk. But what remains because of leave? What do the conjurors, the magicians, the illusionists of leave have? Michael Stipe again: "If you believe there's nothing up his sleeve."

Saturday, June 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2016

Morning high (7.11am): 19.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 26 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 27 June - Sun, 24C; 28 June - Sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 2 increasing East-Northeast 3 to 4 from around midday.

A bit breezier this morning. Otherwise sunny with some patchy cloud, which is how it will probably be through the day.

Evening update (21.15): High of 31.7C. Got a bit cloudy late on.

Where Resort Time Stood Still

Wednesday is the feast day for Sant Pere, Saint Peter, patron of fishermen. The fiestas are, therefore, happening in different parts of the island, not all of them - oddly enough - by the coast. But one coastal place which has more right than any other to claim the fiestas as its own is Colonia Sant Pere.

Once upon a time, there was nothing where Colonia Sant Pere now stands other than dunes, pines and scrub. It came into being in 1880, one of a series of new "colonies" for land development. This was not speculative building or anything of such nature, but purely agricultural, though there was the obvious further attraction of fishing. Some of the colonies failed to survive. One that didn't was Gatamoix, the settlement that the British engineers established for the drying and cultivation of Albufera. Notable among those which did survive are Colonia Sant Jordi and Porto Cristo as well of course as Colonia Sant Pere.

The church that was built was dedicated to Sant Pere, an indication that fishing was to become a part of the economy of this tiny settlement. Nowadays, it's not a great deal bigger, in terms of population, than it was originally: there are some 500 plus regular inhabitants. But it is notable in different ways. Edging towards the north-eastern tip of Mallorca, Colonia forms part of an area that may well be where human settlement on the island was first established.

The evidence for this lies principally with two sites: one is the dolmen burial site in Son Baulo (Can Picafort) and the other is a similar dolmen in S'Aigua Dolça, east of Colonia Sant Pere, that only became truly known about around twenty years ago. It hasn't satisfactorily or definitively been established that these are evidence of first settlements, but both pre-date what is taken to be the Talayotic period, of which there are plenty of examples all over Mallorca and Menorca; Ses Païsses in Arta is one of the best known. An assumption that has been made is that these most ancient settlements were by people who had crossed from Menorca. It may well be correct, as Menorca has signs of even earlier habitation from the third millennium BC.

Colonia Sant Pere, therefore, sits along a stretch of coast on the bay of Alcudia that is rich with prehistory. To its west is the necropolis of Son Real, a burial site that is of more recent vintage (all things being relative) than the dolmen sites: more recent by around a thousand years. It is also a coastal area with very little development.

Arta, of which Colonia is a part, is peculiar in that it stands out among all the coastal municipalities that run from Alcudia around the north-eastern tip and along the east coast because of its lack of resort development. A reason for this is surely its mountainous terrain; Arta has more in common with municipalities of the Tramuntana than with its neighbours when it comes to beach tourism. While it has its coves, there are really only three obvious beaches: Colonia's is one and the smallest, Cala Torta is another and the third and largest is Sa Canova, which lies between Colonia and Son Serra de Marina.

This neighbouring development, part of Santa Margalida rather than Arta, has its own peculiarity: plenty of residential properties but no hotels. It is a place which, together with Colonia, conspires to make this part of Mallorca an area where time seems to have stood still. Not completely of course, but it is an area that is a world away from Can Picafort and Cala Ratjada to either side. There is a sense also of the less than conventional, and not just because of the naturist beaches of Sa Canova and Cala Torta, Colonia's naturist hotel (the only one on the island) and the ambitions that Colonia has for being a dog-friendly tourist destination. As befits the mysterious nature of the prehistory, Son Serra was once the location for a "didgeridoo encounter". It took place six years ago in a wooded area near to the Talayotic site of Cova de sa Nineta. All pretty alternative stuff.

And alternative adequately describes this part of Mallorca. It is redolent of an era before giant resorts. Even now, it's stretching things to describe Colonia as a resort, although it is the only one that Arta can claim to have. Quiet it may be, but on Wednesday there will be the bangs of fireworks for Sant Pere. Not quite enough, though, to waken the dead of all that prehistory.

* Photo of Sa Canova from Wikimedia.

Friday, June 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2016

Morning high (6.30am): 19.7C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 25 June - Sun, cloud, 27C; 26 June - Sun, cloud, 23C; 27 June - Sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing East-Northeast 3 to 4 around midday and decreasing Variable 3 by the evening.

Sun. Nothing else.

Evening update (22.15): High of 33.3C (inland).

Four Grand To Make Holiday Rentals Legal

The Balearic government, working on the reform of tourism law legislation that will regulate (make legal) some accommodation for holiday rental that is currently not legal, has a plan that could see it bringing in getting on for 200 million euros.

To give some background to this, it may be recalled that the government was, until recently, benefiting from a system whereby hotels paid to regularise places that did not have legal status. Reasons why they didn't have this status were principally due to the fact that rooms had at one time been used for non-guest purposes, such as use by staff, as utility rooms or for other purposes. They were subsequently converted but left in a state of regulatory limbo.

When this system was introduced, there was a figure of some 53,000 such places throughout the Balearics, an enormous number when one thinks about it. The decree that enabled the system was extendable only once, and the final deadline for this expired in January this year.

Although the system worked reasonably well in that the fee required to regularise these places went into a fund for resort infrastructure regeneration, it didn't work anything as well as it might have done. Roughly one tenth of these places were regularised and paid for. There remain around 48,000.

You may well of course ask how the hotels can get away with this. You may ask, but getting an adequate answer would be another matter. In theory, all these places are now not being occupied, though theory and practice are two entirely different things. It is, though, the very existence of this stock of places which is one reason why the government is not minded to allow new places to be created. If hotels want to build new places, then they have to close others down.

Anyway, the government has been considering these 48,000 places in a different light. Why not have a stock of holiday rental places equivalent to this number? Moreover, why not have owners of properties who wish to legally market their properties - apartments, for instance - pay an equivalent amount as the hotels were paying to regularise their places? Four thousand euros per place.

It is said, and you can of course never be certain of these figures, that there are 100,000 places of a holiday rental nature on the margins of legality, a polite way of saying that they are in fact illegal. The government views such a number with a degree of horror: they would be far too many. Forty-eight thousand, however, might well be acceptable.

The problem that the government will have, though, is that whatever it does in terms of legislation, there will still be owners who simply refuse to abide by the rules. Catalonia's experience is just that, and it hasn't asked for the sort of money to regularise properties that Biel Barceló and his ministry have in mind. There is also the fact that some owners might only want to rent out accommodation now and then. Asking them for four thousand sounds rather excessive. That would then leave the owners who only wish to ever rent out and to do so all above board. They would pay four thousand euros, need to meet minimum standards of quality and service but find that there are plenty of others flouting the regulations.

There again, the government is also planning on introducing what it dubs an "express" system of fining owners who bend the rules. The tourism ministry says that there isn't a problem with the number of inspectors but with the bureaucracy that surrounds the processing of penalties. It is going to simplify the process therefore.

Well, it may be simplified but one suspects that there is an issue with the number of inspectors. As for the 48,000 places at 4,000 a pop, one struggles with the logic, but then legislation regarding holiday rentals has long defied logic.

A further element of the planned legislation relates to the potential for communities to veto permissions for individual owners to rent out touristically in apartment blocks. But the word from the ministry this week has been that it doubts if this - a community veto - would stand up legally.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2016

Morning high (6.34am): 18.3C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 24 June - Sun, 29C; 25 June - Sun, cloud, 24C; 26 June - Sun, cloud, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 2 to 3 backing East-Northeast around midday.

What do you know? Another sunny day on its way. Happy Referendum for those taking part. In Mallorca tonight is the night of fire for Sant Joan (John the Baptist).

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.5C.

The Imploding Socialists: Spain's election

There's an election on Sunday. If it seems as if it's only yesterday since the last election, that's because it was: well, six months ago anyway. But elections come around so often, you can be forgiven for losing track: Spain appears to nowadays operate on the basis of regular election rather than actual government.

So, what has happened in the intervening months? Not a lot. There was of course the farcical failure to arrive at any accord between the parties that would have allowed someone to be permanent prime minister rather than an acting one. Other than that, however, little has changed. Podemos have acquired a new best friend in the form of the United Left and appear destined to take number two spot in the electors' affections. Otherwise, things are more or less as they were. Chaotic.

Will they be any different after Sunday? No. The chaos will remain but it may be diluted somewhat. That will be if PSOE and Pedro Sánchez decide to let the PP and Mariano Rajoy officially continue. The chances are that this would be as a minority government rather than as a coalition, but who knows for sure? Sánchez doesn't, and he may well be out of the equation anyway. PSOE barons are sharpening their knives, unimpressed by the failure to make any headway in the polls.

But Sánchez is a bit like an England football manager. It makes little or no difference who's in charge. Getting anywhere is bound to end in failure. This wasn't once the case with PSOE, but it has never recovered from having been the party that presided over the start of the economic crisis.

Going into the election, everything is so familiar. What was said before the December election still holds true. There are four main parties, two of whom have disrupted the two-party system and another two who too few people like or trust. The PP and PSOE behemoths have been reduced by the dual thrusts of crisis and corruption, to which can be added some all-round nastiness by the PP as well as the A-word: austerity.

But that, you might think, has shifted somewhat. Isn't Spain all the better economically now? Better even than it was six months ago? Maybe, but there are too many voters who are seeing nothing of the recovery and too many who have come to despise the PP for austerity and have thus been seduced by the promised land of Podemos or by the mini-me PP of Ciudadanos.

That isn't wholly accurate of course. The C's are a shiny, bright vehicle compared with the rusting heap that the PP is contriving to just about keep on the road. The C's are also all for the "citizens" - they couldn't be anything else, given that their name means that - and so against corruption. They have some bright young stars, such as their leader, Albert Rivera. Yet somehow they seem to have got stuck. Contrast them with Podemos, who keep managing to move forward: there are some clever bastards in the Podemos ranks, and they have even managed to disguise the disagreements that exist in those ranks.

Alas for Podemos, Pablo Iglesias will not emerge as prime minister. Or it would take a seismic event for him to become so. Perhaps the defenestration of Sánchez might be it. He surely won't survive this second election and another farcical failure to become premier, but would a successor look upon Podemos with any more positive light? Very doubtful. PSOE have been totally humiliated and continue to be. The ultimate humiliation would be to serve in a government under Iglesias. It won't happen.

Closer to home, i.e. Mallorca and the Balearics, there is further humiliation to come. Francina Armengol, head of an unstable government for all that she insists that it is the opposite, must know that the fates are conspiring against her. PSOE in the Balearics seem destined to come third, just as PSOE nationally will. Podemos will become the major force in the "pact". There will be a reappraisal and an even more vicious one if Sánchez allows Rajoy to stop acting and start being premier again.

So what will happen to Francina? Possibly nothing. It may well suit Podemos to carry on with how things are. They can happily continue to dictate policy: even more so, if the election goes the way it is expected to. Francina would therefore seek to assure the "citizens" that there is "normality" and "stability". Though she might not believe it, others in PSOE do. For all her brave talk, it is PSOE that Podemos have been attacking all along, wishing to destroy wishy-washy socialism with the real thing. Podemos can bide their time, believing that Sánchez support for the PP will lead PSOE to completely implode.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2016

Morning high (6.37am): 17.7C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 23 June - Sun, 28C; 24 June - Sun, 25C; 25 June - Sun, 24C.

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

And more sun today. It's what they call summer.

Evening update (20.30): High of 30.4C.

Beer And Models: Promoting Mallorca

If you look at a map of Germany, you will discover that there are sixteen "Länder" in the country, the sixteen states of Germany. Missing from it is the seventeenth. It is a gag in Germany that Mallorca is the seventeenth state, so close has been the association for so long.

The German obsession with the island far outstrips any British fascination. It does of course have its downside, especially if the red-top "Bild" has anything to do with it. But it is otherwise a generally positive obsession, even if it can result in the German television-viewing public having inflicted upon it some atrocities in the name of popular entertainment. Geman broadcasters think nothing of flying in some appalling Schlagermusik acts, locating them in a "kneipe" in Paguera, Arenal or another mini-state of Germany in Mallorca, and filming them. The result? Truly awful.

My own personal favourite of this genre was an outdoor location. Some dame in a ball gown was on rocks with the water lapping over her feet, belting out a tune, while a bloke in full tux gear was on a different rock playing a trumpet. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments when one can only wonder what on Earth possesses anyone to dream up such a scenario. For the most part, though (or it would seem), the German telly watcher laps up ladies having water lapping over their stilettos. I personally couldn't identify where the rocks in question were, but the über and immer curious Germans would doubtless have undertaken such research, gone online and booked there and then.

Which is why it is all so positive. While the British are served a diet of "Geordie Shore" and Stacey Dooley, the Germans have unthreatening musical and other acts promoting the island. Which brings us to a more modern performance: one by German group Stereoact. This thirtysomethings DJ-producer duo have a smash hit, "Die Immer Lacht" (she always laughs). Even more of a smash is the number of YouTube views - currently some 47 million.

Its success may owe something to sixteen-year-old blonde model-singer, Greta Hirsch, who is never off camera during the video. But if eyes can be taken off Greta for one moment, then it is evident that there are certain scenes of Mallorca. Some of it is a bit "urban" in that, for example, a wall with graffiti features. Otherwise, the knowledge-seeking Germans have been figuring out where the different scenes are, such as Ses Covetes and Palma.

While parts of the British media were, thanks to "The Night Manager", alerted to the fact that there are indeed parts of Mallorca which aren't Magalluf and consequently appeared to try and outdo one another in professing their knowledge of the likes of Formentor, the BBC series was something of an unusual occurrence. For the Germans, on the other hand, there is more or less daily free promotion of Mallorca - and normally in a positive way - from one source or another. And the Stereoact song and video have just reinforced this, even if of the 47 million one suspects that the majority have been more interested in Greta than in a beach chiringuito.

Although the British and other tourism markets may be deprived when it comes to such publicity, the collective efforts of video producers do go some way to redressing the total imbalance, nay vacuum, of official tourism ministerial productions. Once more, the brewer Estrella Damm is doing its damnedest to promote Mallorca and the Balearics. Its 2012 promotion was a fabulous advert for the Tramuntana and especially its coastal parts. Two years previously it had highlighted Menorca and the Sant Joan fiestas (currently in full swing of course), while last year it was Ibiza and the fabulous short film with Dakota Johnson.

This year's video finds Estrella back in Mallorca, with the lead taken by Jean Reno, the French actor who was born to Spanish parents. (He's been in all sorts of things, such as "Mission Impossible" and "The Da Vinci Code".) Playing a grumpy actor, he finally comes to appreciate "those little things" (the title of the production) by his guide in Mallorca, Laia Costa, and with some help of course from the odd bottle of Estrella. Where was it filmed? Well, taking a look and trying to recognise the locations is half the fun. But as with other Estrella films, it is not just a great advert for the locations, it is also worth watching in its own right because of the story and the acting, thus lending the whole production double power.

The Balearic tourism ministry is very lucky that there are the Estrellas and others doing its work for it. The ministry should package them all up and place them on some as yet undeveloped website. But does it ever take any real notice of what is produced on its behalf?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2016

Morning high (7.07am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 22 June - Sun, 26C; 23 June - Sun, 24C; 24 June - Sun, 23C.

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

Pretty much sun, sun, sun now and over the coming days. Not much more to be said.

Evening update (19.30): High of 28.9C.

The Island That Lost Control

I'm looking at a one-litre bottle of olive oil, the light variety, not the extra virgin type. I'm not sure if it would make a difference which sort it was for something I'm trying to figure out without going and trying it. How much oil do you suppose you need to make a hotel corridor (not carpeted) slippery enough in order to ensure that guests slip over? I'm guessing that a litre - of whatever type - wouldn't be adequate. You could do part of a corridor, but the whole corridor ...?

Now I'm looking at a chopping-board and at a ring on the cooker. How long would it take, I'm wondering, for the chopping-board to catch light on a full ring (electric)? Wooden, plastic: I reckon the plastic one would go up quicker. I'm not about to find out. To be honest, until only a short while before writing this, it had never occurred to me that one might put a chopping-board on a ring, go out and trust that it catches light - in a hotel apartment. Nor had it ever struck me that one might pour oil along a hotel corridor.

I've been looking, millions have been looking, at a video. Have you seen it? Fancy seeing someone being beaten and kicked senseless by security guards? A hotel's security guards? A hotel to the fore of a transformation. I don't need to tell you which one, do I. You already know. You'll have seen the video. As I say, millions have. The Mail has seen it too. As has The Star. The victim wasn't a guest as such. The hotel has explained this. What the hell difference does that make? You'll know the hotel. It invites the public in to enjoy its facilities. That makes the public guests. This is a hotel asked, by its relevant town hall, to assist in sending out positive messages for somewhere undergoing transformation. Here's the message: end up black and blue. What does the mayor say?

This is not the same hotel as the one with the items from the kitchen. Which one do you reckon that is? Do you suppose it's the same one that apparently only has one security guard at night for a complex of ... Of, ooh, quite a large size. It is.

Tourism is booming. But you know that. With or without booming tourism there is a need for control. Control of different types. Though when things are booming, you don't really want the absence of control or the wrong type of control to go and cock everything up. I know, I know, it's always been the case that where there has been tourism in Mallorca there has also been its less savoury side: its violence, its misbehaviour, its crime. It's just that I have an uneasy feeling. Far from there being greater and better control, there seems to be a deterioration. This uneasiness stems in part from a further sense of impotence - not mine but that of the rightful authorities, be they police or administrations.

Impunity. That's the word. The point is that efforts are made in one way, and the target of those efforts (the anti-social behaviour or whatever) move somewhere else. You can take the lads off the streets of Magalluf, but you can't take the lads out of Magalluf, except by party boat aka booze cruise. You'll have seen the videos of that as well, no doubt. And no one appears to know how or to be able to enforce control. Impunity. You take the lads off the streets of Magalluf, stick 'em in a hotel, and they (one at any rate) get their heads kicked in by security. Done with impunity, but captured on video. What in God's name were those security guards thinking? Do they think? Or are they incapable of thought? It would appear so.

You put lads and lasses in another hotel with all but non-existent security, and they run riot. Maximum control is to be exerted, says the town hall. Really? One security guard? There's your booming tourism for you. Kerching! Take the money, stick 'em in your crumbling hotel and don't bother to engage any security.

There's something else. It's quite extraordinary. The nightclubs association has been complaining about it. Private houses are being used as nightclubs. People are paying to get in and for drinks. All illegal, and to make matters worse for the association, whose members have to charge the top rate of IVA (VAT) for entrance and drinks, there is not one cent of tax paid. Well, of course there isn't. Impunity.

In this instance, there is also an absence of inspection, from whichever government department or other agency might be relevant: as with hotels, for which there is a total under-resourcing for inspection. So things just happen. Noses are thumbed. We don't care. There's your boom for you.

Monday, June 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2016

Morning high (6.46am): 16.3C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 21 June - Sun, cloud, 25C; 22 June - Sun, 23C; 23 June - Sun, 23C.

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

A good morning with some light cloud. A fine day ahead with very light breezes.

Evening update (19.45): High of 26.8C.

Boy And Girl Bands: Podemos and friends

The brotherhood, sisterhood and infanthood descended on Palma en masse during the week. There they all were, Podemos, Més and friends, as though they were about to engage in a benefit gig for the regional electoral amalgamation of You-Nits-Podemés. It was the head mikes that did it of course, making the collective appear as though it were a boy/girl band about to break out with a chorus of Take That's "Everything Changes". In truth, only the Infant Errejón (who was replete with cool, One-D-style, Harry Styles shades but no ponytail) can pass as a member of a boy band. Some, such as Here Come Da Judge, most definitely cannot. As has been remarked previously, Da Judge bears more than a passing resemblance to Jim Bowen in his "Bullseye" heyday, and Jim was certainly not one for indulging in frivolities like being a member of a boy band: "Super, smashing, great."

They all appeared before a banner declaring "The Smile of the Mediterranean". Perhaps they were in fact a Beach Boys trib. What would they sing from the "Smile" album? "Heroes And Villains"? And who would be the villains? Were you watching, Mariano? Alas no. Instead we got, and inter alia, Pablo Iglesias (the sort of Brian Wilson of the band) informing the citizens that "democracy is incompatible with hotel lobbyists who determine political power, some of them having accounts in Panama". Who on Earth could he have possibly been referring to?

The Infant called for there to be an "intergenerational pact", which wasn't quite as alarming as it sounded; it was a pact of votes from different generations, and if anyone was capable of referring to intergenerations, then it was the Infant.

Throughout all of this, there was no mention by Pablo of PSOE. Not that they would have been on the stage anyway, given that You-Nits-Podemés are going to relegate them to the bronze medal on 26 June. And it was well that they weren't. Imagine if Palma's Smiler had been there: mayor Hila who can smile from parts believed unimaginable by mere mortals.

This all took place on Thursday, three days after the Great Debate on Spanish telly. This was notable for the fact that each of the four prime ministerial (presidential) candidates wore a white shirt, the key differences having been that Pablo sported neither tie nor jacket, while Al Rivera of the C's had the whistle on but no Peckham (as in Peckham Rye - tie, if it needs explaining).

The absence of Al's neckwear was presumably designed as a further means of distinguishing him from his double-act partner, Pedro Sánchez of PSOE. True to form, this Ant and Dec duo were arranged with Ant to the left, so that the audience could figure out which one was which.

Amidst all the grimacing and stony looks of the Great Debate - accusations of corruption, all the normal carry-on - there was a spot of smiling too. Mariano doesn't really do smiling. Or not convincingly. His smiling on this occasion was the befuddled grin of a dad back from the pub who comes in to find junior (which one would that be?) entertaining his two chums with the latest Metallica album. When Mazza wasn't trying his hardest to smile, he was letting it be known, among other things, that Ant (Pedro) would be a "dreadful president (prime minister)". Not, it is becoming clearer, that Ant will ever be either.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2016

Morning high (6.47am): 16.4C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 20 June - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 June - Sun, cloud, 23C; 22 June - Sun, 23C.

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

Fresh and bright morning. Rain from yesterday not about to return. All set fair it seems for the week ahead.

Evening update (19.45): Very nice. High of 26.2C.

When The Greatest Came To Mallorca

Mallorca cannot count on having a long roll call of famous boxers. There was, though, Young Martí, born Gregori Vidal Vidal in Palma in 1908. By the age of 18 he was fighting in London, and three years later fought for the world bantamweight crown in New York, unluckily losing because he was impeded by an injury to his nose that he had suffered in his previous fight. In 1932 he became Spanish bantamweight champion by beating Carlos Flix in what was a fierce fight.

He took his name from one José Martí, who had a boxing gym in Marseille, and it was there that Young Martí was to learn all about boxing. So, there hadn't really been a boxing tradition on the island at that time. It wasn't to truly emerge until the second half of the century, and a principal reason for a rise in its popularity was the opening of the Gimnasio Baleares by a businessman, Jaume Planas Ferrer, in 1945.

This gym was to produce amateur champions at national level, some of whom were to turn professional. Some key names included Martin Antich and Jim Oliver. Despite his name, the latter of these was Mallorcan (his name was in fact Jaume). He fought at the 1948 Olympics but had no success as a professional and so turned instead to wrestling, becoming a Spanish champion in 1951.

Regular Tuesday evening boxing events were staged at the Teatro Balear, while a German promoter, Hans Hesse, put on boxing contests at the Fronton Balear, once upon a time considered to have been one of the finest of sporting venues (it had been opened in 1935). It was to be the venue for the Spanish amateur championships in 1968.

Boxing, by the seventies therefore, was pretty popular in Mallorca, but it was to be a boxer who came to only fight an exhibition who was to provide what were arguably the greatest moments in Mallorca's boxing history. Who else could it have been than The Greatest himself: Muhammad Ali.

It was 12 June, 1979 when Ali arrived at Palma's Son Sant Joan airport. He stayed at the Hotel Valparaíso, then and now one of Palma's finest establishments. It was the year after he had regained the WBA title from Leon Spinks and the year before Larry Holmes defeated him in his penultimate professional fight. It was also a time when Ali had his share of financial problems. One solution to these was to take part in promotional tours.

And so a group of Mallorcan businessmen hit on the idea of Ali being among the attractions (being the main attraction) for the opening of the Casino Sporting Club (the Casino as was in Sol de Mallorca). Its restaurant - the Gala Mallorca - was to be the venue for a spectacular dinner and show on behalf of the Spanish Association for the Fight Against Cancer. Ali topped a bill which otherwise contained names that were not greatly known: Freddy's Angels Ballet, for example. They were appearing in what brought the night to a close, a performance of the musical "Over The Rainbow". Among celebrities that night was the former Wimbledon champion, Manuel Santana.

The promotion for this event was intriguing to say the least. One advert said that you could be witness to the final combat in the history of Muhammad Ali: there was a boxing exhibition of five two-minute rounds against Jimmy Ellis, who was a couple of years older than Ali, had retired in 1975 and wore a headguard for their bout. The first three rounds were, journalists reported, something of a parody, though Ali was to show greater aggression in the final two.

The visit to Mallorca was notable for what was to be the advance announcement of his retirement. At the press conference in the Valparaíso, in addition to playing the drums and the piano, he announced that it was "goodbye to the world". He said that old age and death come to all men and that for an athlete of 37 years of age, there is a time to realise that things are not like they once were. That announcement was to be made official two weeks later in Los Angeles. Fifteen months later, he was back in the ring against Larry Holmes.

For his appearance, it was said that Ali was paid four and a half million pesetas (something over 27,000 euros).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2016

Morning high (6.56am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 19 June - Sun, cloud, 25C; 20 June - Sun, cloud, 23C; 21 June - Sun, cloud, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 veering North during the morning. Rain and storm possible.

All fine first thing, but there are now alerts (yellow) for rain and storms later on. Tomorrow is much better, and the general outlook is good for the week.

Evening update (20.30): Forecast was accurate enough. Storm around and rain. Possibly heavy somewhere, but mild otherwise. Picked up later, bit cool, getting better tomorrow; just one of those days. High of 25.4C.

Guess Who'll Be Marketing Holiday Rentals

If Biel Barceló and the Balearic government think that holiday rentals' legislation is already complicated, then they can now add a further ingredient to the mix. Aware that the legislation will have to take account of the growth of "sharing" accommodation websites such as Airbnb, along is coming a company which is a grand advocate of free markets and competition. It is? Ryanair.

The new theme for the Irish airline is that it plans on becoming the "Amazon" of travel in Europe. Michael O'Leary has said so, and he has been echoed in this by Kenny Jacobs, the head of marketing. On 1 October, the airline is to launch Ryanair Rooms, a service by which its travellers can book all manner of accommodation, including tourist apartments.

This "Amazon" approach, which already includes Ryanair Car Hire, is the latest service to come out of the Ryanair Labs (with its motto "always improving"). The plans for Ryanair Rooms are such, or so it would seem, that the company wants to challenge even Airbnb. And who is to say that it won't?

Until now, Ryanair has had an agreement with That will cease when Ryanair Rooms comes on-stream. Jacobs says that Ryanair's low fares revolutionised air travel and Ryanair Rooms will "transform" the booking of accommodation.

The intention of Ryanair to enter this market is just another move that is indeed transforming the booking of accommodation. TUI has already started to include private accommodation in the sale of packages, there is a growing number of travel agencies doing this, while Be Mate, which was launched back in 2014, was a statement of intent by the founder of Room Mate, Kike Sarasola, that he wished to create his own Airbnb-style model.

Be Mate in fact announced a few days ago that it had entered into an agreement with the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV) for the marketing of tourist apartments. That led the former president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Aurelio Vázquez, who is also the Iberostar CEO for Spain, the Middle East and Africa, to say that Be Mate is doing "more damage" than Airbnb. Sarasola responded by stating that the prohibition of something only awakens desire. Be Mate is going to be at the head of the market not in the rear. "We strive for excellence in our treatment of customers, which is why an organisation such as CEAV is good for us. We share the same philosophy." 

At the same time as Be Mate was making its tie-up with the travel agencies known, Aurelio Vázquez was attending a forum on hotel investment. One of the themes that came up was holiday rentals, and there was a specific aspect to the rentals' market that hasn't necessarily been well discussed. It was one of safety and security and in particular the ease with which potential terrorists can book into accommodation via a site such as Airbnb. The former president of the hoteliers in Madrid, Antonio Gil, observed that hotels are required by the police to record data related to every guest. This is not the case with rentals' websites.

Well, maybe terrorism is something else that the Balearic government will need to factor in. With all the activity going on and with such big hitters in or entering the market, it becomes increasingly difficult for governments, such as the Balearic government, not to adopt legislation which reflects what is a massive and unstoppable trend. The previous government under the Partido Popular preferred to bury its head in the sand (assisted by the hoteliers) and so only contributed to making legislation more complex and more urgent.

Friday, June 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2016

Morning high (7.00am): 17.3C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 June - Storm, sun, 24C; 19 June - Cloud, sun, 23C; 20 June - Sun, cloud, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3.

A fine morning and staying fine. Tomorrow is due to be stormy, but there isn't as yet an alert in place for heavy rain.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty good day. High of 30.3C.

Followers Of Resort Fashion

Meliá Hotels International has seven hotels in Torremolinos. They are all more or less dotted along the resort's fairly lengthy front line. The number isn't, therefore, so different to those in Magalluf. The mayor of the Costa del Sol resort has been in Magalluf. He has met with Calvia's mayor, Alfonso Rodríguez, and with the CEO of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer.

Torremolinos is undergoing a process of renovation and repositioning. Sounds familiar, doesn't it. A closing-off of traffic, pedestrianisation of its old part are designed to make it a space for the citizens. Goodness, how familiar it does all sound.

One hesitates to call it a transformation (a word seemingly reserved for Magalluf, aka Calvia Beach, aka Meliá New Town), but the resort's improvement, says the mayor, has brought about a 30% increase in the number of licences for new business openings this year: even McDonald's has returned to a resort that had fallen into decline.

Torremolinos and Magalluf are like resort blood brothers. Go back in time and they were icons of touristic naffness: Torremolinos more so than Magalluf. It was Torremolinos that Monty Python chose when sending up the package holiday of the early 1970s rather than Magalluf. It seems wholly appropriate that its mayor should now have come and seen for himself what transformation entails.

It is not, one imagines, that Melía is about to embark upon something as grand as Calvia Beach. It is, however, upgrading its hotels. There is a Sol House (the Aloha, Costa del Sol) just as there is in Magalluf, though it appears not, as yet, to be "mixed" by Ibiza Rocks. Oh well.

Calvia Beach has been and is something of an experiment. It is not experimental, as that would imply that the results had not been carefully thought out: they obviously have been. No, it is an experiment in the creation of a different type of resort. It is a model that Meliá has itself suggested others may wish to follow. But that begs a question. Who are these others?

Even were Meliá of a mind to get heavily involved in a Torremolinos makeover, there wouldn't be the same inherent advantages as existed in Magalluf. The number of hotels was one of these. Their comparative proximity was another. An integrated transformation, one involving the town hall-owned immediate environment was facilitated as much as anything by this proximity. Torremolinos is different in this regard.

It has been an experiment in another way: to determine the degree to which one hotel chain can effect change and fairly fundamental change at that. Sure, there have been others - BH, Fergus - but they are followers, catching the wave (or is it Wave House) and in the slipstream of a hotel chain that has engineered the remodelling of a resort.

For Torremolinos, Calvia Beach will certainly offer an intriguing example to try and imitate, though how all-embracing this might be would be debatable. The Magalluf experiment, if nothing else, suggests that resort transformations require a sugar daddy hotel chain, one certainly with vision but one also with strong investment backing and that inherent real-estate advantage of hotel locations.

And for Torremolinos, read also other Mallorcan resorts. The point has been made previously. If Calvia Beach is a model to be taken up by others, then who is it that would drive this? Meliás don't grow on resort trees. The model would need its own remodelling. It would demand a consortium approach and shedloads of investment.

But would everywhere want to be like Calvia Beach? Meliá has spoken of how the traditional resort bar is being supplanted by the beach club (clearly not completely, it has to be said). This is all part of the complementary offer upgrading itself in line with a resort branding determined by the sophistication and aspirations inherent to the Millennial Generation (the young market which doesn't get totally blotto or down its pants on Punta Ballena). It's all in the marketing, of course it is.

Magalluf's family tourism market would seem to also demand beach clubs. Or is it that they are to be weaned off alternatives and made to want them? This is nothing against beach clubs, rather a fear that resorts, looking at the Calvia Beach experiment, will somehow contrive to lay their hands on investment and copy it. One would end up, therefore, with a sort of standardised resort model.

And in marketing terms, that would make little sense. Rather than standardisation, the marketing mantra has to be differentiation. But in order for that to apply, someone has to have the vision as to what a resort should be. Meliá has done this. It has re-thought the vision. But for Magalluf and only Magalluf. It doesn't mean, it shouldn't mean that others slavishly follow. Torremolinos should look, see what might make sense for it, and go its own way.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2016

Morning high (6.55am): 20.3C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 17 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 18 June - Sun, storm, 22C; 19 June - Cloud, 23C.

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

Quite breezy first up. The risk of a shower today seems to have diminished, so should be mainly bright and sunny. Still looking at something of a threat of a storm on Saturday.

Evening update (20.30): It wasn't mainly bright and sunny; it was mainly a bit cloudy, clear sky only really emerging late on. High of 26.1C.

Is It Time To Restrict Foreign Property Purchasing?

The Bow Group, while associated with the Conservative Party, is an independent organisation. Its views and its members are, nevertheless, recognisable as being to the right of political thought. It has over the period of its existence since 1951 shifted in terms of dominant philosophy. In 1973, for example, Peter Lilley produced the so-called alternative manifesto which marked a move away from Keynesian economics: the ground was being prepared for what was to become Thatcherism.

As such, therefore, it would be presumed that the Bow Group would be wholly market liberal. That presumption would normally be accurate, but in November last year the Bow Group came up with a proposal which might sound staggering, given its usual philosophies. It was addressing Britain's housing crisis, and its solution, rather than the building of thousands more new homes, was the cutting of demand. Specifically, the author of its report, Daniel Valentine, argued that Britain should follow the lead of countries such as Denmark and Switzerland and make it tougher for foreigners to buy properties.

In Switzerland there is an annual quota for how many homes can be sold to foreign non-residents. This applies countrywide, though the individual cantons can and do apply additional restrictions. Denmark doesn't allow non-EU nationals to buy homes unless they have lived in the country for five years. The EU allows Denmark to restrict second-home purchases by EU citizens. Those citizens who do purchase need to provide confirmation that the property will be lived in all year round.

Away from Europe, the Singapore government restricts purchases to condos or apartments without the need for first obtaining permission to buy. In Australia, non-resident foreign purchasers can generally only acquire new builds. The Bow Group has suggested just this, with penalties applied if the property is sold within five years.

At the heart of what the Bow Group has said and also at the heart of what certain countries have introduced by way of restrictions is a recognition that a free-for-all, liberalised market doesn't work. Or rather, it works well enough for some but most definitely not for others.

Last week, and despite a report of 29% growth in home sales with the Balearics to the forefront, it was said that a new housing bubble was not about to emerge. Perhaps it won't, though there are some who say that it will. Consider, if you will, a further recent report which identified the fact that there are some 600 owners of 32,000 properties in the Balearics. Why do they need so many? The basis of a bubble is speculation. How many of these 600 plus might be foreign owners? The information would be possible to extract. Perhaps it should be.

There has been a great deal of discussion of what is an increasing housing crisis in Mallorca. The factors that have contributed to it are well-enough known, one being purchases for rental - holiday rental - purposes. A further factor is the cost of land, of which there is in any event a shortage for development. The cost in Mallorca didn't decline during the years of crisis to the extent that it did in many parts of Spain. With crisis mostly a thing of the past, land is at a premium and at a premium price, especially in the more desired parts of Mallorca, with the coastal resorts, the source of much employment, at the top of the list.

In the first quarter of the year, there were, according to figures from the national ministry for development, 3,122 homes sold in the Balearics (988 of them in Palma and 307 in Calvia). More than a third of these were purchased by foreign buyers. The average spend on property by foreigners in the Balearics was almost double the national average. The average price of any purchase exceeded by some 37,000 euros the price in the second most expensive region - the community of Madrid.

In some respects, this is of course good news, but in others it is far less so. While it might be said that there is a particular distortion in the market in the most in-demand parts of the island, such as Palma, the Bow Group in its report argued that purchases by top-end buyers in specific areas pushes prices up in the whole market. In Mallorca, small that it is, this is occurring. Prices in the interior are up both for purchases and for rental.

An argument is and will be that wealth is generated generally by a highly active property market. While true, it depends on where and how that wealth is distributed. The middle class in Mallorca, hammered by crisis, shows little sign of recuperating its one-time purchasing power; as yet anyway. The consequence is the total distortion and imbalance that now exists. When the Balearic government introduces its housing bill, will foreign purchasers be a target?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2016

Morning high (6.53am): 19.9C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 June - Sun, shower, 27C; 17 June - Sun, cloud, 23C; 18 June - Storm, rain, 24C.

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

Feeling a bit fresher this morning. Should be mostly sunny all day and quite hot. The risk of a shower tomorrow and looking to the weekend, Saturday appears to be rather ominous.

Evening update (20.00): Very good. Hot as well - high of 33.1C.

The Tramuntana And Institutional Failure

Theodore Pratt, the American journalist (long passed away), is one of my favourite Mallorcan anti-heroes. Little of or about Mallorca was spared from the vitriol he unleashed in what became an infamous article which appeared in "The American Mercury" in 1933. By contrast with what he had to say of other subjects, the Tramuntana mountains emerged relatively unscathed. Well, he did say that they were dramatic, even if he then went on to describe them as bare, grey and mostly inaccessible. They were evidence, according to Ted, of Mallorca's physical characteristics: not exceptional in his opinion.

Pratt was, it should be said, pretty even-handed. His jaundiced view of Mallorca was reserved for more or less everything. He couldn't have been accused of being biased in favour of certain aspects at the expense of others. He was, though, not unique in offering criticism of what was otherwise acquiring the title of the paradise island and which had, by the time he wrote, been dubbed the island of calm for some twenty years: and that description was from the painter Rusiñol, who was to capture what he perceived as a very different Tramuntana.

George Sand, almost one hundred years before Pratt, had launched insults directed at the locals (and some other subjects) which were at a comparative level of abuse. Unlike Pratt, she wasn't run off the island; she and Chopin left of their own accord. But also unlike Ted, she didn't engage in criticisms of the mountains; she was rather taken by the landscape.

One mentions these differing perspectives of the mountains - each of them by foreigners (Rusiñol was from Catalonia) - as they can seem to sum up what might be considered to be a certain ambivalence towards the Tramuntana by the residents of Mallorca: an ambivalence which appears to be reflected at institutional levels on the island.

This ambivalence might equally be defined as indifference or, in the estimation of historian Angel Morillas, as "low self-esteem" held by the people of Mallorca when it comes to the Tramuntana. Morillas is Unesco's representative in Spain. He is also a member of Unesco's council of monuments and sites, the one which awarded the Tramuntana World Heritage Site status five years ago. He had been closely associated with the award in the advance of its being granted. In September 2008, for example, he had attended a conference in Pollensa which addressed the processing of the award nomination. At that conference were representatives of various schools from Pollensa, Alcudia and elsewhere.

The presence of those people from Mallorca's education sector now appears pertinent, with a question - just as pertinent - being how much the island's schools do to inform and educate the young generation about the mountains and the very patrimony - that of dry stone formations - which was to prove to be key to the awarding of World Heritage status.

Morillas attended another conference at the weekend. It was in Selva and was organised as a way of celebrating the fifth anniversary. During his presentation he referred to the lack of self-esteem, a rather curious way of putting it, one thinks: it might be better explained as the mountains not being held in high esteem by the islanders. Morillas argued that there was a lack of knowledge of the "gem" that is the Tramuntana range. He called, therefore, for greater input by schools and levelled criticism at the University of the Balearic Islands. What does the university do for the mountains? Not very much was his answer to his own question.

As curious as styling the attitude as one of lack of self-esteem is the fact that Morillas should feel it necessary to highlight it. One would have the impression, given the amount that was written and said about the mountains at the time of the heritage award and has been since, that there is an island-wide attitude of high regard. Clearly not. Morillas will know better than I, and I am not about to disagree with him.

It is an unfortunate fact that in the years since the award was granted, there seems to have been an incoherent approach to promotion of the mountains as well as maintenance of their prized assets - the dry stone paths, walls, terraces and other structures. The fault lies at an institutional level, and not only with, if Morillas is right (and who's to argue with him?), the university.

There are of course any number of people and sources who inform and who heap praise on the mountains. Many of them are foreigners who write, paint and provide blogs and websites. The Pratt view of the mountains is certainly not the prevailing one. But then it often does seem to fall to others, and not the island's institutions, to act as promoters of Mallorca - mountains, beaches, villages and the rest. The institutional failure to promote is not discriminatory.

Photo: the templete at Son Marroig (Deia), one of the Tramuntana's iconic spots.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 June 2016

Morning high (6.55am): 21C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 15 June - Sun, cloud, 306C; 16 June - Sun, shower, 24C; 17 June - Sun, cloud, 23C.

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

Similar to yesterday first thing with cloud forecast to remain for much of the morning rather than disappearing as it did yesterday; we'll see. Not expected to be as hot as yesterday.

Evening update (19.30): Well, the cloud took rather long in disappearing. A few spots of rain as well. Sun was out by mid-afternoon. High of 26.9C.

The Route Of All Corruption

Maria Dolores Cospedal is the national general secretary of the Partido Popular. Last week she took a pop at tourism policies and attitudes of the Balearic government, in which there is no Partido Popular participation. It, she said, had declared tourism public enemy number one. Tourism minister Barceló responded angrily. Irresponsible. Outrage. He insisted that she retract her statement. She didn't.

Cospedal, though even-handed in levelling her accusation at both governing parties (PSOE and Barceló's Més) as well as its parliamentary supporter, Podemos, would probably have had Més and Podemos more in mind than PSOE. These two parties, now united with the United Left in having formed an electoral pact for the 26 June election, are perhaps perceived as being somewhat less than wholeheartedly supportive of tourism. The perception, however, is more applicable to Podemos than Més. Barceló and his party may want change that brings about greater distribution of the wealth that tourism generates, but they are not agitators in the way that Podemos is in respect of, for instance, the hoteliers.

Anyway, this is something of the context for what might appear to fly in the face of what Cospedal had to say. Més, Podemos and their United Left allies were the other day promoting a tourism "route", one in Palma and one also that probably wouldn't have curried favour with Ms. Cospedal.

They like a route in Mallorca. There are routes for walking, for wine, for tapas. You name it, there is a route for it, and it is one designed with tourists in mind, though in the case of the particular route that was being promoted one would doubt if it has attracted too many of the new supply of high purchasing-power northern Europeans currently boosting Palma's boutique hotels to record levels of occupancy.

Since March there has been a route in Palma known as the "Via Corrupta". It was the idea of two journalists and an actor, and it has the backing of the Balearic journalists union. Each Saturday thirty people can embark upon this route. It starts at 10am by the former headquarters of the defunct (brought down by its corruption) Unió Mallorquina (UM) party and ends by the courts in Via Alemania. The route that was taken last Saturday attracted some notable politicians. Més, Podemos, the United Left as well as one PSOE representative and the Congress candidate for the Soberania per a les Illes (sovereignty for the islands) grouping all took part.

One trusts that each of these participants paid the twelve euros fee for the two-and-a-half-hour trek: there shouldn't be any suggestion of favouritism when it comes to a corruption route. They would have passed by, among other places, the headquarters of the PP and PSOE as well as the "palacete" of ex-president Jaume Matas. This is now his ex-palacete, it having been sold to a Frenchman for 2.5 million euros, 865,000 of which (corresponding to what Matas paid for it in 2004) have been deposited with the court as a means of getting Matas a reduction in the sentence that has been called for at the Nóos trial.

The politicians of the left taking part on Saturday clearly had an aim in mind: publicising corruption as a factor in the election. Though Podemos and its allies show no sign of losing support - polls for the Balearics and nationally suggest gains rather than losses - one wonders if corruption is as significant an issue with the electorate as it was. Voters may be more enticed with promises of better employment prospects and of a more equitable society, while in Mallorca there haven't been any major scandals for quite some time. The cases in the courts and under investigation relate to times past and to the days of Matas and of the UM. The recent focus on corruption has been more on the local police scandals, though these might yet find some PP figures being cited.

It doesn't harm, though, to keep corruption firmly on the boil as an election issue, which is therefore what happened on Saturday. The route, let's be blunt, isn't really about tourism, and even if it were, one would question if it would have much of an uptake. This said, there is a branch of tourism which falls under the general umbrella description of dark tourism, of which Civil War routes are an aspect (one wouldn't rule out there being one in Mallorca, given that the law on exhumations has been approved). Corruption might be said to fall within this category, but it is an abstract concept as opposed to a physical one. Hence, in order to give it tangibility, buildings become the attractions on Palma's corruption route. In tourism terms, it is more of a cultural route, and that is exactly what it is. Corruption as part of culture, now to be eradicated. Ms. Cospedal might take note.

Monday, June 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 June 2016

Morning high (6.55am): 18.9C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 10
Three-day forecast: 14 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 15 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 June - Sun, shower, 24C.

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

A clearer morning than yesterday. Some cloud around. See how much of that lingers through the day. Note that the UV rating hits 10 for the first time, meaning it's towards the upper end of the "very high" sunburn risk scale.

Evening update (20.30): The cloud didn't linger. Hot day - high of 31.7C.

Shop At The Podemos Ikea

If the upcoming Spanish general election were to be fought on electoral promotion efforts alone, then Podemos would win by such a distance that they could ease up in the final straight, blow kisses to the crowd, stop to tie their shoelaces, assemble an entire bedroom out of flat-packs and still have time to cross the line with the stragglers well behind.

Podemos in Swedish would be "vi kan". Unlike mostly everyone else who struggles to assemble an Ikea flat-pack, Podemos have mastered the art. So well have they managed this, that they are demonstrating their prowess by having nicked - clothes-hook, washing-line, kitchen sink and Allen key - the Ikea brochure. Here we find, among others, Pablo Iglesias, staring at a mobile, seated on a Ikea Vilmar chair (colour white), while the Infant, Iñigo Errejón, is studiously attending to his homework (thesis on the rights of Bolivian tin miners in the pre-Chaco War period of the twentieth century) at what may or may not be a Hemnes desk (brown laminate finish). Others in the Podemos Ikea brochure include the Balearics' own Dave Spart: here is Alberto Jarabo with an Ikea PS 2002 watering can (colour sort of reddish).

Alberto, depicted tending to his flowers on what appears to be a rather cramped balcony, is one of the few (only) Podemistas not to be shown enjoying an appreciable amount of spacious interior design (by Ikea). Indeed, they all look remarkably affluent. How can this be, having insisted on receiving public-service remuneration barely greater than a Mercadona check-out person? Or possibly an Ikea check-out person.

But then one realises that these aren't necessarily their habitats (or Habitats, as in a formerly Conran style). They are in fact suggesting that anyone who votes for Podemos will receive an entire Ikea kitchen, such as the one in which Here Come Da Judge, Juan Pedro Yllanes, the Balearic Podemos number one for Congress, is to be seen taking a fair-sized knife to his lunch preparation. It looks pretty good too. I'll have one. Or would do, if I could have a vote.

Alas, though, this is not a grand means of bribing the voter. There is no such thing as a free lunch prepared in a free kitchen. Next to Da Judge, we find text about policies to bring about stable agrarian work, which isn't the same thing at all as a free kitchen.

So, what do Ikea make of all this? They are stressing that they have nothing whatsoever to do with the campaign and haven't offered any assessment of it. It could, one supposes, be excellent promotion for Ikea, though that might rather depend on voter sympathy. But as a promotion, you have to hand it to Podemos. Superb.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 June 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 18.8C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 13 June - Sun, cloud, 30C; 14 June - Cloud, 25C; 15 June - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3 veering East 2 to 4 around midday.

Cloudy sort of start. Expected to mainly clear, but given that yesterday was dominated by light cloud ... . The coming week suggesting that there is a chance of showers later in the week, though that could all change.

Evening update (19.00): Well, the sun didn't really come out until mid-afternoon. The cloud, never heavy, was nevertheless at times rather thicker than yesterday. A high of 28.2C.

Spain In Palma: The Pueblo Español

On 23 September, 1964 the first stone was laid for a project that wasn't to be officially opened until the late winter of 1967. The actual work didn't start for five months after that stone was laid. The developers were still waiting on a line of credit - 40 million pesetas worth of credit (some 240,000 euros). When it did open, there was a promotional film. Its style is reminiscent of the British Pathé News reports, though the music has a more militaristic, almost sinister quality to it. The narrator set the context: spring in Palma de Mallorca (yes, Palma de Mallorca), a time and place for the international tourist. It wasn't in fact spring, as the date was 10 March, 1967. It was also raining. Several umbrellas can be observed.

This was all the creation of one of Spain's most prestigious architects, Fernando Chueca Goitia. Its scale and scope was seemingly fantastic, its design was derivative, its conception rather grand. Here were re-creations of Cordoba's Cristo de los Faroles crucifix, Seville's Torre del Oro and Toledo's Puerta del Sol. There were elements of Extremadura, more elements of Andalusia, a Roman amphitheatre, a Palacio de Congresos convention hall. This was the Pueblo Español.

The architect said that it represented the magnificent "plurality" of Spain. With a nod in the direction of Catalonia, a troupe was on hand to provide some entertainment. Otherwise, this was a plurality of a rather specific type. Spanish. The developers, Conextur, explained that it was a project to attract and retain universal tourism for the benefit of Mallorca and Spain.

There were others who considered it to be a monstrosity. In political terms, one can understand why. This was a display of Spain's culture, one developed at a time when tourism was first booming and when the culture of Spain was what tourists were served. Visitors were able in those days to find some distinctly Mallorcan/Catalan culture, but it did rather take a back seat to that of Spain.

The emphasis on Andalusia was not surprising. The Franco regime saw great merit in that region's culture: it contained essences of Spanishness, such as the bullfight and flamenco. Tourists were sold both, they were defining images of the promotion of tourism whether to Mallorca or the Costa Brava, parts of the former crown that had been dismantled by the Spanish king in the early eighteenth century.

On the day of the inauguration, several thousand people are said to have turned up. Among the dignitaries was the minister of tourism, Manuel Fraga, to be seen in the film with a cigarette in his hand: those were the days. The Bishop of Mallorca, Rafael Álvarez Lara, gave the Pueblo Español his blessing. But did the blessing succeed?

It's questionable whether the Pueblo Español lived up to its billing. It was and still is a tourist attraction, though again one has to ask if it ever created the levels of tourist interest that might have been hoped for. One aspect of it, the Palacio de Congresos, was almost certainly under exploited. At the time, it could, along with the auditorium, have made Palma a major destination for conferences and exhibitions. Spain was not exactly well off for such centres in the 1960s. Indeed the only one of any consequence was in Barcelona: the Pueblo Español of Barcelona, a name given to it by the then dictator Primo de Rivera in 1929. Palma's Pueblo Español was considered to be the Nuevo Pueblo Español.

Rather than a monstrosity, a description which is hard not to believe reflects a political sentiment, it would be kinder to describe it as a weird set of follies, a museum collection of Spain in reproduction. Nowadays, it plays host to all sorts of events. The last time that the Association of British Travel Agents held its annual conference, it did so at the Pueblo Español. But conferences are certainly not the only events. There is one taking place today (it started on Friday) and it is the "Enruédate" festival, an event all to do with wheels, be there two or four of them.

It is a curious place, one for which the greatest interest lies perhaps in the philosophy of the time that it was created.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 June 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 20.6C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 12 June - Sun, cloud, 28C; 13 June - Sun, 24C; 14 June - Sun, cloud, 27C.

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

Warm morning. The cloud cover that had been forecast for today seems less likely. Mostly sunny therefore.

Evening update (19.00): Hmm, well not for the first time the previous day's forecast proved to be rather more accurate than the updated one. Cloud, only light, for the much of the day. High of 26.8C.

Monsters Of The Seas

Harmony Of The Seas will bring more than 100,000 passengers to Palma over the course of the summer and into autumn. On Monday the world's largest cruise ship will arrive. Its maiden voyage from Barcelona has had among its passengers some 2,500 journalists, travel agents and others from the tourism industry. You could say that Royal Caribbean has pushed the boat out in terms of attracting publicity.

When the ship arrived in Barcelona prior to its voyage, there was a protest. It wasn't large, only some 150 people. It wasn't, said the organisers, against tourists but against the tourism industry. Nevertheless, coaches taking passengers to cruise ships in the port were jeered. The protest was motivated by what is now becoming a familiar theme - the mass tourism of these monsters of the seas is not sustainable for the destinations that are visited.

The Balearic tourism minister, Biel Barceló, wishes to set a limit on the number of ships on any given day. He accepts that the number of four is subjective. He might also accept that the citing of the eight ships on one day in early May did not involve 22,000 passengers traipsing through the streets of the city. Three of the ships were home base. People were getting on, people were getting off and being taken to the airport. As ever, you can use numbers to suit an argument.

And the argument is being had over and over. The mantra of this summer is overcrowding. Competitor destination instability, huge supply of accommodation, colossal cruise ships. This is mass on a scale that not even Mallorca has previously experienced.

How does the government deal with it? Barceló suggests that there will be regulation in order to limit the number of ships, the cruise operators having given the suggestion of a limit short shrift. Spreading the load across the course of a week rather than loading influx on to one or two days sounds like common sense. It is also in keeping with Barceló's wish to spread the total tourism load over more months than is the case. It's easier said than done though, and he knows it.

And members of the government doesn't necessarily agree. President Armengol has said this week that she is against limits being placed on the number of tourist arrivals. She wants to spread the tourism load not by smoothing out the number which currently comes but by adding to it in the lower months of the year, thereby assisting with creating greater employment. Barceló has flip-flopped on the question of a limit. He has said that it would be difficult but he also intimated that he would like there to be one.

Barceló is not wrong in believing it would be difficult. The cruise-shop story is something of a sideshow. It only affects Palma. The mass is shortlived, even if it can be repeated almost daily. By far the most important contributory factor to the Barceló overcrowding theme is holiday accommodation. As he struggles to find "consensus" for planned legislation, that has been made ever more difficult by Brussels and the Spanish Supreme Court.

The European Commission issued a report earlier this week in which it said that bans on the so-called collaborative (sharing) economy services such as Airbnb and also Uber (for quasi-taxi service) should only be the "last resort". The Commission wants common rules to apply and has distinguished between individuals who rent out their properties on an occasional basis and operators who rent out in a "professional capacity". For the latter, it is suggesting that there should be a "threshold" on the level of activity but it is certainly not proposing onerous restrictions: quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has this week ruled against the regional government in Madrid. It had decreed that a holiday rental via, for example, an Airbnb-promoted property must have a minimum stay of five days. The court has ruled that this is a restriction of competition. It might not appear to have too much relevance for Mallorca, given that tourists typically stay for longer than five days, but it does relevance insofar as the Supreme Court is laying down principles of competition, and they are not so far removed from those of the European Commission.

Against the background of all this has come a further report this week. It states that the availability of holiday rental in Spain as a whole now exceeds the supply of "regulated" accommodation (hotels, for instance) for the first time. It is said that there are 2.7 million holiday rental places as opposed to 2.4 million regulated places, and it is most unlikely that this trend will be reversed. In addition to Brussels and the Supreme Court, there is the National Competition Commission in Madrid: it is against bans on Airbnb and others.

There is a perfect storm that is creating overcrowding in Mallorca. The weather will be calm on Monday, but might a different storm brew? The protest in Barcelona will surely not have gone unnoticed.

Friday, June 10, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 June 2016

Morning high (6.37am): 19C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 11 June - Cloud, sun, 25C; 12 June - Sun, 24C; 13 June - Sun, cloud, 25C.

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

Due to be quite hot today with the morning being the hottest part of the day as it was yesterday in some areas, where peaks were at around 10am. Weekend looking ok. May be rather cloudy tomorrow afternoon.

Evening update (20.30): Hazy at times and hot - high of 33.8C.

Good Moaning: Accountability

There is a compilation of some of the best moments of Officer Crabtree on YouTube. "Allo Allo", it is fair to say, did have its detractors. Not me. Juvenile the show could be, and little was more juvenile than Officer Crabtree's attempts at speaking French (albeit in English). "Good moaning." Priceless.

Oddly enough, there is a line of etymological argument which suggests that "moaning minnie" is a reference to a one-time captain in the French army. A certain Claude Etienne Minié introduced a bullet which came to be known as the minnie ball. It almost certainly wasn't the origin, but the French connection seems in keeping with Officer Crabtree, as is what probably is the origin: to describe the sound of the German Nebelwerfer mortar of the Second World War.

As to when "moaning minnie" definitively slipped into general colloquial use is not really known, but its longevity is such that it proves that there was such a thing as moaning before they invented social media. That might seem hard to believe. However did people moan before Facebook came along and facilitated good moaning?

My own personal moaning on this global Moan-a-Gram system has, I like to believe, been moderate. I rarely use it anyway, but one moan I can recall had to do with being fined for parking on the pedestrian zone by Alcudia market. All of one minute. If that. Stopped to deliver to the tourist office (a town hall facility), to which I had been supplying (free) all sorts of things for several years. Along came plod (town hall employee) on a bike. Surely not? Surely yes. I never got round to sending an invoice to the town hall for all the unpaid translation work: I would have accepted the equivalent to the fine and even have been prepared to declare it for tax. They wouldn't have paid anyway. Bloody ingrates (if that doesn't sound like moaning).

I'm guessing that a key reason for not using Moanbook extensively has to do with my browser(s) no longer being supported. Oh, I've attempted to moan, but when it comes to hitting return, nothing happens. In fact, I can do virtually nothing on Moanbook any more, except to like people's moans. Should I moan that my now ancient Mac operating system is deprived of Firefox and Safari updates? Well I should, given how much the Mac cost in the first place, but I'm rather content with being unable to engage in some good moaning. And before you ask, I can't be bothered using my smartphone instead. (There's a moan I do need to get round to: why did I ever get one?)

Instead, I have to make do with everyone else's moaning, of which there is a seemingly unlimited supply. In the overall scheme of things, the fact that, inter alia, it has taken Pollensa town hall months to get its arse in gear and get some sun loungers out on the beach isn't life or death. Nor, now that the municipal posterior has been engaged and there are sun loungers for the resort's tourist class to place its collective buttocks on, is the fact that some people preferred the beach when it was lounger-less. No pleasing some folk. Moan, moan, moan.

But is this moaning such a bad thing? Good Heavens no. Moaning is good. Everyone repeat after Officer Crabtree: good moaning. And it is good for the simple reason that if it is justified, it might just have the desired effect. They take notice. Eventually.

Trivial though such issues as sun loungers can be (though God knows the principal environmental moaners in Mallorca, GOB, are elevating them to matters of state), there is a principle. Town halls are supposed to meet certain obligations. The commandment is written - thou shalt place sun loungers on thy beaches - unless thou is a municipality without beaches: life must be so much simpler for town halls like Ariany, unless the sheep are prone to moaning about the lack of pens.

The point is that there didn't used to be a culture of moaning, as in making town halls and other public administrations take note or, perish the thought, be accountable. Yes, the citizen was always prone (still is) to issuing the "denuncia" at the drop of a hat, if the hat in question offended the complainant for some obscure reason, but that was all rather personal: a bit of a hangover from the Inquisition, one's always felt. With public authorities on the other hand, all of them appointed by the state regime, you didn't moan or complain, unless you fancied a couple of years hard labour.

The culture has changed dramatically and very much for the better. Town halls seem to still struggle with accountability, but they are getting there. The more the moaning, the better. These are not the times of Officer Crabtree.