Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 August 2016

Morning high (6.02am): 21.4C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 1 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 2 September - Sun, cloud, 29C; 3 September - Sun, 28C.

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

A sunny day with cloudless skies - possibly. Hard to contradict such a forecast when it's still pitch black and there's no moon.

Evening update (20.15): High of 30.8C.

Throwing Sand: Invasion Of The Superyachts

"Arrogant ostentation of the super-rich." "These people think they rule the world." "Louts, go home."

The first two of these quotes were words spoken by local people. The third was a slogan on a banner. They didn't come from Mallorca but from Sardinia. They were expressed eight years ago. I had quoted them then under a piece entitled "Careful What You Wish For".

Mallorca has and has had a reputation for being what cliché and convention require calling a millionaire's playground. However, the noughts now need amending: billionaire rather than mere millionaire. For the latter, and even for those who have failed to acquire six noughts to their names, comparatively modest displays of wealth can be found bobbing up and down on Balearic waters at any time during summer. And why not. Here is a bedrock market for the nautical industry. Here is aspiration afloat. There's nothing wrong with it. Mostly, it's all good, save perhaps for the odd sea-grass meadow that is ripped by an anchor or for the garbage that is nonchalantly tossed overboard.

This bedrock market is not in the same stratosphere as the super league. The quotes from eight years ago are echoing. Will there be a barrage of wet sand hurled in the general direction of the super league's exclusive membership? There was in Sardinia. Locals took aim at Flavio Briatore and the dinghies which were disgorging his entourage. Beach invasion Italian style. Now it's beach invasion Mallorcan style. Flavio is not among the invaders, but just as in Sardinia there are the Russians. And there are others, such as Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fourth son of the founder of the United Arab Emirates. He and the up to sixty invited ones have been occupying 142 metres of sea. To put that into context, it is two-thirds the maximum length of cruise ship that Alcudia's port can accommodate. Modest it is not.

Photos of the "privatisation" of a beach in Cabrera have stirred up some outrage. Among those who have taken issue is the bio-outraged director general for biodiversity, Caterina Amengual. The agents of the environment ministry will be pressing for sanctions. Even if they can in fact be applied, they may as well save themselves the cost of administering the sanctions' process. It would probably equate to more than the slightly less than one thousand euros that could be charged. When you're hiring a superyacht for 65 grand a day, this would hardly represent a deterrent.

The usual suspects have been mobilised. GOB says that there can be no repeat of the "beach club" of Cabrera being mounted elsewhere (or even in Cabrera once more). Eco-nationalists Més are demanding that competences of the national Costas Authority are directly devolved in order to prevent similar "privatisation". And then what? Increase the fines to around two grand?

While the poor everyday tourist - and he or she is in penury compared with the superyachting fraternity - is slagged off for having the audacity for saturating the island (mainly Palma), here is this brigade of invaders who are held in thrall (both they and the floating palacetes) by an element of Mallorcan society which delights at its obscene ostentation and at its purchasing capacity; one that allows it to hoover up the contents of emporia along the Born and Jaume III and still have some spare change to hand over for a beachside luxury villa replete with helipad and Olympic-sized pool.

But should these invaders be the recipients of opprobrium? In the case of the odd Russian oligarch taking over beach space and employing goons to keep the riff-raff away (are they tooled up, do you suppose?), then most definitely yes. In general, however, they are a consequence of being careless in what is wished for. There may indeed be wealth to be distributed and all-year jobs to be had - not to be sniffed at, it should be said - but this is the extreme end of the search for the Holy Grail of quality tourism. It is a mainly anti-social class utterly divorced from mainstream Mallorca but one perhaps inadvertently coveted by the island's left-wing. The political left (and right, it should be pointed out) sees virtue only in "quality" tourists, thus excluding a common, working element that might be deemed more characteristic of socialist principles. 

What about the everyday Mallorcan? Bombarded with a news diet of touristic saturation, he or she now has to contend with images of a Balinese poolside having been deposited on a beach in the protected nature park of Cabrera. He or she could be forgiven for believing that the island(s) are being irretrievably lost to foreign empires that are on the one hand all-inclusive and on the other all-exclusive. Might there be a barrage of wet sand? Bet they'd fine them more than a grand if there was.

Index for August 2016

Cala San Vicente - 21 August 2016
Education failings in Mallorca - 10 August 2016
Holi colour festivals - 19 August 2016
Holiday compensation claims - 24 August 2016
Holiday rentals' legislation - 13 August 2016
Innovation and technology in Mallorca - 26 August 2016
José Hila in Palma - 5 August 2016
Low Cost Travel Group - 6 August 2016
Low-quality tourism and accommodation - 2 August 2016, 12 August 2016
Mallorca nationalism - 18 August 2016
Mallorca plain and Lloret - 7 August 2016
Mariano Rajoy and government - 22 August 2016, 30 August 2016
Més, Emaya and Palma - 14 August 2016
Moors and Christians, Pollensa - 1 August 2016
Partido Popular and language - 16 August 2016
Plaça Espanya - 9 August 2016
Police corruption and politicians - 25 August 2016, 29 August 2016
Royal family in Mallorca - 8 August 2016
Sant Joan and the seven sins demons - 28 August 2016
Sant Roc - 15 August 2016
Shopping centres - 4 August 2016
Sineu's Much fiesta - 11 August 2016
Superyachts and use of beaches - 31 August 2016
Sustainable tourism awards - 23 August 2016
Tourism sustainability - 27 August 2016
Tourist satisfaction - 3 August 2016
Tourist saturation / overcrowding - 17 August 2016, 20 August 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 August 2016

Morning high (6.10am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 31 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 1 September - Sun, 28C; 2 September - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing East-Northeast 3 to 4 by the afternoon.

See what today brings that isn't forecast. Some risk of a spot of rain this morning, otherwise fine.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty good. Some cloud. High of 29.3C.

An Agreement For Prominence

It was the Sunday of the last big summer weekend. Everyone should have been at the beach or preparing to head home. Mariano Rajoy and Albert Rivera were not. They watched as the parliamentary spokespeople for their parties - the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos (C's) - put pen to paper and signed an agreement under which Rajoy is assured of the support of the 32 C's deputies in Congress for the investiture votes this week. It was a curious ritual. Neither leader had wanted to give his signature.

Maybe neither wanted to bind himself to anything long-term. The agreement is short-term as it is. If Rajoy fails to gain the support of 176 deputies in either of the two votes (one tomorrow, the other on Friday), the agreement will be ripped up. Albert Rivera will be free to come to an accord with someone else. He's making a habit of this. He had one with PSOE's Pedro Sánchez until Sánchez failed so drastically with the two investiture votes in March.

Added to the PP's 137 deputies, the 32 C's deputies give a total of 169, to which one more can be added - the vote of Ana Oramas of the Coalición Canaria. She had given Sánchez her backing in March. Like Rivera she has switched sides. Where will the remaining six come from? Anywhere? If they do not, it looks like a Christmas Day election.

Rummaging around among other regional parties might produce something. The conservative nationalists in Catalonia and the Basque Country have thirteen seats between them. While there wouldn't be formal support for Rajoy, could there be abstentions? Given Rajoy and the PP's attitudes towards Catalonia in particular, it might seem odd that this could even be a possibility. But the C's Inés Arrimadas was aware enough of it to have warned Rajoy last week that the C's could withdraw their support if there were nationalists' abstentions "in exchange for something".

Rajoy was talking to Sánchez yesterday, trying to convince him to get PSOE deputies to at least abstain. The painful truth for PSOE is that whichever way it goes, it cannot win. To be seen to be allowing Rajoy in would bring accusations of the "casta" at work - the two-party system of the PP and PSOE, so despised by Podemos (and once upon a time by the C's). Sánchez would receive nothing in return. His party could lose a lot if he did. President Armengol in the Balearics will have been reminding him of this; Podemos have been making warning noises about the Balearic pact of government if PSOE enables a Rajoy investiture.

None of the four main parties, with the possible exception of the PP, can afford to have a third election. PSOE lost seats in June, so did the C's. Podemos in effect stayed as they were, regardless of the alliance with the United Left. Who's to say that the PP wouldn't add to the fourteen seats it gained in June? A third election might just make it even more inevitable that the PP will finally carry on, though the C's cannot guarantee losing more than the eight seats they did in June.

The left, unless there were to be an unexpected rebound by PSOE and a leap for Podemos (also unlikely), would not be able to form a government, just as they were unable to after the December and June elections. Rajoy and the PP are, in truth, the only game in town. Sánchez may as well select six sacrificial names at random and get them to say sí rather than no.

If Rajoy were able to somehow drum up the 176 votes, what would it mean for Rivera and for the C's? The point to be made is that the agreement does not mean that there would be a coalition; it is only one to facilitate the investiture. It is possible that there might be a coalition, though this seems unlikely. Rajoy and Rivera don't like each other; the chemistry would be all wrong.

The PP would therefore form a minority government, with policies determined by the agreement. The C's have pressed for and obtained acceptance in respect of, for example, social policies, but Rivera has not got all that he wanted regarding anti-corruption measures: both the C's and Podemos have these at the heart of their respective agendas.

For Rivera, the agreement is designed to show the electorate that the C's are the only party capable of and willing to negotiate with both the left and the right. It might also demonstrate they are a party of vacillators; Rivera will prefer the positive spin. And he badly needs to get that across. The slump in the C's vote in June made it imperative that the party was not sidelined and so might undergo a decline as rapid as its rise. Prominence, more than anything, is what Rivera gets.

Monday, August 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 August 2016

Morning high (6.32am): 21.9C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 30 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 31 August - Sun, 28C; 1 September - Sun, cloud, 27C.

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

There's a storm somewhere. Lightning before dawn. Forecast otherwise is for more sun and not as hot as yesterday. No mention of a storm in the forecast.

Evening update (20.30): The storm didn't amount to much. Some rain but not a lot. Partly cloudy through the day. A clammy high of 31C.

"Sick Note" And The Whorehouse

If you're a politician who has more or less got everything, what else might you wish for? A fine yacht with which you can serenely sail around the shores of a summertime Mallorca? Possibly, but it's unlikely that your ego (and indeed money) will stretch to the obscene ostentation to be found floating on the calm waters of Palma bay. Better to not even try to compete. How about instead having your own police force? While among the fantasy flotilla will be those capable of boasting that they have their own armies, a personal brigade of cops would still do nicely in pandering to your need for self-actualisation.

José María Rodríguez denies having conspired to create a police force within a police force, one to be allied to the Partido Popular with the aim of benefiting certain business people and friends of the party to the disadvantage of rival business people and political enemies. Never, he insists, did he organise a policing system to "monitor" anyone, including judges and prosecutors. One of these prosecutors, Miguel Ángel Subiran asked him outright if he had. "Never ever."

José María has done a great deal of denying in his time. The legal status of "imputado" is a peculiar one that stops short of actually being charged. Suspected but no more. Many a politician has found him or herself "imputado", often to then have this "archived" by a court that has not found evidence to proceed to the next stage of formally charging and trial. Generally, this happens only the once. With José María, he's been making a bit of a habit of it. Had he, for instance, once phoned the then mayor of Andratx and given a tip-off that the cops were coming (he was Balearic interior minister at the time)? No, he had not, the judge was told. There were records of phone calls in the days before the cops arrived. Could have been about anything. The weather, for example.

José María also denies ever having been to an "alternative club" (the nice way of saying a whorehouse). "It disgusts me," he says. Stories that have emerged of the investigation into police corruption which include references to "old" men at sex parties arranged by friendly business people disgust everyone else.

The judge has issued a restraining order. The reason? To prevent José María getting at witnesses or others. He cannot, for instance, go within 300 metres of local police facilities. What happens if he does? Is there a José María warning system that sounds an alarm if he is 299 metres away?

Restraining orders were the order of the week. Cops were being restrained as well. Two senior ones in Palma and that good old boy in Magalluf, the ex-chief of police from Calvia, José Antonio Navarro, of whom a great deal could be said but which is perhaps best left for the time being.

Because José Antonio was on the point of starting work again, the judge decided it was time to slap the restraining order on him. He can't go near Calvia police or the town hall. On the point of starting work again? Where had he been? On sick leave. And seemingly so ever since he was released having spent 40 days banged up when he was arrested a couple of years ago. How does that all work? If there's a compliant doctor it can work easily enough, it would appear. The judge in the police corruption investigation wants to take action the doctor who signed off several Palma cops - all under suspicion - without even having seen them: he was going on medical reports from the prison.

Had there not been a restraining order or the subsequent suspension from duty, what might "Sick Note" José Antonio have been doing on his return after the prolonged absence? A spot of community policing perhaps? Likewise, what were the two former chiefs of police in Palma, both also faced with restraining orders and now suspended, doing? Innocent until and all that, but they don't appear to have been on sick leave, unlike the one before both of them who was.

This sordid affair, a corruption investigation more damaging than any of those into mere pilfering of public funds, throws up all manner of weirdness. It was revealed last week that a year ago there had been a phone call to the 112 emergency line from the San Fernando (Sant Ferran) police HQ which was complaining about the noise from an event that was taking place some two kilometres away at a club on the Paseo Marítimo.

This was for the Ella lesbian festival. In attendance, among others, were the mayor of Palma, José Hila, and tourism minister Biel Barceló. The call, and later ones from a mobile, were suspected to have come from an inspector named Capó, one of the police officers in Palma who is "imputado" in the corruption investigation. He denied in court having made the call (calls).

Returning to José María, it might be recalled that he once took action against Pilar Costa, now the spokesperson for the Balearic government, for having called him a "capo", which has a different meaning to "capó" when there is an accent. The latter means bonnet or hood of a car. Hood, however, might also be applicable to "capo" without an accent - a mafia boss. Judge Penalva, the investigating judge, who like the prosecutor Subiran has been given permission to carry a gun, described José María last month as the "architect in the shadows" of a corrupt organisation, an organisation the judge has also referred to as a criminal organisation.

Denial is everything.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 August 2016

Morning high (6.17am): 20.2C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 29 August - Sun, 28C; 30 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 31 August - Sun, 28C.

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

Sun. Hot.

Evening update (20.30): High of 35.4C. Clouded over a bit later on.

The Seven Sins Of Saint John

Sant Joan is a town in the middle of Mallorca with just over 2,000 inhabitants and is one of a smattering of municipalities which owes its name to a saint. And he's not any old saint. He is, or rather was, John the Baptist, very much a member of the biblical A-list.

As befits a town with this name and patronage, Sant Joan honours John the Baptist with having fiestas not once but twice. Along with much of Mallorca, the town has the midsummer Sant Joan, a time of fires on the beach (not in the case of Sant Joan, it probably doesn't need to be pointed out), all manner of demonic carrying-on and, where the town is concerned, appearances by one of the Hairy Johns - Sant Joan Pelós - and the Corb (crow) de Sant Nofre.

Most of Mallorca does not, however, concern itself unduly with the second of these fiestas. In fact, hardly anywhere else does. Maybe it's due to the fact that midsummer coincides with John the Baptist's birth, whereas 29 August is the date of his death, i.e. his beheading. This said, saints' deaths aren't necessarily reasons to be reticent in having a shindig. There are a number of sticky ends that get the Mallorcan fireworks and DJs in the squares treatment.

The beheading does, nevertheless, suggest that the Sant Joan Degollat (beheaded) fiestas should be somewhat more solemn affairs than the cavorting of midsummer. A glance at the programme for today, the eve of John the Baptist's demise, might indeed hint at such solemnity. What is the "condemna" if not his  condemnation?

Well no, it isn't. And nor does the subsequent "sortida rabiosa" (rabid exit, if you like) have anything to do with a manifestation of wild behaviour in light of any condemnation. The thing is that the good folk of Sant Joan have turned the whole episode into an occasion for demons to be taught a lesson and for demons to have a go at the locals.

Many a long year ago - who can say exactly when - the people of Sant Joan (once upon a time known as Sant Joan de Sineu) started having a festival of demons to coincide with the Baptist's headlessness. Way back when, there was a single "grand demon" who would appear amidst the folk of the village and terrorise them (the sortida rabiosa). Such was the apparent fear to be struck into the hearts of the locals and such was the demonic nature of the demon, it was not uncommon for a ringer to have to be brought in from another village to perform the task. For a "santjoaner", it was hard to be a beast and be utterly beastly to the neighbours.

Gradually, or in fact many years later (as in the 1990s), the solo demon was replaced by a gang of demons - seven of them to be precise. They were to represent the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride - and they are what you now have on the eve of the decapitation of the Baptist. What once may have a genuine attempt at striking fear has been replaced by the (half-hearted) strikes of a rope against the legs and ankles of taunting locals by the seven deadly sinning demons.

The rabiosa has thus become like a football crowd with its songs combined with a lot of jumping up and down and the pipers and whistlers doing what all good pipers and whistlers do, which is to pipe and whistle for a great length of time. Plus, of course, there are the demons who nowadays aren't terribly terrorising. And if they don't cause enough terror, the locals let them know about it.

Demons come in different guises and different styles. The really frightening ones are those who play with fire. Others can be almost comical, and the Sant Joan demons - for the rabiosa anyway - fall more into this category. But they are also part of a class of demons who chase and kidnap - the ones of Alcudia for Sant Antoni in January are a good example.

The demons are looking to get their own back. This is because prior to the rabiosa, the condemna entails demons being grabbed and put into a carriage of the type that might once have been used to transport those heading for execution (by losing their heads or other means). Consequently, a demon who might have been enjoying a refreshing libation (in honour of the devil no doubt) in a local bar suddenly finds himself being dragged out of the bar and dumped in the carriage.

After all this demonic activity, everyone - demons and all - head off to the bar, wait for the fireworks and then the DJ to crank up in the square. The demons for Sant Joan Baptista Degollat are an old, old tradition; the DJ rather less so.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 August 2016

Morning high (6.07am): 21.3C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 28 August - Sun, 32C; 29 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 30 August - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 backing and increasing East 3 to 4 in the afternoon.

Sun. That's it.

Evening update (19.30): High of 32.9C.

Confused By Sustainability

The survey published earlier this week into attitudes towards the so-called tourist "saturation" of Mallorca this summer was very revealing. For one thing, it did rather confirm my suspicions that saturation is more applicable to Palma than elsewhere and that the saturation sensation has been latched on to by Palma-based politicians (and others in Palma) and been turned into an island-wide issue for primarily political purposes.

The overriding conclusion was that increased numbers, though they may cause inconveniences or concerns - more traffic jams, strain on water supplies - bring benefits that outweigh these disadvantages. And even among these downsides, are traffic jams not more of a Palma rather than elsewhere? Not exclusively, e.g. if it's a cloudy day and you have people heading for Soller, but primarily yes.

It was also revealing, as noted by the survey's director, that a sensation of saturation is felt more by those aged over 60. The younger the population, the less the sensation. Revealing but not surprising: there are economic and employment benefits to be reaped from there being more tourists.

There was little doubting that there are more tourists, but the survey certainly didn't link this with a feeling of being overwhelmed, which is one way to describe this saturation. For the regional government and for the tourism minister in particular, the fact that a limit on tourist numbers was ranked the third most important measure for making tourism "more sustainable" might come as something of a relief, given the type of rhetoric that has been coming from the government. But this was still only 10%. More policing was considered to be more important, as was the raising of the "quality" of the tourist, however this might be interpreted (and indeed how those surveyed might in fact have interpreted "more sustainable").

Digging into the issue of limits, the survey found that most people (66%) wanted a limit placed on numbers going to Palma. Well, if a survey base has a majority from Palma, which this one did, then you might expect such an answer. Palma, always Palma. Somewhat strangely, 64% wanted a limit placed on the number of all-inclusive places. Why was this strange? Well, because a limit would allow more tourists to be out and about spending money. That's fair enough, but if there are fewer tourists stuck inside all-inclusives, would the level of "saturation" on the roads and elsewhere not be greater?

It was even stranger when only 2% identified measures to deal with all-inclusives as being important for greater sustainability. Not only did this seem to contradict the other finding, it also ignored the fact that all-inclusives fail totally one of the key tests of sustainability - that of generating general economic welfare.

Also at the bottom of the list of importance for sustainability were holiday rentals. Yet aren't these supposedly the key contributing factor in all the increased tourist numbers? Biel Barceló wants there to be a limit on the total number of tourist places. For there to be a limit, there has to be regulation of holiday rentals (and one really is referring to apartments) - a mixture of permission and prohibition in terms of opening marketing as tourist accommodation.

Barceló, when in opposition, was one who criticised the Partido Popular for its restrictive stance over holiday rentals. In government he is finding out just how difficult an issue this is. He admitted earlier this week that it is "not clear" that websites such as Airbnb, which operate with pretty much total impunity, can be considered as promoting tourist rentals. And underpinning this is the loophole that is the national law on urban leasings (aka the tenancy act). It needs amending, and Barceló said so. Until it is, there will always be evasion and, in terms of Balearic government coffers, no tourist tax revenue. By definition, any accommodation rented out under the tenancy act is not touristic, despite everyone knowing that a great deal of it is just that.

Airbnb and other sites, unless they are somehow made to comply with whatever legislation Barceló comes up with, will continue to facilitate the promotion of apartments that are not registered as tourist accommodation. This is exactly what has happened in Catalonia, despite that region having enabled the legal marketing of tourist apartments. To this end, Barcelona is envisaging fines of up to 600,000 euros for websites like Airbnb. The hoteliers federation in Ibiza this week applauded this stance, while at the same time attacking the Balearic government for what it senses will be regulation "without the consent of neighbours; an activity that seriously prejudices co-existence".

Friday, August 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 August 2016

Morning high (6.46am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 27 August - Sun, 30C; 28 August - Sun, 31C; 29 August - Sun, cloud, 30C.

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

Sun, sun, sun. All a waiting game now until (if) the first storm of late summer decides to put in an appearance.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.2C.

Where's The Investment?: Mallorca's Innovation

It wouldn't be correct to assign full credit to a previous socialist-led administration for the establishment of Mallorca's technology park, but it is true to say that ParcBIT in Palma was officially inaugurated during the period of the first Antich government: the date was 30 May, 2002.

There really should be no need for political philosophies to invade the world of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, but somehow they do. Fourteen years on from ParcBIT's inauguration, technology, innovation and development and research are at the core of left-wing economic thinking. Do they not form part of the right's thinking as well? They do, but if you care to look at the programmes of what might be called the "new" left, you will find that technology is a key element of its economic strategy. Podemos espouse it. The now-forgotten Partido X, from which Podemos derived a good deal of its philosophy, emphasised it. Més, with its mish-mash brand of socialism, nationalism and ecology, are no different.

Technology, or this is how it seems, offers the hope of business democratisation, an opening-up to entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators, a means of creating and sharing wealth for the greater good. It's hard to see how this differs from what the right might believe, but there you go.

Biel Barceló is minister for more than just tourism. His portfolio was handmade for him, as it also includes innovation and research. Given the overriding importance of tourism and the attention given to touristic matters that this government has demanded, it is easy to overlook this dual responsibility. It has appeared at times as if Barceló has himself overlooked it. There again, his combined ministry for tourism and innovation and research has an in-built bias towards tourism - innovation and research account for around a tenth of the budget.

This amounts to some five million euros or so per annum, a tiny sum relative to the overall government budget. Whatever investment there therefore might be from the ministry will also be tiny, though there are other sources for innovation investment, not least Iago Negueruela's trade and industry ministry. Which does perhaps beg a question as to why innovation and research aren't with Negueruela. Other sources are state funds (if the government could ever lay its hands on them) and European funds, on which regular demands are made or planned. Palma town hall, also wedded through its Més deputy mayor Antoni Noguera to the notion of democratisation through technology, is one of the first to hold its cap out. In addition to ParcBIT, the town hall wants to establish a "creative economy" centred on the old Gesa building. Europe will help, it hopes.

The level of institutional investment in innovation and technology is pitiful, and it has been for years. Crisis wiped out much of what the Partido Popular under Jaume Matas had devoted to it, yet the decline in investment was much greater than in other regions of the country. The second Antich government saw to that. So much for democratisation through technology.

Barceló is clearly intent on reviving this. An announcement this week regarding ParcBIT might have hinted at something significant. What we got instead was a government plan to reduce costs for businesses located on the technology park. Every bit helps of course, but this hardly constituted a major initiative for new business development.

ParcBIT has its successes and it has its failures. It is, it is fair to say on the government's behalf, managed by a company in which the government holds 100% of the capital. But how much of its successes are attributable to the government is questionable. Habitissimo, for example, an online service for the building industry, grew on the back of ingenuity and some venture finance. A mark of it as a business was that it was founded and grew during the crisis - that took some doing. It isn't, however, a product of Mallorcan innovation.

It is the failures, though, which capture the headlines. Low Cost Travel has been the most notable, but there was the fiasco with the Microsoft Centre that preceded it. In terms of kudos, the decision by Trivago to up sticks and find more spacious facilities on the Paseo Marítimo was not the best of news.

The idea for ParcBIT, with its business incubation and its technology clusters for the likes of marine technologies, nautical, audiovisual and of course tourism, is sound, yet perversely it can be subject to the vagaries of governmental policies or inaction: the audiovisual sector is a prime example. It is a vital means of boosting economic diversification but if government hampers it, then the chances of real "killer" innovations breaking through which could provide a quantum leap for this diversification are lessened.

Ambitions for a creative economy, a minister for innovation and research. All fine, but ParcBIT and Mallorcan innovation require rather more than saving costs for waste management.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 August 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 21.3C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 26 August - Sun, 29C; 27 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 28 August - Sun, 29C.

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

Bits of cloud around first thing, but nothing to fear, sunny days are here.

Police Failure And Failing The Police

When is a policeman not a policeman? The answer is when a judge has slapped a restraining order on him entering police facilities. This is the situation as it applies to three (former) senior police officers - Palma's Joan Mut and Antonio Morey and Calvia's José Antonio Navarro. The judge investigating police corruption allegations - Manuel Penalva - has issued orders against the three. In the case of Mut, the restraining order also prevents him going within 300 metres of the "honest" cop who blew the whistle on him. Neither Mut nor Morey, furthermore, can go near the offices of Palma's councillor for public safety.

The cases of these three officers are not necessarily linked. There have been suggestions that alleged police corruption centred on Palma's and Calvia's nightlife districts do have some links, but no evidence has been revealed to indicate collusion. Only suggestions. This is, nonetheless, all part of the investigation that has been taking months and which shows little sign of being resolved in the short term, thus continuing to damage both forces.

The circumstances differ. Where Navarro is concerned, he was arrested and held in custody for some forty days and charged with corruption. The allegations centre on favours shown to certain businesses in Magalluf and harassment of rival businesses. He was released in October 2014 and has been replaced as head of Calvia's police force.

Mut faces charges of malfeasance and coercion. He was taped by another officer, the "honest" one, Antonio Ramis. That recording included an admission of altering evidence but also one of having done so under pressure from political superiors. He was eventually dismissed by the current town hall administration for "disobedience". He was succeeded by Morey who, a few months into his post, launched an astonishing attack on the judge, the anti-corruption prosecutor and the councillor for public safety, Angelica Pastor. While he appeared to offer a defence of certain officers who had been charged, he also brought into question the investigation, implying political motivations, and indeed the competence of officials, such as Pastor. His position was obviously untenable.

The cases go beyond allegations against police officers. Politicians are involved as well. Pastor's predecessor, Guillem Navarro, has been implicated, as have the former deputy mayor, Alvaro Gijón, and the president of the Partido Popular in Palma, José María Rodríguez. The latter is scheduled to appear before Judge Penalva tomorrow. Of evidence against him that has been leaking out are statements from members of the elite GAP (preventive action) unit in Palma which allege that he was instrumental in drafting in officers from Manacor who were to form a unit dedicated to the PP.

The charges against police officers in Palma - currently in custody or at liberty - include some extremely serious ones. Against the backdrop of arrests and the Penalva/anti-corruption prosecutor investigation, the town hall is remodelling the police force, just as it is being overhauled in Calvia. The belief is that restructuring and strengthened lines of reporting will prevent the types of allegations that have occurred from being repeated. They may well do, but in terms of practical application on the ground, how well are the police forces performing? There are complaints in Magalluf and Playa de Palma about a continuation of ineffective policing. Is restructuring merely political window-dressing that doesn't help the police because of lack of resources?

The political dimension cannot be ignored, whether it is the competence of political officials or their own corrupt practices (allegedly). In the case of Joan Mut, he himself took over from Antonio Vera, who was forced to resign because of involvement in the rigging of police promotion exams. (This was what in fact started the whole police corruption ball rolling.) While Mut does face charges, what does one make of his suggestion of there having been pressure from political superiors? Should there be some sympathy, if this were proved to be the case? No, you might say, he should have resigned. But a resignation has to be approved by political superiors.

There have unquestionably been major police failures in both Palma and Calvia. That these may have involved only a relatively limited number of officers does not eradicate feelings of a lack of confidence. The time that the investigations are dragging on do not help either. Where Calvia is concerned, we only now hear of Navarro's suspension. Are the police being failed, therefore, by a slow-moving judicial process and by politicians both past and present? Calvia (and Palma) have made repeated statements about improvements to forces, and yet the complaints persist, though in Calvia's defence, it should be noted that criticisms from the PP opposition have the distinct flavour of pot calling the kettle black. Above all, though, there is the suggestion of political involvement in police corruption. If so, were the police failed by politicians? Who were the instigators? Judge Penalva, albeit slowly, is finding out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 August 2016

Morning high (5.50am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 25 August - Sun, 29C; 26 August - Sun, 28C; 27 August - Sun, 28C.

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

Sun. Light breezes. Need anything else?

Evening update (20.15): High of 31.9C.

The "Sport" Of Holiday Compensation Claims

How many of you reading this are either at an all-inclusive hotel or have been to one? And by all-inclusive, I'm tending towards excluding those which display four or even five stars. Why would I do this? Principally, and do please excuse the generalisation, the three-star all-inclusive might typically house a clientele that is most interested in the pursuit of compensation.

If you are and have been at an all-inclusive, and it does seem to apply mostly to all-inclusives, you may have been aware of some of the individuals who seem to hang around. They can be found inside hotel grounds and on hotel property as well as outside. Security in many a hotel is lax to the point of non-existent.

These individuals can include, inter alia, illegal street sellers. They move in from the streets and inhabit poolside and other areas. How on earth is this allowed to happen? Reasons, one in particular, have been offered to me. I'm not, it has to be said, convinced by allegations that "incentives" are offered to turn a blind eye. The street sellers just don't have that kind of wherewithal, albeit their masters may have. Even then, I frankly doubt it.

There are sellers of a different sort. They don't come armed with fake products (or drugs). They don't want any money as such. They are armed instead with claims' forms, either actual ones or available from websites. They are representatives of one of the most miserable, ethically reprehensible and morally bankrupt lines of business that exists in the holiday market. They come from law firms lining up to press compensation claims. The legal profession ethical? Most of it is, but there are also elements of it who - as the old gag would have it - would fail to distinguish between ethics and a county in eastern England.

The claiming of compensation, often for minor matters or perhaps even trumped up, is nothing new of course, but as a "business" it has more tools at its disposal - social networks - than were generally the case over five years ago when I previously looked into it. The circumstances as they were then have not altered, save for the seemingly greater determination to seek to extract compensation. They are principally of British making, involve British law firms and tour operators and British tourists from a culture that has been consumed by the pernicious influence of what was once mainly promoted at appropriate times on UK television and radio but which has now spread to social media.

The hotels are almost invariably the victims. Hard though it may be for some to feel sorry for them - and there are examples of their being their own worst enemies - the hotels are caught by contractual arrangements with tour operators and by the massive costs of challenging claims, which themselves will typically be greatly in excess of what a Spanish court might permit: there are caps under Spanish law but aren't under UK law. And it is UK law and UK courts which decide. It simply isn't worth hotels making challenges. Instead, they find that arrangements with tour operators are such that claims levelled against tour operators are deducted from the invoices the hotels send to the tour operators.

Hotels complain that tour operators are far too compliant in accepting claims. They are, after all, in a better position to fight claims in court, but generally tend not to, challenging only the obviously fraudulent attempts, such as trying to claim for something at a hotel that the holidaymaker had not been staying at.

This is an issue which doesn't affect only Mallorca. It is one that is evident in all the sun-and-beach regions where there is a mass of British tourism - Benidorm, Tenerife and elsewhere. Hosteltur magazine online reports that Ashotel, which is the association for hoteliers in Tenerife as well as in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, has sent out a communication to its members in which it identifies one particular firm in north-west England as allegedly encouraging British tourists to press claims for the likes of food poisoning. Hosteltur also reports that Tui and Jet2 are making hotels aware of individuals who are knocking around hotels looking for likely claimants, with law firms operating on a no win, no fee basis.

There are, of course, genuine cases and very serious ones, such as claims against Thomson by holidaymakers who contracted cryptosporidium at a hotel in Can Picafort in June 2003 and which took until January 2011 to be settled. But many are anything but reasonable; they are what the tourism industry in Mallorca refers to as the "sport" of the holiday compensation claim, and one played principally by the British.

Coming back to those loitering around hotels, perhaps some holidaymakers will claim for the annoyance caused by illegal sellers. As I say, some hotels are their own worst enemies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 August 2016

Morning high (5.46am): 21.2C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 24 August - Sun, 29C; 25 August - Sun, 28C; 26 August - Sun, 29C.

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

Just looking like it's sun all the way today and for the rest of the week, I'm afraid.

Evening update (20.15): High of 31.8C.

And The Sustainable Tourism Winner Will Be?

The night of 26 September will be "la Noche del Turismo". Yes, the night of tourism. For one night only. It'll be on the eve of World Tourism Day. One day only. They quite like celebrating World Tourism Day in Mallorca. One day only, albeit Alcudia has its own not-the-world tourist day this Thursday (it's a half day in fact).

At least a World Tourism Day at the end of September gives Cala Millor the opportunity to have its tourist fiesta week, a rather longer celebration of tourism than anywhere else indulges in. One day only normally. Oh well, so much for lengthening the tourist season, let's just reduce it to one day (and the preceding night).

This night of tourism is an innovation - yes, there is one - by the tourism ministry. It was being mentioned last week when minister Barceló was making one of his now regular proclamations about sustainability and saturation. Alongside him was the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency, Pere Muñoz, an old mate but also political sparring partner of Barceló's and about whom a certain degree of surprise was expressed when he was given the job. There was something about him having run the car park at Lluc Monastery.

We haven't heard a great deal from Pere since he was appointed in February when the previous incumbent, Miquel Àngel Roig, quit because he was offered something better. Recently, however, Pere has emerged, a brother-in-arms to the sustainable tourism minister. Ostensibly, the agency is the wing of the ministry devoted to promoting the Balearics. This it does by, among other things, flying off to Rutland in order to explain to the twitcher community how a whole load of crappy water ended up covering a vast part of one of the islands' principal birdlife locations, thus rendering it - if only temporarily - unsustainable. Otherwise, it hasn't yet been acquainted with the other part of the sustainable tourism minister's portfolio - innovation and research. We might have expected that another mate of Barceló's having been made director for this would have been able to marry innovation of, say, a social network variety to the promotion of the islands. As yet, nada, but oddly no one seems to be asking what this director is doing.

Pere, meanwhile, seems to have been hard at it developing promotion of an inward variety. Thus, the citizenry is being informed about sustainable tourism. On the principle that you state the word often enough, the public will go along with it, even if the public hasn't a clue what it means. Or rather, it gets to understand what the sustainable tourism minister wants sustainability to mean.

And now we have another type of inward promotion. The glittering night of stars that is to be the night of tourism is designed to cover a multitude of virtues. Here are the five categories of award: knowledge and research applied to tourism; the best social responsibility initiative; the best sustainable tourism initiative; tourism work, effort and professional dedication; the tourist "experience".

These are all to be in recognition of ways in which Balearic tourism and its tourism services are being improved within a framework of corporate social responsibility (both public and private), of innovation in creating new experiences, and of the sustainability of the tourism product in the Balearics. In a nutshell, the awards encapsulate Barceló's brief as minister. The night of tourism could equally be called the Biel night of tourism.

So, who might be among the runners and riders? Nominations close today, suggesting that we will shortly be informed, offering Biel (and Pere) a further opportunity to go public with the incessant sustainability (saturation) theme. Who, one wonders, are on the judging panel (have Podemos been consulted)? Perhaps they will be revealed as well, but whoever they are, one can possibly guess at the type of winner to eventually be announced and at the type of winner that most certainly won't be announced.

Of the latter, we can anticipate that innovators such as Airbnb won't be getting anywhere near an award let alone be invited. But among the winners? Might they, for instance, include Palma 365 or Calvia town hall? Palma 365 would be worthy. Calvia wouldn't be. Where else might get a look-in beyond the political expedience which decrees that Palma and Calvia head the lists? Menorca with its biosphere, roundly criticised for never having been effectively promoted? The Tramuntana, likewise criticised for promotional failure? 

How about the regulatory councils for wine, oil and food products? All sustainable and all supposedly part of the wider concept of gastronomy that will extend the season. Gongs for sobrassada and ensaimadas maybe? The tourism agency seems incapable of seeing beyond a type of sausage and a pastry when it comes to gastronomy promotion, so quite possibly.

We are about to find out.

Monday, August 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 August 2016

Morning high (6.34am): 20.6C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 23 August - Sun, 29C; 24 August - Sun, 28C; 25 August - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 occasionally 6. Swells to two metres.

May be a bit blowy from the north today. Otherwise fine and sunny. Week ahead looking good.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31C.

Mariano In The Clouds

By my calculation and at the rate of one every six months, there will have been a total of eight pointless general elections by the time things get round to what should be the general election to decide the next general election. Confused? You have every right to be. As the current legislature (non-functioning, acting, caretaking, call it what you want) should extend until the end of 2019, there is ample time for them to have had eight elections in all. I can only but hope that this is what transpires. What a fabulous achievement it would be to go through the entire period of a legislature without a result. I feel we should all be cheering them on. Come on fellas (and ladies), you can do it. Do it for Spain. Bravo! Olé! There goes another failed election. Only another five to go.

This is what you get in an era of "new politics" in Spain, characterised by the emergence of a couple of upstarts like Churches and the little C of the C's (respectively Pablo and Albert). The new politics in fact mean no politics; or none that involve actually forming a government that is. As a consequence, Super Mariano can have his wish granted to continue ad infinitum: Honorary Life Prime Minister (President) forever.

I know it would spoil the fun of there being an election every six months, but why doesn't Mazza put a stop to the whole thing by decreeing that all political parties apart from the PP are to be banned? That way there wouldn't need to be the inconvenience of elections. As he's already confirming himself as PM (president) for life, just announce he's going to be a dictator. I mean, it's not as though there haven't been precedents, and Mazza's the only one of the Four Great Leaders who is ancient enough to remember the good old days of political assassination and packing dissidents off to labour camps. Plus, he does of course come from Galicia. And we all know who else came from Galicia.

On balance it's probably unlikely that Super would take such a bold step, meaning - with any luck - that we can indeed have our eight elections to be followed by a ninth with a similar outcome. Mazza, meanwhile, has signalled that there may be some innovation to come with these elections. The next one, he has suggested, could be held on Christmas Day. Why not opt for Christmas Eve and shift the polling booths to churches? There wouldn't be any Podemos sorts voting if they were expected to enter a church that wasn't one of their glorious leader. It would be a PP landslide. Mind you, a Christmas Eve or even a Christmas Day election would cause havoc with the King's address to the nation, to say nothing of his family holidays. Again.

While the royal jollies in Majorca were disrupted because the King was forced to have go through the motions related to the last failed election, someone who was having his own jollies was Mariano. As an alternative to last year's photo opp of swimming in some river in Galicia, Super took himself off to a place called Babia in León. "Here I feel at home," he told reporters. "Being in Babia is one of the things I like most."

Which would be all well and good if it weren't for the fact that the phrase "estar en Babia" is an idiom to mean having one's head in the clouds. So what fantasies was Mazza dreaming up in Babia? Who can possibly tell? Was his arrival in Babia evidence of a divorcing from reality? PSOE's Antonio Pradas insisted that Mariano should get his head out of the clouds forthwith as the little C of the C's had a proposal on the table. It was, by the way, reassuring to note that Pradas didn't have his head in the clouds and was speaking in Benalmadena, so down with the general tourist hordes and avoiding any Irish hitmen who happened to be on the loose.

When Mariano finally re-emerged, Albert's proposal of some form of governmental marriage seemed possible and then not possible. Which has been the story ever since the first election. On it goes. Here's to all those further elections.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 August 2016

Morning high (6.50am): 22.4C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 22 August - Sun, 28C; 23 August - Sun, 28C; 24 August - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 easing 3 to 4 around midday.

Fairly breezy first thing and some cloud around, which may persist during the day. The week ahead looking very sunny.

Evening update (19.30): Good enough day. Breezy in the morning and choppy seas. Calmed down later and clouded over a bit. High of 28.6C.

The Cove That Isn't: Cala San Vicente

Roughly halfway along the road between Pollensa and Puerto Pollensa (very roughly, because it's nearer to Pollensa) is the turn-off for Cala San Vicente (aka Cala Sant Vicenç). It's an intriguing place, not least because its name suggests that there should be a cove named San Vicente when there is not. It's essentially four coves, none of them with any hint of a Saint Vince. So what's with the name? It comes from the name of the estate - the "possessión" - which was listed among all the various estates to be divided up among the supporters of Jaume I following his thirteenth century conquest of Mallorca.

It is suggested that the name goes back a great deal further, so it may or may not have something to do with Vincent the Martyr, who came to an appalling end at the hands of Diocletian, as did most other Christians who had the misfortune to have encountered the one-time Roman Emperor. Otherwise, there doesn't seem to be a particularly good explanation as to how the name came about, although it is known that the cult of Vincent was present (at least on the mainland and especially in Valencia) during the centuries of the Muslims.

The name aside, and coming to the present, Cala San Vicente is intriguing for the way in which as a resort, and only a tiny one, it was allowed to embrace such striking differences of touristic existence. It was for this reason that I once wrote about it as being a place that didn't really add up. More or less shoulder to shoulder was early Mallorcan all-inclusive invasion (the Don Pedro) and a genteel style of tourism with vague echoes of the Raj.

This had been impressed upon me, and we're talking some years ago now, when I'd wandered into the reception of the Moraleja. An English gentleman of advanced years, a copy of "The Telegraph" in his hands, was sitting in a straight-backed, pink-patterned chair. "It's paradise," he suggested. "Like your own home. Your own villa." I nodded. Not having my own villa I was uncertain of my reply, but I took his word for it and bade him farewell, leaving him to the silence save for the birdsong and the breeze rustling the bracts of the bougainvillaea and the sheets of an English broadsheet.

The collision in touristic styles seemed something to celebrate rather than denigrate, if only because of the weird juxtaposition, something that was further accentuated when they started putting up residential new builds, the creations of the architectural apostles of the post-Modernist Lego box style replete with grey and neutral non-colours and a conspicuous insistence on aluminium. This is not unpleasing architecture, but it does rather depend on context. Cala San Vicente had seem unprepared for it.

Denigration, such as it was, once came from Matt Rudd in "The Sunday Times". Confessing to be a "holiday snob", Rudd had been singularly unimpressed, having been pointed in the direction of CSV by a "gnarly finger" in an unnamed other resort. While it is true, or at least someone told me so, that flabby men wearing only their underpants could wander on to the streets from the Don Pedro (this was, I would say again, some years ago), to castigate the whole of the Cala seemed mightily unfair. What had last days of Empire in the Moraleja said? Paradise?

What else is there to intrigue? The caves of course. The Alzinaret caves and necropolis of Bronze Age prehistory. And there's the horse of course. The horse promontory, the Cavall Bernat cliffs, stretching away from Cala Molins. Want to know something about these that you might not know? The name seems obvious enough - Bernat's horse - yet it is said to be a corruption of an earlier appellation: "carall armat". In Spanish this would be "carajo armado". Look it up because sensitivity suggests I should not elucidate, but put it this way, it has to do with phallic form.

Call it what you wish, the promontory has been an inspiration for many, not least the painters of the early twentieth century who were to capture the Tramuntana and its coastline and who were to be the progenitors of an art culture in the Cala. Those painters offer a separate and intriguing story. In 1916 the writer Pedro Ferrer Gibert coined the term the "Pollensa school" for what was a "Mecca for artists". Ferrer wrote about the painters in Cala San Vicente. They stayed in what was then an improvised pension - Can Niu.

They're holding their fiestas in Cala San Vicente this weekend. They don't make a lot of fuss about the fiestas. Keep them rather quiet you might almost say. Which seems to befit the Cala. Except that at midnight they'll be setting off fireworks, arousing Bernat's horse with cascades like the colours of vermilion cast on its ancient rock face that intrigued the painters of a century ago.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 August 2016

Morning high (5.53am): 22C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 August - Sun, cloud, 27C; 22 August - Sun, cloud, 27C; 23 August - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4 backing and increasing Northeast 4 to 5 by late afternoon.

Any forecast for cloudy conditions today has lessened. All seems pretty normal - sun and hot.

Evening update (20.00): High of 34.9C.

The Palmarati And Tourism Sustainability

Are we being sold a fast one, do you suppose? Saturation, massification, overcrowding. Increasingly I wonder if it isn't all propaganda with a yet to be revealed agenda, but one that may well come with "limits" attached. Moreover, is this propaganda all the work of what one might call the "Palmarati"?

I don't doubt that there are more tourists than ever, but does that automatically mean saturation? I had largely accepted the argument until recently. Let me explain.

My manor, for want of a better term, is right bang in one of the principal tourist resorts in Mallorca. The density of tourist population in Alcudia is extremely high. On hotel places alone, the maximum number of tourists at a given time is 1.5 times the regular population of the entire, sprawling municipality. This is something I sense and see every single day in summer. Unlike commentators, especially politicians, who are divorced from the realities of resort life, I live it. Tourism mass doesn't come any more massive than Bellevue.

Perceptions, I accept, are not scientific, but there was a sudden realisation this week that driving in Alcudia is not the nightmare it once was in August. And I'm talking perhaps ten years ago. This may reflect the level of all-inclusive in the resort, but traffic most certainly isn't determined by in-resort circumstances alone. Moreover, there is all the additional residential tourism that has sprung up. None of that is all-inclusive and much of it requires a car.

Along the bay from Alcudia is the beach of Es Comú, a long stretch of rustic beach in Playa de Muro. It's somewhere else I know, unlike some. There was a time when even on Sundays it wouldn't be especially busy. It is now. The conclusion drawn is that this is because of saturation, with tourists to blame. Yes, there are tourists, but for the most part the beachgoers are residents of the island. They started going to Es Comú because word of the beach was spread by social media (Trip Advisor included) and also by the Balearic government on its beaches website.

We now have the government's environment ministry wanting to create a minibus shuttle service for the beach. There's nothing wrong with the idea, other than its practicality. Furthermore, does the ministry's director-general for biodiversity really have any idea about Es Comú's circumstances or indeed those of other beaches she wishes to be served by minibuses? One of the others is Sa Calobra. Where would you put a car park to allow a park and ride system?

That beach was highlighted earlier this week by a group which wants to "save" the Tramuntana. This group appears not to want anyone going anywhere near the mountains. The photo it posted for the Torrent de Pareis showed a number of beachgoers along with a howling complaint of saturation. Yes, people on a beach. Who would ever have thought? But hardly packed to the gunwales. And guess what? Social media and the government have been talking lovingly about Sa Calobra in recent years.

Then there was Palma's deputy mayor, Aurora Jhardi, going on about Mallorca (as well as Palma) collapsing under the strain of all the tourists. Time to "minimise" the damage, she insisted. She's welcome to her opinion, but what does she know about Mallorca beyond Palma?

Herein lies the rub, and the greater realisation that occurred to me this week. The "Palmarati". This is the class that chatters endlessly about cruise ships this or that, which for the rest of Mallorca is mostly by the bye. Yet lo and behold, we found, thanks to figures from the State Ports, that cruise passenger numbers for the half year were in fact down on last year. Remember those 22,000 who had invaded back in May and who were used as evidence of the collapse of Palma? Always Palma, and always Palma sounding off and reckoning it knows all and knows best for the island's resorts. Yet, we have a tourism ministry and government that can see no further, for political reasons, than Magalluf and Playa de Palma. Cala Millor, Cala Ratjada, Can Picafort and others: who are you? who are you?

This isn't to minimise the potential negative impacts, of which water is the most obvious. Tourists in their apparently saturating numbers do use a hell of a lot of water, which is why I made the moral case, long before the tourist tax was even being considered, for a tax to be directed at vital resources. But tourists aren't to blame for the water shortage. The climate is, plus a lack of planning. The water crisis, though, has become a useful tool for the Palmarati (the governmental brand in particular) in its propaganda.

Biel Barceló, bless him, seems a sincere enough chap. He wants sustainability of tourism. Who doesn't? It's a non-discussion in some respects, but debating limits and future models of tourism will get nowhere when the argumentation is skewed by one side's propaganda, only to then be refuted by the other side's, and which is the domain of competing political parties, business interests and above all the Palmarati.

Friday, August 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 August 2016

Morning high (6.24am): 21.7C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 20 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 21 August - Sun, 26C; 22 August - Sun, 28C.

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

Probably not the highs of the mid-30s like yesterday, but still warm enough. Saturday now looking a bit cloudy, especially in the afternoon.

Evening update (20.30): Well, didn't quite match yesterday's high. Only 34.2C (inland).

Colours Of Love: Holi Festivals

A few days ago I wrote about the satisfyingly weird fiesta for the Much in Sineu, an occasion when, amidst its bizarre elements such as invoking the mythical bull of that name, the thousands of attendees are invited to wear pink.

Dress code in terms of colour instruction for fiesta occasions has rarely gone beyond requirements to be in all white. There are various "white parties", one of the most notable if not the most notable being Pollensa's nighttime "marxa fresca". The whiteness for this party has its historical association: white being the colour of the clothing of the Christians doing battle with the Moors that is typically re-enacted a couple of days after the marxa fresca. They, the Moors, are by contrast portrayed as multi-coloured. Face paint and costumes, they bring flavours of the east to a fiesta occasion, the colours hinting at some form of devilment against the pureness of the white Christians.

Whiteness has thus tended to dominate, but the ever-changing nature of fiestas has disrupted this neutrality. Enter, therefore, and from somewhere further east than the Turkish centre of the Ottoman Empire, the Holi festival of India. Want colours? You've got them. Whole swatches are to be found at Holi happenings, powders thrown into the air and at each other. Several hundred or more Holi pilgrims might enter all in white but they exit as perambulating kaleidoscopes.

What is it with the Holi festival? It has suddenly become the new foam party. Indeed for real out and out colorific mess, the two can combine. Foam meets powder meets several hours under a shower and heavy demands made on washing-machines and town halls' street-cleaning services.

For the uninitiated, an explanation is probably required. The Holi is a Hindu spring festival. It is also known as the festival of colours or the festival of sharing love. Its origins may well go back to the fourth century AD, and the word "holi" is derived from "Holika", the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. The tale of Holika and the fact that there is also a Holika bonfire as part of this ancient tradition provide a perhaps unexpected association with Mallorca: one via legends of fire and demons common to the two cultures.

Nice though this association can appear, it doesn't really explain why Holi festivals have become as ubiquitous as they have. Consult programmes for the island's fiestas (and not only the fiestas), and you will appreciate that there are times when you can barely move in Mallorca without being at risk of ending up looking like the incarnation of a psychedelic acid trip or indeed a poster for psychedelia circa the Summer of Love (the earlier one of the two, i.e. 1967's). There again, this would not be inappropriate, given the alternative title of Holi - sharing love.

So, is it all a bit hippy-dippy? Almost certainly it is. Hippy-dippy plus a bit of trippy in a contemporary style, albeit that chemical assistance is not required or indeed advocated. But anything with Indian origins is almost by definition hippy-dippy. Perhaps one of the odder aspects of Holi is that Lennon, McCartney, Harrison (especially Harrison), Starr and the various other one-time followers of the Maharishi didn't latch on to Holi and import it around the time of the Summer of Love.

The export of Holi had to do with the Indian diaspora. Hence it started to take hold in various parts of the globe, but its arrival in Mallorca would appear to be only very recent. From what I can ascertain the inaugural launch of Holi colours was just over two years ago, and its location was just off the old main road that links Can Picafort and Muro, specifically at the club La Roca.

Two promoters - Mallorca Research and Stravaganza - got together in staging the first ever Holi festival and dubbed the event Island Holi Festival. Since then, it hasn't so much snowballed as colourballed. Palma has had two mega holis in the Parc de la Mar and in May this year the city's Plaça Major was given a colour makeover. More than two thousand people crammed into the square in pursuit of becoming colourful.

At the recent Can Picafort fiestas, they had a Holi festival party that was described as the "most famous" on the island. As La Roca isn't far away, then it was probably fair to say it was the most famous, but in order for it to be given that accolade there had to be a fair selection to choose from. Which there most certainly is. No part of Mallorca has remained immune to the colours' takeover.

Other imported fiesta innovations, such as the batucada drummers, took some time to become all-pervasive. Holi colours have required only two years. Mallorca has become the colours of love.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 August 2016

Morning high (6.12am): 22.1C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 19 August - Sun, 29C; 20 August - Sun, 28C; 21 August - Sun, 26C.

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

Possibly cloudy at times today - the forecast had suggested as such though now it seems to have changed its mind. Outlook for the weekend looking good.

Evening update (19.00): High of 35.3C.

In Search Of Mallorcan Nationalism

Més are starting a great debate. Another great debate. Coming hard on the heels of the great debate on tourist numbers and the notion of sustainability comes one even closer to the hearts of Més: nationalism.

As observed with the tourist numbers debate, timing is everything. That one was launched a year to the day that the Balearics registered a combined population of more than two million for the first time. The timing for this second debate has a different context. There is little happening politically in the Balearics because of the holidays. In which case, why not fill the void with the opening exchanges of a great political debate?

One also suspects that the timing has everything to do with events towards the end of June. The general election took place getting on for two months ago. There will have been sufficient time to come up with a response and to start the process for the next election (not, with any luck, another general election but the regional election in 2019).

The June election was a chastening experience for Més. The party decided to form an electoral alliance with Podemos (and the far less relevant United Left). This was a fraught alliance. Podemos, the far stronger of the two in terms of votes at the December election, insisted on filling the top three positions on the "list". The anticipation was that the number of seats in Congress would increase from the Podemos two to three. Més, not represented in Congress, felt hard done by. In the end, Podemos relented. The Més man, Antoni Verger, could be number three (if only for two years out of the four of the legislature). It made no difference. They still only won two seats.

In theory the alliance made sense. Based on December's poll, there would have been a combined vote of over 150,000 (around 40,000 more than Podemos on its own had secured in December). It would have been sufficient to have guaranteed a third seat in Congress. The practice was different. The combined total rose by only 6,000. It was impossible to say where voter sympathies lay, but a crude conclusion was that Més had seen its almost 34,000 votes in December wiped away.

There was some justification in drawing this conclusion. A new grouping (SI) had been formed shortly before the election. Its key theme was sovereignty for the Balearics. With increased support for the animal-rights party (which is hard to distinguish from other left-wing groups), inroads were made into the Més vote. SI made much of the fact that had Més not made an alliance with Podemos, it would never have been formed. It objected to an ostensibly Mallorcan (Balearic) left-wing nationalist party sharing a platform with a party (Podemos) created from intellectual circles in Madrid. Its message unquestionably had an impact.

This is the background therefore to why Més are starting the nationalism debate. They badly need to regain some lost credibility.

The basis for this debate is a document entitled "A draft for country: National construction in the Balearic Islands" - the use of the word country (país) is instructive in this regard. A symposium, based on contributions, is due to be held some time next year.

The questions being addressed are fairly open. One asks what the role is of nationalist parties and what it should be. Others refer to associations with Catalonia and the "Catalan nation" and to the impact of globalisation and immigration on nationalist ambitions. A further one is perhaps the most revealing. "Have we idealised our history?"

One answer to this question would be that they most certainly have. It would be a response largely from the right-wing, though not exclusively. To give an example, there are elements within Podemos which are supportive of a Catalonian referendum on independence, but they support this not for nationalist reasons but because of a principle of self-determination. It is the latter which guides their thinking more than nationalism per se.

In a way, the debate that Més want might seem curious. Is it evidence of a party seeking justification, of a party wanting to find out what (and who) it represents? Is it looking for some reassurance after that election result, some confirmation that it speaks for a significant constituency in Mallorca and the Balearics? To come to the question about an "idealised history", does the narrative of victimisation at the hands of, for example, the Bourbons three hundred years ago really carry great weight with contemporary society?

There has been precious little evidence of any groundswell of agitation for greater sovereignty. There is plenty of evidence that points to support for regionalism, and this is a very different issue. It is one that promotes regional identity and regional interests and owes little to thoughts of nationalism. It is one which dominates Balearic political and societal philosophies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2016

Morning high (5.26am): 18.4C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 August - Sun, 32C; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 20 August - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing North-Northeast 2 to 4 in the afternoon.

Well, let's see if it's right today. There is no rain forecast. Everything looks fine - today and into next week.

Evening update (20.15): High of 33.2C. Got cloudy later on and quite windy.

The High Summer Of Saturation

It's the ducks which do it of course: the ducks and Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City supremo may be a Premier League virgin, but he'll do as a representative. The football season returned not so much with a bang but with the bank vault having been blasted open with a nuclear device and a vast mushroom cloud of cash obliterating the summer skies as the wads rained down on agents and their eager clients. What madness it is. As someone said, money, where English football is concerned, has ceased to have any value.

Curiously, the great stakeholder base, which could once afford a speck on the terraces, remains intact but now scrapes its pennies together in order to pay its tithes to the Murdoch empire and the bastard descendant of Maggie's privatisation of the spun-off telecommunications wing of the Post Office. Fans howl for millions more to be spent in pursuit of a grand marketing masterplan. When money loses its value, the money is meaningless. It's like Monopoly, only million times greater.

This is just as well. The bars (British) of Mallorca count the days until the new season starts. And so it did start, as it always does right around the time that summer begins to splutter before hurtling into its tailspin. This might also seem curious, as high summer is still here, but it's the ducks (as well as the Premier League) which suggest otherwise.

The day of Assumption, 15 August, marks the swim for the ducks of Can Picafort and summer's peak. No doubt the occupancy numbers will remain close to maximum, but once the peak has been reached, there's no mistaking the signs of summer in descent. Slow at first, and then suddenly it's gone. Again.

And as it makes its descent, what will there be to debate? With almost total certainty we know that Mallorca's saturation point of last mid-August will have been surpassed this mid-August. If it hasn't been, then politicians will be disappointed. A point of argumentation will have been undermined.

But what is this saturation? Is it a state of mind rather than wholly physical? What constitutes saturation? The government is hiring experts to explain all. To what end? Will there be controllers at Son Sant Joan with counters which, when they reach a predetermined number, will trigger the raising of barriers? Mallorca's full. Go home.

This saturation does of course bring with it riches and wealth. More riches and wealth. We should be grateful that it does. Shouldn't we? But the riches are often meaningless. They find their way into the investment portfolios of some of Spain's wealthiest individuals. Pickings for others are meanwhile slim ones, sufficient to enable a reasonable winter return on the dole, but slim nonetheless. Unlike football, alienation of the stakeholder base has existed over time. It howls for more money of its own, not for meaningless amounts to be spent on fantasies and the fantastic.

Saturation is not egalitarian. But then tourism never has been. Oh, an original philosophy where the tourist was concerned was predicated on an ideal of equal rights to a foreign holiday (the philosophy of Horizon's Vladimir Raitz anyway). But the equal distribution of wealth has never been part of the equation: only the generation of wealth.

The government would like there to be greater distribution. It may succeed, but will this turn back the tide of negativity, for which saturation is now a chief conspirator? By its very narratives, the government has fostered negativity. It demands that there is now sustainable tourism. Logically this means that tourism, as it is, is unsustainable. Meaning what exactly? Just as saturation has not been defined or quantified, so sustainability is not qualified. Saturation and non-sustainability are thus states of mind, allowed to enter society's consciousness and to become accepted wisdoms.

As part of its sustainability message, the government wishes to now inform the public about the value of tourism. Yet it has allowed a perception of lack of value to take hold, one to be addressed fiscally with a tax. Its mantras include that of "quality", the indefinable platitude that is sustainability's fellow traveller on the way to non-saturation.

So as summer starts its descent, the saturation will lessen. There will still be the Palma-centric obsessing with cruise passengers, a class of saturators divorced from the rest of the island, but otherwise the numbers will fall, just as fall comes round until finally the question is asked: where did everyone go? If only some thousands of summer visitors could be magically moved to November or December. If only ... .

And then, as thoughts begin to turn to next summer, there will be the other saturation. Cyclists. Keys to sustainability and tackling seasonality but the objects of venom. What does this island want? Does it know? And come next August high summer, nothing will have changed. Let's play Monopoly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2016

Morning high (5.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 17 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 18 August - Sun, cloud, 32C; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 occasionally 4 veering West 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

A fairly cloudy morning forecast, improving later.

Evening update (20.15): Well, it didn't improve. Cloudy all day - not what had been forecast, nor was the rain (of which there was only little - spots really). High of 26.8C.

The Language Of Tourism

Formentera is a small island. With a surface mass of some 83 square kilometres it is a little over two per cent the size of Mallorca. Because it is tiny, when there are noises about it being inundated with tourists and cars, one is intuitively inclined to accept that it is: more so than with the constant laments that Mallorca is overrun. In addition to its size, it has a disadvantage in not having an airport. Tourists mainly arrive with their cars on the ferries.

The largest tourist groups, it is said, are mainland Spanish and Italian. These tourists, of whatever nationality, are being confronted with publicity urging them to become aware of Formentera's environmental delicacy. The key aims of the campaign are the promotion of water-saving, of keeping beaches clean and of "sustainable mobility": traffic and transport.

Understandable though this is, less understandable is the fact that the campaign is being conducted in Catalan with some English. While Catalan, or at least the Formenterenc dialect, is of course common, the people who visit the island are not typically Catalan speakers (or even English speakers). Why, therefore, is there a campaign directed at tourists that's in Catalan?

Among those asking this question are Catalan speakers. They recognise that visitors will not necessarily be au fait. Use Catalan in the campaign but also use other languages, and not just English. And use one language in particular: Castellano.

The Council of Formentera is bossed by the Gent per Formentera party. This is a grouping described variously as being socialist, eco-socialist, Catalan nationalist and simply left. As such, therefore, it is inclined to butt heads with the right, i.e. the Partido Popular. The president of the PP in Formentera has described the campaign as being "one of those absurd things that our Council does".

The PP, one feels, does have a point. There again, it is, or was under Bauzá certainly, the great defender of Castellano. So, it would seem duty bound to offer an assault on the non-use of the other co-official language, just as it can now rely on the support of Ciudadanos (C's) in doing likewise.

However, there is a perceptible shift in language emphasis among the upper echelons of the PP at present. This may in part be as a means of distinguishing itself from the C's, with whom it does share some generally similar policies. Language is one; Catalan nationalism is another.

But more important is the leadership's wish to distance itself from the Bauzá era. In this regard the PP in the Balearics is basically returning to what it used to be: more sympathetic towards regionalism and so a regional identity and so also more sympathetic towards Catalan.

This is a style that helped to make the PP (and what was the forerunner of the PP from the time of regional government in 1983 until 1989 when the PP was formally founded) the dominant political power in the Balearics, a position it has never lost in the sense that it has always polled better than other parties. While the party is still led by an interim president - Miquel Vidal - when it is finally allowed to have a regional congress to elect a permanent leader, it is anticipated that the regionalist faction will win. (There was meant to have been this congress after the general election in December last year, but the indeterminate nature of the election result put that off.)

Vidal is not a contender as permanent leader. The most likely one comes from the regionalist camp - Biel Company, who was environment minister under Bauzá and who also led the revolt against Bauzá following the disastrous performance at the 2015 regional election (though the PP did still gain more seats than others). Two more of those rebels were the mayors of Campos and Santanyi, Sebastià Sagreras and Llorenç Galmés. They are now, respectively, the general-secretary and spokesperson for the PP, indicating the direction that the party has been going and is likely to continue to go.

Coming back to the Formentera affair, both have been asked why, if the PP has been critical of the Council of Formentera, their town halls have issued tourist publicity material without Castellano. This isn't wholly the case, says Galmés, pointing to dual-language use for Cala d'Or's fiestas. In Campos, there isn't much tourism from the mainland, unlike in Formentera. Both can perhaps refute any accusations of hypocrisy, but underlining situations in their respective municipalities is surely the renewed alignment with Catalan as part of a general policy reversal. In Campos, with its comparatively little tourism and greater agricultural tradition, it might be said that here is a municipality that is typical of that former PP regionalist style.

Language can so often be a determining factor in Mallorcan political success or failure. The PP leadership is not about to repeat the mistakes that Bauzá made.

Monday, August 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 August 2016

Morning high (6.17am): 19.7C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 16 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 17 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 18 August - Sun, cloud, 32C.

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

Not a great day for ducks, as in there's no rain and plenty of sun, the ducks being the rubber ones of today's famous duck swim of Can Picafort.

Evening update (19.45): High of 33C.

Saint Rock And The Plague

There are saints with whom those not generally conversant with Mallorca's Catholicism will nevertheless have heard of. Sant Pere (Saint Peter) or Sant Joan (John the Baptist) are just two fairly obvious examples. But there are other saints who are far more obscure. How many local Catholics might be fully up to speed with, for example, Santa Praxedis, let alone non-Catholic visitors? For the record, she's the patron of Petra, and as far I'm aware nowhere else celebrates her. Likewise we have the twin brother saints Abdon and Senen, for whom Inca held its summer fiestas last month.

While these saints mysteriously found their way into very local devotion and attained patronage status, there are certain others who, while barely known in non-Catholic circles, are widely honoured on the island. And one of these is Sant Roc, whose day is 16 August, which means, in fiesta terms, that there can be two days on the trot, as 15 August is the day of the Assumption.

In English he's known variously as Roch, Rocco or even Rock, while there is a Saint Rollox in Glasgow (the same saint). Be these names as they are, it is not untypical for there to be some doubt as to the authenticity of some saints, and in Roc's case he is almost certainly fictitious. Common tradition claims that he was born in Montpellier either in 1295 or 1350. Whichever it was, it doesn't really matter as the birth itself is mere legend.

It is, though, a useful one where Mallorca is concerned. Montpellier was the birthplace of the conqueror, Jaume I. Coming from the same city - allegedly - would not have done Roc's claims on Mallorcan devotion any harm whatsoever. As it is, a recent scholarly study of the saint concludes that he was historically implausible. A generally accepted view, if not by all Mallorcans, is that he was a derivation from a Sant Racus, who died more than six hundred years before the first year given for Roc's birth in Montpellier.

Whatever his origins, Roc was to acquire another very useful attribute for his saintly CV, and that was being a patron against the plague, of which there were once upon a time goodly amounts in Mallorca. The Sant Racus angle is significant here. He was a patron for protection against storms, and in the Occitan language (close to Catalan) this was "tempesta". The word for plague was and is "pesta". Roc was not only derived from Racus, his patronage was as well by a trick of language.

Given all this, it is perhaps understandable how he came to have the kind of reputation he now does, meaning fiestas in his honour in, for example, Alaro, Cala Ratjada and Porreres.

This does, nevertheless, invite a question as to why Sant Roc (or indeed some other saints) come to actually be honoured by having fiestas in their name. In Porreres, there are two patrons - John the Baptist and another Saint John, the Evangelist. Roc isn't as such a patron, yet there he is with the principal fiestas of the summer; John the Baptist gets a mass, and that's more or less it.

Might this all just be because August is a good or better time to hold a fiesta celebration? Possibly, but where Roc and Porreres are concerned, you do have to go back to his patronage of fighting the plague.

Sixty-four years ago, Porreres staged an exhibition. It was to celebrate a three hundredth anniversary. In 1652, the town had celebrated its first ever Sant Roc fiestas. And what was the reason for having done this? Yep, it was the plague.

Among the various documents, paintings, sculptures and what have you that were placed on exhibition in 1952 was a text that referred to the Reverend Rafael Barceló who three hundred years earlier had seemingly seen to it that the parish of Porreres would have a benefactor in the form of Sant Roc. This was because in that year "the intervention of the saint" freed Porreres from the plague. And there was no better way to celebrate the fact than have a fiesta.

Of course, not every saint who intervened in similar fashion to Roc ended up with grand fiestas. Even Sant Crist, Christ the Saint, can only stretch to an hour or so of procession every three years for having rid Alcudia of drought and famine. But Roc with his plague-healing ways was to secure for himself 364 years (and counting) of Porreres summer fiestas.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 August 2016

Morning high (6.00am): 20.1C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 15 August - Sun, 29C; 16 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 17 August - Sun, 31C.

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

Looking decent enough for today. Forecast for later in the week suggesting there'll be a potential heatwave or at least higher temperatures for a few days.

Evening update (19.00): High of 31.5C.

Més Clean Up The Mess

Bravo for the Mésites. Where would we be, where would Palma in particular be without them? And if we weren't aware, then we could always find out from the leaflet they produced last week telling us how Messianic they have been. Miracles have been performed. The Mésites have cast their spells. Wizards of eco-ism and of nationalism, Palma has variously been made more transparent, more open to culture, more participative, greener, cleaner and sustainable. And all because of Més.

If nothing else, this self-tribute does rather confirm what Marga Duran of the PP has suggested: that there are separate governments in Palma. The spells have been weaved not with the aid of Som Palma (aka Podemos) or, Heaven forbid, PSOE, but by the Mésites alone. Not that this is altogether surprising. Més do after all have the mayor of Palma in their ranks. Yes, Smiler might have the title (for now), but everyone knows that Noggin's the boss. In years to come, Alcover's folk tales of ye olde Mallorca will be replaced by the sagas of Noggin the Nog, the mayor of Palma with his Lego who single-handedly remodelled the model of Palma. Antoni Noguera, (second deputy) mayor for the Model of the City, who endowed the city with the Hanging Gardens of the Marivent, temples like Artemis, and statues to great Gods such as Zeus, retitled Noggin.

But if one looks closely, are these miracles all they seem? Take being cleaner, for example. City cleanliness is the bailiwick of Neus Truyol (truly a Mésite). Neus is fifth deputy mayor of Palma. There are seemingly several hundred deputy mayors in Palma, and there will probably be more once "more participative" means allowing non-elected citizens to have the title as well. But as fifth in line to Smiler's throne, Neus is also president of Emaya, the multi-municipal agency that looks after everything from reservoirs in the Tramuntana without a great deal of water, to scrubbing unpleasant slogans about tourists off walls of protected buildings in the city centre, and to collecting mattresses that have been dumped on the streets.

It's a sizable responsibility for someone whose Wikipedia page suggests is, other than being fifth deputy mayor, gainfully occupied as a "sociologist". As fifth deputy she also has the onerous task of looking after Palma's agriculture, something that you might have missed when last shopping at El Corte Inglés. Perhaps one day she will decree that the peasants of the outer reaches of the city can drive their herds along the Born. That would be one way of getting rid of the terraces, though whether Emaya would have enough personnel and machinery to clean up the mess would be doubtful. 

Which brings us to the flak that Neus has been copping about the state of Palma's streets. There is the particular issue of what we are led to believe are huge mountains of discarded mattresses, rusting washing-machines, baths, sinks, toilets, sofas, wardrobes and entire kitchens littering the streets and thus impeding the free movement of the citizens and the farmers with their beef herds. This is all due to the change to the household junk system that Neus decided was a good idea. She still does think it's a good idea. Unlike mostly anyone else.

So, have Més cleaned up the mess and made Palma cleaner or have they not? There can be only one way to find out, and that would be to hold a referendum. "More participative", so let the citizens decide. Oh, maybe they will. Under three years to go to the next election.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 August 2016

Morning high (6.54am): 21.2C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 14 August - Sun, 28C; 15 August - Sun, cloud, 30C; 16 August - Sun, 30C.

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

Patches of cloud early on. Should be sunny enough. Breezes lighter and switched to easterly.

Evening update (20.00): High of 29.9C.

Accommodation Regulation: The Devil's Own Job

Biel Barceló has again been talking about limits being placed on the number of tourist places. He was doing so in the context of the launch of the campaign to make Balearic residents understand what sustainable tourism is all about (a useful exercise, it must be said) and to sensitise these same residents to the value of tourism and tourists (even more useful).

The timing of the launch of this campaign and the talk of limits is surely no coincidence. Although the figure is not usually given for several months, there will at some point be an announcement as to the day in high summer when the total population of the Balearics (residents, tourists and any others) was at its peak. The day is always around this time in August. On the tenth of the month last year, the figure topped the two million mark for the first time.

The tourism minister mainly has holiday rentals in his sights. Hotel places, though not totally subject to a ceiling, cannot increase significantly without there being permissive regulation. The "saturation" to which Barceló and others regularly refer stems from the non-hotel sector. He says that when regulation comes along it will not be "total prohibition". The choice of words can seem a little odd. While he implies that there has been such prohibition until now and that it hasn't solved anything (which is true), it has never been total. The prohibition has been for the open marketing of apartments as holiday accommodation and so for the registration of apartments to be advertised as holiday, tourist or vacation rental.

The Barceló remedy will be to legalise some of these apartments (it's easier to talk in terms of legalise, as regulate can be taken different ways). But certainly not all. There is to be no carte blanche for anyone to commercialise an apartment for tourist rental. And nor should there be.

But he has the devil's own job in drawing up this legislation. Apart from the market dynamics, such as with the online accommodation providers, there are the institutional issues in the Balearics. These are the varying responsibilities for tourism organisation and urban planning, ones that reside with island councils and town halls.

There is the possibility that whatever parameters the government seeks to establish for private tourist accommodation, the actual implementation of regulation will not be universal. For example, the councils of Ibiza and Formentera will be loathe to allow greater permissiveness. In Menorca, there may be greater willingness. The council there attempted to get the previous government to relax regulations, a plea that was ignored when it came to drafting the 2012 tourism law. As for Mallorca, the council has yet to assume full responsibilities for tourism, so no one can tell.

At town hall level there will be different needs. As yet, however, it would seem the government is not engaging in active discussions as to what these might be. Councillors in Alcudia and Pollensa have told me that they don't really know what Barceló has in mind. If the new law on holiday rentals is indeed to be ready for parliament before the end of the year, then the government needs to get a move on and consult.

The talk has been that there will be a system of zoning, with apartment rentals capable of being legitimately marketed for holiday purposes in some areas and not others. It sounds like a recipe for legal challenge, while even within the zones there is the not insignificant issue of how communities react. The government, stressing the need for "coexistence" and therefore hinting at community administrators vetoing holiday rentals, has nevertheless admitted that such vetoes may well not stand up in court.

But whatever the government decides, there will remain the question of enforcement. The experience in Catalonia is instructive in this regard. Although there has been greater permissiveness than the Balearics for a few years, this hasn't stemmed the supply of illegal accommodation. In seeking to combat this, the town hall in Barcelona has this week announced a system whereby neighbours can rat on others. Also this week it said that 256 properties were "closed" during July, a process enabled by a specific search engine created to detect illegal properties. Moreover, nine accommodation websites are facing sanctions.

While Barceló says that the Balearics can take no more additional tourists in high summer and he seeks legislative remedy, we can probably anticipate he'll be saying the same things about "saturation" this time next year. And the year after.