Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 November 2016

Morning high (6.30am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 1 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 2 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 3 December - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 4. Swells of one metre.

A day of sunny spells anticipated. Not much more to say.

Evening update (20.00): Wasn't too bad. High of 17.9C.

The Columbus Conspiracy

It's one of those stories which pops up on a regular basis, normally about once a year and not because of the annual day, i.e. 12 October, when Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, specifically the island he called San Salvador.

The recurring story is the one of where Columbus came from. Whole lives' works have been spent in the attempt to prove that the generally accepted view that he came from Genoa is bunkum. Why do people persist in seeking to disprove the Genoa theory and in wishing to locate his origin elsewhere? Different reasons. Scholarly obstinacy is one. The desire to reveal a whole different truth (and a real one at that) is another. To expose a conspiracy is a third.

The conspiracy is twofold. One is that a Catholic-centred perception of Columbus cannot permit him to be or to have been of a Jewish background. The other is the Hispanic necessity. In the name of the Crown of Castile and of Isabel I, the queen at the time, albeit she was married to an Aragonese, Ferdinand, and in the subsequent name of Castile over centuries, to grant Columbus a Catalan background is an impossibility.

The Jewish-Catalan collision is central to the theory of the Ibizan researcher Nito Verdera. In an interview with "El Mundo", he has once more explained why he believes that Columbus - his family at any rate - had moved to Ibiza from Catalonia, why he is convinced that this family and Columbus were "conversos" (converted from Judaism to Catholicism), and why therefore Columbus was born in Ibiza Town.

Verdera has established a museum in Ibiza. The house where it is located was documented in the fourteenth century as having been lived in by a Francesc Colom. The surname is important. This Catalan style was to appear in various documents concerning Columbus. The Castellano style - Colón - did not.

The name is an essential ingredient in Verdera's argument. Linguistics in more general terms are also essential, as they have been with other researchers. In 2009, for example, Estelle Irizarry, emeritus professor of Spanish literature at the University of Georgetown in Washington, published her "The DNA Of The Writings Of Columbus". Irizarry places Columbus as having come from Catalan-speaking Aragon and having been descended from the Jewish-Spanish race persecuted from the fourteenth century. The language used by Columbus, she maintains, was Ladino-Catalan, Ladino having been the language of the Sephardic Jews.

In the Balearics, the more recognised Columbus alternative theory is that of Gabriel Verd. Columbus - Cristòfor Colom - was born in Felanitx in 1460 (not 1451, which is the year usually given) and was the illegitimate son of the Prince of Viana from Aragon, the brother of Ferdinand. He was therefore the king's nephew. His mother was Margarita Colom, and he was to rise to the prominence he did in the Spanish court because of this secretive family background. This is an important part of Verd's theory, because the Genoa connection - Columbus had a humble background - has never really adequately explained how Columbus came to be hanging around royal circles.

Verdera dismisses Verd's theory. Columbus, according to Verd, would have only been 46 when he died in 1506. There are documents which suggest he was 60 when he died, meaning he had been born earlier than 1451 (in Genoa) and certainly earlier then 1460 (in Felanitx at the finca of s'Alqueria Roja to be precise). Verdera is also upset that he, unlike Verd, has not been given financial support for his research. In 2004, María Antonia Munar, then the president of the Council of Mallorca, approved a grant of over 50,000 euros. "I have a patent interest in Christopher Columbus being from Mallorca. I feel satisfied at having shown my support for Professor Gabriel Verd, and I intend to continue to do so," she said. A research programme, "Development of Human Genetic Research on Columbus's Origins", was to receive the grant to study theories that Columbus was born in Mallorca and "whose staunchest supporter is the historian Gabriel Verd".

The Ibiza theory, as far as Verdera is concerned, is the accurate one. Likewise, Verd sticks to his Felanitx theory. They can't both be right, and only limited numbers of people will believe that either of them is right. Among those who refuse to believe either of them are all the scholars down the years who have maintained that Columbus - Christoffa Corombo - was from Genoa. An alternative theory, were it ever proven, would leave an awful lot of people with egg on their faces.

And this - definitive proof - is unlikely to ever be unearthed. For all the counter theories, there are ones that give credence to Genoa having been his birthplace. Much is made of Columbus not having written in Italian, but the Ligurian of Genoa was not a written language. He wouldn't necessarily have known Italian. But the search for proof continues nonetheless.

Index for November 2016

Airbnb - 11 November 2016, 19 November 2016
Balearic maximum population - 4 November 2016
Canaries tourism website - 15 November 2016
Christmas shopping - 26 November 2016
Christopher Columbus - 30 November 2016
Creative tourism - 17 November 2016
Day of the Dead - 1 November 2016
Dijous Bo - 12 November 2016
Donald Trump and Spain - 10 November 2016
Employment and seasonality - 2 November 2016
Golf history - 13 November 2016
Holiday brochures - 9 November 2016
Interior tourism - 22 November 2016
José Ramón Bauzá - 28 November 2016
Podemos at war - 14 November 2016
Politicians' clothing sense - 20 November 2016
Puerto Pollensa - 21 November 2016
Regionalism - 16 November 2016
Slogans and tourism - 29 November 2016
Tourism debate in the Balearics - 18 November 2016
Tourism minister - 6 November 2016, 8 November 2016
Tourism promotion - 3 November 2016, 5 November 2016
Trasmediterránea - 27 November 2016
Travel fairs of the past - 7 November 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 November 2016

Morning high (7.32am): 12.6C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 30 November - Sun, cloud, 16C; 1 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 2 December - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 veering East in the afternoon. Swells of one to two metres.

Mostly clear sky as sun comes up. May rain later on. Remainder of the week looking reasonable.

Evening update (18.45): Stayed fine. High of 19.1C.

The Power Of The Slogan

Bloom Consulting is a firm which specialises in nation and place branding. Headquartered in Madrid, it has worked with that city's tourism authority and others, such as Germany's, Sweden's, Austria's and Malta's. So it is probably in a position to be able to judge how countries stack up in terms of their tourism branding, which is precisely what it does. At the top of the list is the USA. Spain is second.

As part of this overview of national branding, there is a look at the slogans that are used. The world's number two nation - Spain - has a well enough known slogan: "I Need Spain". One says it's well enough known, but by whom would be the question. One might suggest that those in the know, e.g. consultants, are rather more familiar with it than the general tourism public. And how meaningful is it to that public? The traveller may need Spain, but he or she is probably after something rather more specific that conveys the Spanish brand's enormous diversity.

The slogans, it is said, capture the essence of countries in a few words. Does "I Need Spain" capture the essence? Well, does it? You tell me, but all it says to me is that I'm supposed to need the country. This said, "need" is a powerful word, so perhaps it does capture an essence. But what about some others? "Welcome to Great Britain"? This is a slogan? "Cameroon is back"? Back from where? "Go to Hungary"? Why?

Adopting adjectives such as "wonderful" (Indonesia), "incredible" (India), "sensational" (Brazil) is a common ploy, and all the more meaningless for being so, though it might be said that each of these nations is still emerging in terms of global tourism. The single adjective may therefore be sufficient, as what is being branded and sold is a national tourism that hasn't begun to reach a mature phase.

This is different in the case of Spain, where familiarity and maturity are such that there needs to be a constant re-evaluation of the message but, more importantly, messages that convey diversity. In Spanish terms, what do the Balearics have in common with Extremadura? Even more locally, what does Palma have in common with Capdepera? Or Soller with Santanyi? 

If slogans are deemed to be so important, then where are they? Indeed, where is the overall branding? Palma is an obvious exception, though even here I would seriously question what influence the "Passion for ..." motif has had. It seems more a by-product of the branding rather than central to it.

There are some slogans knocking around. "Experience Alcudia", "Arta surprises" (the noun rather than the verb), "Pollensa, a place with stories to tell" (quite good actually). But do they lodge in the visitor's memory or make a scrap of difference when it comes to choosing a destination? 

Returning to the nations' slogans, there is one that stands out for the message behind the message. Colombia's is "the only risk is wanting to stay", a sure recognition of past safety issues. Arguably, a negative connotation should be avoided, but the Colombia slogan may well hint at ways forward for destinations bedevilled by problems.

Although Mallorca doesn't have the problems that others do, it does have the issue of the anti-slogan (the one that finds its way onto walls in Palma). While this has been downplayed as the acts of a few (if that) and as an expression of a small minority, I'm unconvinced. In the days before social media and online commenting, I would have been, but not now. Anti-tourist sentiment is such that a front cover of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" found its way onto the Terraferida Facebook page the other day: "Welcome to the new Magalluf", and a lament at the start of work on the new Hotel Jamaica and the golf fair.

On the "Ultima Hora" website not so long ago, someone mentioned the slogan "un turista, un amigo" in challenging a host of comments supportive of anti-tourist sentiment. There have been attempts to revive this old slogan, which was memorable enough. The Bauzá government said it would, but then didn't. In 2002, the town hall in Palma had intended investing in it as means of highlighting the social welfare from tourism and so as a way of countering negative sentiment. And in 2003 there was another slogan, this one from the regional ministry of environment - "Mallorca - sí al turismo sostenible!"

While there are numerous slogans that mean virtually nothing, others can mean a great deal. "A tourist, a friend" would now sound desperate, but it (or something by way of an alternative) has the power of addressing different audiences, such as the general public, a target, according to Bloom, under the heading of "admiration".

Slogans are very much more than simple adjectives. They need meaning and not just meaning for one audience. Now, more than ever.

Monday, November 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 November 2016

Morning high (6.50am): 11.6C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 29 November - Cloud, 17C; 30 November - Sun, cloud, 16C; 1 December - Sun, 17C.

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

Alerts in place for rain and storm. Things set to improve by Wednesday.

Carry On Chemists

One thing you can say about Balearic presidents is that you can't keep a good (sic) chemist away from the Consolat de Mar. The current incumbent, sweet and friendly Frankie Armengol, was preceded by the less sweet and friendly J.R., both of them with form in the farmacia stakes. And in seeking to maintain this chemical lineage, J.R., to everyone's horror, announced he was on the comeback trail. Carry On Chemists, with Jim Dale in the role of J.R. (Well, it couldn't be Sid James or Kenneth Williams.)

J.R., having reactivated himself in his highly implausible attempt at becoming national tourism supremo, had decided that the next best thing was to get his feet under the Consolat desk once more and resume his presidency. There was, however, one minor flaw to this plan, which was what J.R. was in the process of attempting to rectify, i.e. becoming PP president again. It was less a carry on and more the Return of the Living Dead, as Podemos's Alberto Jarabo intimated. Count Dracula's fangs are to be sunk into PP opposition, e.g. the wet and liberal regionalist wing, and even the dry anti-regionalist lot if they aren't of a mind to lend him their support, which for the most part they are not.

For once, it was possible to feel sympathy for Jaime Martínez, the chief pretender to the Bauzá anti-regionalist throne. The ex-tourism minister, probably thinking he was off for a pleasant chinwag at Carlos Delgado's gaff, discovered to his horror that a) all the paella had gone by the time he arrived and b) J.R. was there and announcing his Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Balearics PP that he had left smouldering after being annihilated at last year's regional election.

Jaime was none too impressed by all of this, and things might have turned ugly. Let's face it, Jaime does a passable impression of a bouncer at a Magalluf nighttime establishment. You wouldn't want to get on his wrong side, especially if he hasn't eaten. Jaime, to his credit, didn't bounce Bauzá around the walls of Casa Carlos, but instead let it be known that he still intends putting himself forward as candidate to be president of the party.

This was all good news for the wet and liberal lot, now sensing a clear split among the vote for the dry and anti-regionalist lot, assuming it does ever get as far as J.R. being on the ballot paper at the regional congress to decide the winner, whenever this might take place. And it was the fact that no PP congress in the Balearics or indeed any other region has been called that caused PP High Command in Madrid to apparently get into a blind flap.

Fernando Martínez Maíllo, no great mate of J.R.'s anyway and the organisational vice-secretary of the party, received a message from Bauzá announcing his intentions, i.e. of standing for the presidency of the party at the next congress. The only congress which has been firmed up is the national one, at which Super Mariano will be formally anointed again. Maíllo, it would seem, went into a panic as he thought Bauzá was going to be putting himself up against Mariano. He wasn't, though on current form you really wouldn't put it past him.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 November 2016

Morning high (8.01am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 28 November - Rain, 16C; 29 November - Cloud, sun, 18C; 30 November - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 5 easing 4 during the morning.

Thunder rumbling in the distance. A grey day anticipated. Greyer still tomorrow.

Evening update (19.15): The rumbling got louder, the greyness went black, and the storm was around for a few hours. Some places got it in the neck, others didn't. Some sun for a while, but not much. High of 18.2C.

One Hundred Years Of Shipping

In Barcelona on 25 November one hundred years ago, four men put their signatures to a document. It was the deed of incorporation of a new company. Its name was Compañía Trasmediterránea, the most famous of Spain's shipping companies and one that was also to become associated with notoriety.

The four directors of the new company were Jose Juan Dómine, Vicente Ferrer Peset, Joaquín María Tintoré and Enrique García Corrons. Each of them already had shipping interests, but Trasmediterránea was to become an altogether grander operation than any of them had been involved with up to that time. And the reason for that lay with a name not on that deed.

In January 1917, the shipping activities of Trasmediterránea started. It had at its disposal 44 ships. A year later, control of the company was to be taken via another shipping operator - Isleña Marítima. The owner of that company was Joan March Ordinas, later to be known, among other things, as the last pirate of the Mediterranean.

Santa Margalida-born March was by then a very wealthy man. He had acquired his wealth at a young age. The story of how he came by his wealth has been told many times. And having control of shipping companies was an on the face of it legitimate means of acquiring further illicit wealth - from smuggling. In fact, it had been March who had really created Trasmediterránea in the first place.

Trasmediterránea was of course perfectly legitimate and the business grew rapidly, thanks to it having a virtual monopoly on cargo and passenger transport and on official postal services. Its operations embraced the Balearics, the mainland, north Africa and the Canaries. By 1921, the fleet had increased to seventy ships.

March, who founded the Banca March in 1926, was able to get contracts with a succession of governments, even the Republican government (which was to send him to prison, from which he was able to escape). His contacts were such that Alfonso XIII was a shareholder; the king was apparently given 3,000 shares by March. In recognition of such generosity, Trasmediterránea was awarded the contract for moving troops, supplies and equipment to north Africa during the Rif War of the first half of the 1920s.

Then came Franco and the Civil War. March, Franco's banker, was able to supply ships to the Nationalists. It has been said of the relationship between the shipping company and Franco that Trasmediterránea conducted "peculiar" missions. Among these, after the Civil War had ended, was a collaboration with the Nazis: Trasmediterránea ships would help supply submarines out on the high sea.

March, as is well known, played all sides. While he helped the Nazis, he was also responsible for transporting Jews to safety. They paid, and very handsomely too, to be taken to New York. This was despite Trasmediterránea not having permission to undertake transatlantic voyages. When the FBI took an interest, it was Winston Churchill who intervened. March was his favourite Mallorcan spy.

Joan March died in 1962 - some still believe the road accident to have been suspicious - but his name was to live on with Trasmediterránea. Fifty years ago, the "Juan March" (the Spanish version of his name was used) was launched. The March family still controlled the company, but in January 1978 Trasmediterránea was partially taken over by the Spanish government. It was said that the sale was because the shipping industry was experiencing great difficulty. In fact, Trasmediterránea was on the point of bankruptcy. The government of Adolfo Suárez paid the equivalent of 2.60 euros per share for more than half the shares.

It was to be fully nationalised in 1997 and then privatised five years later, sold to the construction company Acciona for 259 million euros plus the taking-on of over 200 million euros debt.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 November 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 27 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 28 November - Cloud, sun, 17C; 29 November - Cloud, sun, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 increasing Southeast 4 to 5.

Chilly sort of morning. Should be reasonable enough today with a fair amount of sun. Tomorrow less so, it would appear.

Evening update (19.30): High of 20.6C.

Defending Christmas Shopping Tradition

Mallorca, we are led to believe, resists certain temptations to undo years of tradition and so bow to the commercial imperialism of the United States and to the excesses of rampant consumerism. One manifestation of this supposed resistance is Halloween. While there may be traditionalists who eschew its trappings on the grounds that it is all an American invention, Halloween has wormed its way into the affections of many, and so in more ways than the simple consumption of Allhallowtide doughnuts.

The denial of consumerism is such that there have of course been no Mallorcans contributing to the jams to get into the FAN Mallorca Shopping complex and therefore to Trafico closing a motorway exit. Consumerism is so widely ignored that each month extensive statistics are produced which itemise how much has been spent (or not) on what particular products. The stats are produced for various reasons, one of which is to indicate the strength (or otherwise) of the local economy. Consumer spending, it might come as a shock to realise, is a vital factor in growth.

Then there is Christmas, a time when Mallorca turns its back on the various reports estimating how much every household will fork out and when municipalities (those which can afford to) drape Bon Nadal lights across roads in early November and then forget to take them down until March. No, Mallorca doesn't do Christmas. It holds up a metaphorical cross to ward off the evil spirit of the devil of commercialism in defence of religious tradition. If only it were so.

There is one good reason why there has been an appearance of avoiding the appetite for overindulgent Christmas consumerism. And that is legislation, both national and regional. Until recently, the gun to mark the start of the Christmas shopping rush was fired over the two holiday days' period of 6 and 8 December. Major stores would open their doors at seven in the morning. In they would all flock, then exit with several trolley loads. Stores were allowed to open - and still are - if one of these holiday days is a designated day when all shops (i.e. the big ones) can open, and of course they (the regional government) would have made sure that this was the case. Legislation demands that at present there are sixteen such days (Sundays and holidays) a year, soon to be reduced to ten.

Legislative reform has, however, disrupted this. Stores which were obliged to only have sales at set times of the year can now have them whenever they want to. This reform is absolutely crucial to understanding why Black Friday, a further example of gross Americana, has appeared from almost nowhere over the past two to three years. Without the reform, it couldn't happen.

Black Friday has, therefore, pushed the start of the Christmas shopping season forward a couple of weeks, and such is the lack of local Mallorca interest in this consumer bonanza that - according to surveys - at least 70% of the population will be turning its credit card hot.

However, lurking in the traditionalist background are those who insist on maintaining a tradition in defence of the smaller stores and so against the advance of big business and all the retail razzmatazz of Black Friday. Among them are elements at the town hall in Palma.

Much has been made of the decision to delay the switching-on of the Christmas lights until 3 December. The retailers wanted them to go on in order to coincide with Black Friday. The various justifications as to why there is the delay have included the fact that 25 November is considered to be too early, inviting a question as to too early for what. The answer to that is those elements within the town hall who would prefer that Black Friday had stayed firmly put on the other side of the Atlantic.

Take Antonia Martin, for example. She is the councillor for consumer affairs. She is also a member of Som Palma, the city's branch of Podemos. Last month she announced that the Christmas market would open on the same day as Black Friday in order that it could "fight" against large retailers. Martin is one of a Som Palma collective at the town hall which takes a quite different view of commercialism to others within the administration. Hence, the Christmas season has been theirs to dictate, and not the councillor for trade and tourism, Joana Adrover (PSOE).

It is politics which have determined the switching-on of the lights. Nothing else. Adrover, disposed to the lights having gone on tomorrow, knows full well that shopping is a strategic product in Spain's national tourism promotion. Consumers, both local and foreign, are key to the success of this product. But not in Palma, given the fights between the parties at the town hall. If there is one tradition being maintained, it is that of political battle.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hurrah, Im back

Apologies, Google very kindly altered settings which disabled any possibility of posting. It would seem that these settings have been rectified. Thank you for your patience. Normal service will, I think and hope, resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 November 2016

Morning high (6.51am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 November - Cloud, sun, 22C; 24 November - Cloud, sun, 172C; 25 November - Cloud, 17C.

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

A fair day to come. Light cloud and sun expected. Southerlies should add to the warmth.

Evening update (21.45): Gorgeous day. High of 24.6C.

The Masses Turn To Mallorca's Interior

One of my favourite Sa Pobla stories is to do with events 62 years ago, when the town hall managed to lose a beach. Commanded by Madrid to sort out municipal boundaries, Sa Pobla engaged in some horse-trading with Muro. The result was that it swapped that part of Albufera which went to the sea (and the beach) in exchange for extending its interior boundary eastwards. It thought it had a deal. It did only insofar as more agricultural possibilities were obtained. Muro, perhaps by luck or possibly by foresight, obtained what is now the main part of Playa de Muro. The ultimate result was to be that Muro's economy, courtesy of its upmarket resort, diversified massively into tourism. Sa Pobla's economy didn't.

The missed opportunity condemned Sa Pobla to rely more or less solely on its agriculture, which has undoubtedly brought it wealth - thanks mainly to potatoes and rice - but which could have been significantly greater. Perhaps in recognition of its historical error in having failed to climb aboard the tourism train, the town - once democracy was established - retrenched. It came to be the island's centre of cultural revivalism. As an example, last Saturday afternoon the town was resonating with the blasts of hundreds of bagpipes: decades of piping revivalism were being celebrated.

A year ago, the town hall held a first series of seminars to consider its tourism future. Or even present. Without a tourism past, notwithstanding the fact that its January Sant Antoni fiestas have officially been in the national touristic interest for fifty years, the citizens who turned up were operating from pretty much a blank canvass. What they started to paint onto this canvass was accommodation, which in Sa Pobla's case means mostly only private properties.

During the second series of seminars, held last week, it was reported that the number of tourist places had virtually doubled in the space of twelve months. The increase was totally due to holiday rentals - all legitimate and all charging the tourist tax. Significant though this rise is, it needs to be placed in context. Compared with another neighbour - Alcudia - the number of places is 3.5% of what Alcudia has in hotel places, with no account taken of holiday rentals, legitimate or not.

Strategically, Sa Pobla is opting for alternative tourism. This inevitably means culture, heritage and gastronomy. Alternative it may be, if not exactly innovative. The alternative tourism seeker can thus be housed in a house (or similar) and enjoy this alternativism. Alternatively, this tourism seeker may well appreciate that the beach isn't so far away, and that the beach (or beaches) in question are considered to be among Mallorca's finest. One of these is Es Comú, part of the beach that had been Muro's before Sa Pobla obliged by handing over the rest and now one subjected to - so we are told - "massification".

Selva is a town further inland. Almost three years ago now, it did something similar to Sa Pobla: invited the locals to talk tourism. At the time, it could muster around 600 places. It will be more now because of an increase to the ninety or so holiday homes it was said to have. The town hall's tourism plan, interestingly enough, made a virtue of the fact that beaches in Alcudia and Pollensa weren't a million miles away. Promoting alternative tourism was going to get it only so far.

Also three years ago, Vilafranca's town hall was keen to find ways of attracting more tourists. There was a problem because it was being bypassed. A further one, the town hall accepted, was that in general terms it was way behind the tourism eight ball. Yet last month, the environmentalists GOB were backing Vilafranca's demands for the regional government to restore "sanity" to tourism. From having been nowhere touristically, the town hall had discovered that tourists were occupying holiday homes in the municipality. It was suffering "massification".

The three cases - Sa Pobla, Selva, Vilafranca - highlight ways in which all Mallorca's municipalities were obliged by the last Partido Popular government to come up with tourism plans. They also show how attitudes to tourism differ. Selva saw itself as being a centre for all types - sun-and-beach included; Sa Pobla would prefer its tourists don't head off to the beach.

Something else which is highlighted is the reform under the 2012 tourism law which made it easier to make rural properties available as holiday homes. While Sa Pobla has embraced this, Vilafranca wants obstacles to be raised.

What is happening is that properties in the island's interior, both rural and urban, are increasingly being devoted to tourism. It's a story which mirrors the experiences on the coasts and so contributes to a distortion in the accommodation market. Sa Pobla has doubled the number of places in a year. Will it double them again next year?

Monday, November 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 November 2016

Morning high (8.01am): 16.4C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 22 November - Sun, cloud, 23C; 23 November - Cloud, sun, 22C; 24 November - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 5 to 6.

Grey and quite breezy. Not due to see much sun today. Better tomorrow.

Evening update (21.00): Windy and grey day. Spot of rain. High of 20.1C.

The Mysterious Non-Growth Of Puerto Pollensa

In days of yore, Mallorca didn't see the necessity to divide its year into two seasons: ones commencing on 1 May and 1 November. Back in the day, and we're talking very much back in the day - as in the early decades of the last century - the seasons were as they normally are. There were four. Not dictated to by tourism, the island accommodated what tourists there were and existed in low-key, all-year touristic bliss.

Accommodation was key to all this. There wasn't a great deal of it, which was hardly surprising as there weren't great hordes of tourists demanding it. But of what there was, as in hotels, there was a distinct lack of even distribution. The typical tourist, northern European for example, vacationed in what would now be dubbed the low season (in broad terms from November to April). As a consequence, places which had hotels enjoyed what, in very relative terms, was a thriving all-year tourist business.

Immediately prior to the Civil War, Mallorca could count on having a mere 2,000 places in 32 hotels plus some pensions, hostels and inns. And of the 32 hotels, eleven of them were in Pollensa. After Palma, Pollensa was the principal centre of tourism on the island, and specifically it was Puerto Pollensa. While the Niu family in Cala San Vicente set about developing its old pension, and the ancestors of ex-Pollensa mayor Tomeu Cifre had a hotel in Pollensa town from 1907 (the Cosmopolita, now the Juma), most of this hotel activity was to be found in the port, plus the Hotel Formentor.

In Puerto Pollensa's case, there was all-year activity, and it wasn't solely reliant on the hotels. From the start of the twentieth century, it started to attract islanders who vacationed there in summer. They would use fishermen's cottages before beginning to build their own summer homes. But the islanders were far from being the only ones. The naming of a hotel in Pollensa - Cosmopolita - was highly prescient, although even by 1907 there were the first signs of cosmopolitanism. This was provided by the first wave of foreign painters, who were to be so crucial in promoting the area (the Tramuntana especially), and also the Royal Navy: British naval squadrons were to appear regularly in Pollensa bay.

The real "boom" in Puerto Pollensa occurred in the ten years before the war. During this time the Illa d'Or and the Formentor hotels opened, and celebrated names appeared, such as Agatha Christie. She arrived in Mallorca in March 1932. Not with any particular forethought of staying in Puerto Pollensa, she observed that "everyone, English, Americans were going to Mallorca in winter". There was nowhere to stay in Palma, so she took a taxi north and was fascinated by what she saw - the bay of Pollensa.

Move forward to the years of the 1950s and 1960s, and Puerto Pollensa - it might be thought - was in a strong position to build on the reputation and infrastructure it had acquired before the war. But this wasn't to happen. To the relief of so many who now live there and take holidays there, Puerto Pollensa avoided the excesses of so-called Balearisation. Why though?

It has been suggested that this was due to farsightedness on behalf of the town hall. Later on perhaps, but not necessarily in the early boom years. There were, after all, to be hotels of several storeys height - the Pollensa Park and Molins in Cala San Vicente. A key reason was that pre-war development. Puerto Pollensa had become a tourist resort before anywhere else away from Palma. When the demand came for the tourism boom, the focus was on what had been the incipient garden city resorts of the 1930s, such as Palmanova, Santa Ponsa and Son Baulo (Can Picafort). Plus, there was Puerto Alcudia, not conceived as a garden city but already with the outline of what was to become the City of Lakes. These offered tremendous scope for development; it was to be done from an almost blank sheet. Puerto Pollensa, on the other hand, had a comparatively full sheet.

The development had to be rapid. The Franco regime, with its desperate need for foreign exchange, earmarked Mallorca for expansion and then pretty much let the island get on with things. It was far easier to develop from the pre-war plans that resided in town halls like Calvia and Santa Margalida, and ones that were unencumbered by existing infrastructure and interests.

But there was at least one other very important reason why Puerto Pollensa avoided the massive boom, and it was something it shared with Puerto Soller. That resort had also become popular before the war, especially with French tourists. It also escaped the worst excesses of development, and for that, thanks have to be given to the military. The regime, requiring tourism development, was also highly militaristic and paranoid. Where there were bases of strategic importance, tourism could develop only so much.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 November 2016

Morning high (7.55am): 10.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 21 November - Cloud, 22C; 22 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 23 November - Cloud, sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4, locally 5 in the afternoon.

Cloud and sun first thing, which is how it will stay. Week ahead a mixed bag perhaps getting colder by Thursday with snow on the highest peaks.

Evening update (19.30): Not too bad. High of 21.4C.

Fashionistas At The Fairs

Someone really should have a word. Time was in Mallorca when the citizens of a village would keep local tailors and dressmakers in gainful employment by taking themselves off once a year to acquire a new suit or gown for the annual fair or fiesta. Sadly for those traditional shops, the demand fell away, although some staggered on until remarkably recently. In Sa Pobla, where things don't get much more Mallorcan, the last tailor's shop in town closed down only two years ago.

The ritual of the yearly new suit - one which, in truth, was only affordable by comparatively few - has long since fallen victim to the onset of the casual and to the arrival of such traditionally Mallorcan retailers as Primark. Nevertheless, one can still witness some adherents to the old ways: those who do actually dress up for fairs and what have you.

Certain politicians in Mallorca, ones wedded to traditional ways, of which there appear to be an ever-increasing number, could easily revive the village tailoring cottage industry by supplying demand for such a revival. Alas, this seems most unlikely, even if it is somewhat contradictory. Més, representatives of all things Mallorcan in a nationalist sort of fashion, are revealing themselves to have (with one exception, see below) absolutely no fashion sense whatsoever and to be unwilling to beat a path to a tailor's or any other shop that isn't a charity one.

Dijous Bo, when Mallorca puts on its finery and celebrates its fair antiquity, is an occasion to be seen. And that goes for politicians. They are seen, and what a sight some of them are, which is why someone should have a word. Take our Vince, for example. He may be agriculture minister, but this is no reason for him pitching up, looking as if he's just dug up some potatoes and stuffed them down the legs of his jeans. And what in Heaven's name did he have on his feet? Whatever they were, they had long since had any acquaintance with polish. (To be fair, they were probably trainers; an old pair at that.)

Then we had David Abril. He has in the past been spotted wearing what looks like a woollen, brown tie affair, which has thus far been his greatest concession to normal political fashion but which is also in keeping with his usual appearance - as it was at Dijous Bo - one reminiscent of a member of an English folk group circa 1965. At least he doesn't stick a finger in one ear. Or maybe he does.

But did we perhaps witness a demonstration of fashion (or non-fashion) infighting within Més? Vince and Dave are remaining firmly in sympathy with crisis-struck citizens, while elsewhere Biel is gadding around in quasi-Armani style. It's bound to have to come to all the best eco-nationalist politicians eventually, especially those who are sent abroad on official duties, but Biel is clearly displaying revisionist fashionista tendencies. Smart suit, tie, shoes well-scrubbed; they had all been on show at a very different fair - London's World Travel Market - where the suits and the gowns of the dreaded hoteliers do all come with an Armani label.

The political casual look doesn't have to be one that has been dragged in by the cat. J.R. (Bauzá) used to make a decent fist of the casual style on his periodic dress down Fridays (or normally Sundays, when he'd attend a PP function at a time when the rest of the PP were still speaking to him). Well-tailored jeans were very much de rigueur. So much so that it seemed as if an order had been issued to make sure all other PP types (male) invested in customised Levi's. Now, however, we get Vince, whose jeans are in a constant state of about to fall down. Tailored is the last word you would use. What a pity for all the old traditional tailor's shops.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 November 2016

Morning high (7.21am): 14.2C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 November - Cloud, 21C; 21 November - Cloud, 21C; 22 November - Cloud, sun, 20C.

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

Good deal of cloud first thing. Should brighten later and give a reasonable afternoon.

Evening update (20.00): High of 20.2C. Wasn't bad for a time, but cloud returned later on.

Rentals' Websites To Charge The Tourist Tax

The Balearic and Catalonian governments are moving closer together on various issues, such as regional financing, and they are both on the same page when it comes to holiday rentals' websites. Under the law accompanying its 2017 budget, Catalonia will introduce a clause that will make websites charge the region's tourist tax. Not only will this raise extra revenue (some 7.5 million euros to add to the around 43 million that Catalonia already raises), it will act as a further means of detecting illegal apartment rental.

In the same way, the Balearic legislation on holiday rentals will stipulate that sites such as Airbnb have to charge the tax. Moreover, they will also be obliged to only market properties which have a registration number which verifies that they are legally registered - this registration is due to be extended to apartments, under tough quality conditions, which are currently "illegal" if they are marketed for holiday/tourism purposes.

Neither the Balearics nor Catalonia will find the demand to charge the tourist tax straightforward. That's because Airbnb and other similar sites, e.g. Homeaway and Rentalia, insist that they do not offer tourist activity, and there is an association in Spain - Adigital - which presents this case. The websites are just, according to its president, "technological intermediaries between the supply and demand".

This argument is already being used in challenging proceedings against Airbnb and Homeaway in Catalonia and Valencia for illegal promotion of tourist accommodation. As they are not offering a "tourist" service as such, then how can they be flouting regulations?

Here is a further example of how definitional technicalities can let abuse slip through the net. Spain's urban leasing act (aka tenancy act) is another, as it enables flagrant abuse of rental legislation.

In Ibiza, meanwhile, there are moves being made on the understanding that the regional government is permitting (or will permit) island councils to adopt specific regulations for rentals. The town hall of Santa Eulària has announced that it is to prohibit holiday rentals in apartment buildings. The Council of Ibiza is looking at adopting an island-wide regulation that would do likewise, a key justification for doing so being the threat to "co-existence" of residents and tourists.

With holiday rentals seemingly such a significant factor in increasing the overall number of tourists, it looks likely that further fuel will be added to the saturation debate. It is anticipated that by the year end, the Balearics will have received more than 14 million tourists for the first time; in fact, well over - the number could nudge 15 million.

Friday, November 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 November 2016

Morning high (6.50am): 12.3C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 November - Cloud, sun, 19C; 20 November - Cloud, 20C; 21 November - Cloud, 20C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 3.

Nippy first thing. Should be decent enough today and quite warm. Weekend looking mostly cloudy.

Evening update (21.00): It was decent. High of 22C.

The Great Balearic Tourism Debate

There are certain publications that come along which should demand rather greater attention than just that of a Catalan readership. One such publication is the "Anuari del Turisme de les Illes Balears" - the Balearics tourism yearbook. The 2016 edition, the third such edition, has just been published. The work of the Fundació Gadeso, it is supported by the University of the Balearic Islands, the Colonya bank in Pollensa and the government's vice-presidency, in other words the fiefdom of tourism minister Biel Barceló.

It is a staggering publication of 278 pages with contributions that range from those who currently hold public office to those who have held office in the past, to academics, to historians. If there's one criticism to be made of this array of contributors, there is a lack of hard-nosed businesspeople.

This aside, it is nevertheless an absolute goldmine that charts tourism development and places this in the context of the current day and so therefore the debate about what tourism is, about what it should be and about its impacts. It will be required bedtime reading for the tourism minister. It should be required reading for many others.

There is no need to explain yet again the context, in particular the one that has been aired so greatly this year - saturation - but it is this context which makes the opening remarks in the introduction so pertinent. The Gadeso foundation's director, Andreu Grimalt Rosselló, writes that in the previous yearbook, it was noted that the foundation had been warning for some time that the terms of the debate about tourism needed to be reconsidered. He goes on to say that this hadn't been intended as an attack on tourism, remarking that there are, however, individuals and groups who, "living in relative comfort", have no desire for change and who consider any dissenting opinion as though it were an attempt to torpedo the tourism sector.

One might ask what the terms of the debate have been until now. In general, they haven't been markedly different. One of the yearbook's contributors is Celesti Alomar, the tourism minister responsible for the original ecotax. I have previously looked at what Alomar had to say at the time that tax was introduced. It wasn't fundamentally much different to now.

But what has changed is the very much more public nature of the debate, while it is notable that Grimalt should choose to lead on the issue of employment. He wonders about the "social profitability" of tourism, which he defines as stable employment, redistribution of wealth and the generation of citizen welfare. He is somewhat disingenuous in asking how, with hotels recording full occupancy, there can still be 70,000 people unemployed. But observations regarding four to five months work and business growth while there remains this employment imbalance are reasonable. They are also central to regional government policy - or attempted policy; they will chime with President Armengol, Vice-President Barceló and employment minister Negueruela.

In a way, the most revealing observations of all are related to the apparent increase in anti-tourist sentiment. And in this regard, the debate now being conducted is shown to be one that should have taken place years ago. Grimalt refers to the work of George Doxey, which is now forty years old. Doxey proposed a four-scale framework that characterises attitudes towards tourists and tourism. It starts with euphoria, turns into apathy (indifference to larger numbers of tourists), then becomes irritation before developing into antagonism - overt and covert aggression towards tourists.

The discontent isn't as it once was. It has existed but it has now become more overt. And following Doxey's argument, it shouldn't be all that surprising that it has. What his four scales suggest is that a better job of managing the tourist-resident relationship should be made. Or rather, should have been started some years in the past. To Barceló's credit, while he can be accused of having fanned the saturation flames simply by mentioning the word, he has also been instrumental in the campaign to highlight tourism in a positive fashion within the framework of his desire for sustainable tourism. The problem is that there are plenty of others who are less even-handed.

The anti-brigade, notably the environmentalists GOB, have long expressed their discontent, but this has now been magnified through the emergence of groups such as Terraferida. Its wholly one-eyed view has most recently been expressed through its attacks on the government attending the World Travel Market and on the government and the Council of Mallorca having between them contributed almost 600,000 euros to the International Golf Travel Market at Son Termens.

The terms of the debate don't necessarily need to change, but what is evident is that certain ones are treated with very much greater seriousness than previously and by a wider and highly vocal audience. The yearbook sets out them out. Shame it isn't in English.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 November 2016

Morning high (7.19am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 November - Sun, cloud, 20C; 19 November - Cloud, 18C; 20 November - Sun, cloud, 20C.

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

A mainly cloudy day in the offing, but should be dry for the fair of all Majorcan fairs today - Inca's Dijous Bo.

Evening update (20.00): Wasn't too bad. Good deal of sun. High of 19C.

Tourists And Their Creative Urges

Tucked away in a conference hall at last week's World Travel Market, Estonia was receiving an award. So were Mexico, Italy and Cyprus - two in fact in the case of the latter. One of the speakers at this event was Vicent Torres, the president of the Council of Ibiza. His presentation was based around a slogan - "be creative, transform tourism".

Ibiza is a member of the Creative Tourism Network, an international organisation, the origins of which go back to another conference: one held in January 2000 in Portugal. Greg Richards, one of the foremost thinkers on cultural tourism, was giving a lecture. While saying that cultural tourism was growing rapidly, he pointed to a potential drawback. It could be summed up in two ways - "not another bloody cathedral" and "this or that happened in the year 1637". In other words, cultural tourism has a great propensity to be repetitive or dull.

Listening to this lecture was Crispin Reynolds, whose background was principally in the arts world: he had been chief executive of the Theatre Royal in Bath. He was taken by what Richards was saying. They met, they spoke and some time later they came up with the concept of creative tourism, defined as offering "visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are undertaken". Cultural tourism had to be interactive and creative in order that cultural tourists could be fully engaged. From this came the Creative Tourism Network.

But what actually is this creative tourism? A marketing specialist in the subject, which is how her website describes her, says that research shows that people have a "growing desire to connect with each other and feel more in touch local communities". Based on this research, she was looking to develop workshops in Kent, such as for cooking with Kent produce, knitting, woodcarving, painting.

Barcelona claims to have the world's first creative tourism platform and has had it since 2005. Visitors are therefore able, among other things, to learn flamenco dancing, engage in fashion design or make bread (in a creative fashion). As this is all promoted in English, one has to assume that they've overcome what might otherwise be something of a stumbling block. When baking bread (creatively), it does help if you can understand what you are being told, unless you don't speak English.

In Ibiza, they reckon they can crack the nut of seasonality and become a year-round destination by providing courses in anything from art to gastronomy to photography to organic farming. There are also visits "with charm" to bodegas, agricultural cooperatives, artisan workshops or eco farms. This is all couched, inevitably, in "sustainability" terms. For once, the word can be used with real justification. It is not invasive of the environment, unless there are great masses traipsing across eco farms (unlikely, admittedly), it boosts employment and business, it is respectful of this local business and culture.

And as importantly, it doesn't require great investment, if any. When there are people and businesses already doing things and making things, investment is not required. As a concept, therefore, it has much to commend it. But how much can it be developed or is it being developed?

Ten years ago, there was a meeting under the auspices of Unesco at which it was envisaged that in ten years time there would be, variously, a growing network of creative cities, the packaging of local products and creative offerings, and local creative history curricula. Two years ago, research was submitted for a project in the Costa del Sol - its reinvention through creative tourism. The project may see the full light of day, but as far as the Creative Tourism Network's website is concerned, the only creative tourism in Andalusia is based on the town of Lucena. And it is one of only a small number of global "creative-friendly destinations": Barcelona and Ibiza are two of them. The growing network of cities that had been envisaged ten years ago seems to need more time to really start growing.

In Mallorca, there is to be an international seminar on experiential tourism. It isn't that different to creative tourism. In fact, it doesn't seem to be different at all: just another way of calling it and imbuing it with the worthiness of sustainability. Here is, therefore, a further means of attempting to find the Holy Grail that unlocks the negative impact of seasonality. And where might it lead? Visitors being instructed in building dry-stone walls or being shown how to make ensaimadas?

In a sense there isn't anything new about all this. Working farms, cookery courses, art classes; they've been around for years. Putting them all into a coherent form, though, is new. But how many tourists would be attracted? By comparison, there's still something to be said for another bloody cathedral.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 November 2016

Morning high (7.43am): 13.2C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 17 November - Sun, cloud, 19C; 18 November - Sun, cloud, 22C; 19 November - Cloud, 17C.

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

Wind is down. Pretty grey first thing. Not much sun expected.

Evening update (19.30): Nothing remarkable. High of 17.2C.

In Defence Of Regionalism

The government of the Balearics represents the autonomous community of the Balearics, a legal entity - as with all other such communities - under Spain's constitution, which has its statues of autonomy that determine the scope of powers and responsibilities that have been devolved.

The system of regional government has existed for more than thirty years: the Balearics was one of the last regions to be granted autonomy in 1983. It is a system that is not without its critics, some of them from outside Spain: the EU identified regional profligacy as a contributory factor to Spain's economic crisis.

That there was profligacy is beyond doubt. And at least some of it was linked to corruption, as was the case in the Balearics. Demands made by Brussels and by the national government through its legal framework for managing deficits have largely addressed this. There will continue to be critics of the system, who challenge its efficiency, but generally there are not the howls demanding fundamental reform that there were some five years ago.

Those previous demands hinted at diminishing regional powers. The demands are now the reverse. The sore point of regional financing - in essence, how the state divvies up money to the regions - has existed for several years. There are regions which are now seeking to ease the pain, and the Balearics is heading the campaign for a fairer system.

Regional financing goes to the heart of the Catalonia independence drive. It was a refusal by Mariano Rajoy to countenance an adjustment to Catalonia's financial arrangements which pushed Artur Mas in the direction of independence. Catalonia, with Carles Puigdemont now its president, may join with the Balearics and other regions in a drive towards what Francina Armengol calls fiscal federalism. Whatever may lie ahead with Catalonia's desire for independence, regions that have been agitating for improved financing deals can now see a window of opportunity. The Rajoy administration, with a minority government, will find it less easy to deny demands for reform than it has previously.

Financing and devolved powers are one side of the regional coin. They are the practical elements. The other side is occupied by what might be termed the psychological, the abstract desire for greater regional authority and identity. Deep-rooted in Catalonia, the Basque Country, to a lesser extent in Navarre or Galicia, it has its manifestations elsewhere, such as in the Balearics. What is a region unless it advocates regionalism?

This regionalism was officially approved by the creation of autonomous communities. From what was initially an institutional mechanism for decentralised government - the practical - has come the psychological, the hankering after a regional identity, however elusive that might in fact be.

In the Balearics, regionalism as a philosophy has characterised governments since 1983. Or had done until José Ramón Bauzá became president. While Bauzá was to talk of defending regional interests, he was only to make a point of this after he had fallen out of favour with Rajoy. At one time he had been a type of protégé, who created the prototype administration for the years of austerity. Regionalism, its name darkened by profligacy, was to be lessened. The regions were to come under stricter central command. Bauzá's defence of regional interests had been such a sham that he had even declined to take up investments that the state should have been obliged to make. He was the champion of Rajoy's austerity, a policy combined with one of insidious regional enfeeblement.

To what extent regional identity exists in the Balearics is a moot point. But if this is taken as common needs shared by the four islands, then there is at least one common cause. Insularity creates specific issues, and not solely ones of financing. Madrid has never appeared to understand insularity and has therefore failed to appreciate legitimate demands for better and fairer financial treatment. In ignoring these demands, it has helped to foster grievance and thus a siege mentality that takes regionalism as its shield.

All political parties in the Balearics have embraced regionalism. It has, over three plus decades, shifted in the policies of some and embraced a quasi-nationalism, fuelled as much by a psychological desire as by practicalities. The only major disruption to this thinking was the Bauzá-era Partido Popular. The party wants to revert to its previous regionalist agenda. It also wants a single figure to be presented as its new permanent leader when it comes to election in spring next year. But it is finding this difficult. Jaime Martínez, the one-time sidekick to Carlos Delgado, who had pretty much pre-determined the Bauzá agenda, sees himself as possible leader. He says that coming to an accord with the regionalists is not proving to be easy.

His line seems totally illogical. What possible reason can there be for regional government if it isn't regionalist and if it does not prioritise the defence of regional interests?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 November 2016

Morning high (7.00am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 16 November - Cloud, sun, 18C; 17 November - Cloud, 18C; 18 November - Sun, cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 7 easing 6 in the afternoon.

Very blowy early on. Staying so. Not much likelihood of sun. Rain possible this morning.

Evening update (21.15): Didn't rain. Good amount of wind. Not much sun. High of 17.2C.

The Great Adventure Together: Tourism Websites

I don't normally click on website adverts, unless by mistake, which is what happened on Sunday. I was on a Spanish news site and clicked something that said "guardian de los volcanoes". It led to a great adventure. One together. There are fourteen languages for this adventure website; a fifteenth when you click on a short video.

The great adventure takes you into the world of the guardian of the volcanoes, the genie of the magic mountain, the wizard of the ocean waters, the fairy of the clear sky, the goblin of the enchanted forest, the empress of the trade winds, the queen of all living beings. The guardian needs help in finding giant sandcastles. The genie knows all the mysteries of the mountain. The wizard's powers lie under the water. The fairy can read the stars and fly above the clouds. The goblin moves swiftly through forests. The empress seeks help in getting rid of the clouds. The queen has all the animals in her kingdom. There is a place where stars shine brighter. Another with a cave that has paintings which are thousands of years old. One more which used only to be inhabited by wolves.

All these adventures are a prelude - a game before the main adventures of whales, spectacular routes, the ocean floor, nature, the waves. The fifteenth language is mysterious. A small boy in Paris is at a bakery. Eventually the baker understands. The boy wants a croissant. The video concludes with two messages. Travel to the best climate in the world. Your children know where adventure begins.

The fifteenth language is recognised as being a language, even though it isn't spoken. In 2009, Unesco declared it a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. It is a language that may be some three thousand years old. It's not possible to say. But it is very old. It is "silbo", the Gomeran whistling language from the island of La Gomera in the Canaries. The great adventure takes place on those islands.

Hellocanaryislands* is the official website for Canary Islands tourism. It has plenty of information the deeper you go into it, but the initial pages are principally devoted to imagery and to the adventure games. How does a destination capture family tourism? Appealing to the kids is one very good way. Children are as important to the holiday purchasing decision as the strength of the parental budget. Hook them with games, and ... .

This is a superb website. It doesn't preach. There's no sense of desperate overloading of explanation and justification. It just is. And it does it superbly. Aimed mainly at a family market, it doesn't disguise the sun-and-beach dimension. It isn't ashamed by the existence of year-round sun and the varying shades of sand. But it grafts on all the other elements - like nature, like routes. And the Canaries have nature in abundance, such as in the ravines of La Gomera. These alternative elements are presented in a family way.

Looking at this website makes one thoroughly depressed. Innovative, bold but at the same time simple, it is everything that Balearics promotion isn't. There is no such website.

The Canaries do obviously have an advantage over the Balearics - "travel to the best climate in the world" - but that is only part of the story. Rather like the Balearics, the Canaries are very well-known, the sun-and-beach aspect in particular. Why should they need to present such a lavish website if so much of the tourism sells itself, which is how the Balearics look upon the sales effort? Perhaps it is because the Canarian government doesn't adopt an arrogant attitude. Perhaps it is because it believes, despite soaring sales, that front of mind where the holidaymaker is concerned remains essential. Perhaps it is because it doesn't seem to be tearing itself apart in figuring out what its tourism represents. There's no sense of the idiotic notion of sun-and-beach being "obsolete", as has been said by certain Balearic politicians, who have no idea what tourism means.

These certain politicians would now doubtless stamp on any attempt to follow a Canarian lead. The budget would be just one reason. Yet the Canaries website has the sort of stuff that the Balearics so wish to promote - the Unesco sites and declaration, the nature routes, environmental consciousness.

The Balearics were years ago left behind in the promotional stakes, especially where the internet is concerned. Has it never crossed anyone's mind that, while the Balearics are easy to sell (in summer), holidaymakers should be shown greater respect? Front of mind is one justification. A sense of belonging and emotional attachment are others. And perhaps more than anything, there is the need to revive the idea of adventure. Just as holidays once were. In the Canaries, they have a great adventure. Together.


Monday, November 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 November 2016

Morning high (7.26am): 11.9C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 15 November - Cloud, wind, 17C; 16 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C; 17 November - Cloud, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6 increasing 7 in the afternoon.

There's been a fair amount of rain around. More likely. Rather breezy, the north wind will have something of a chill factor.

Evening update (19.15): The sun emerged briefly. Otherwise, an awful day. High of 15.3C. Rainfall in the area - 45 litres per square metre in Pollensa, the most. Good news, though, in Lluc there have been 73 litres. Most of that, with any luck, will have fallen on the reservoirs.

The Podemos War Has Come To The Balearics

It wasn't the best of weeks for the Podemos sisterhood. Despite having been suspended by the politburo in Madrid, Xe-Lo mysteriously still managed to bustle into the Balearic parliament and take her place on the speaker's chair. It wasn't, therefore, the best of weeks for other parliamentarians. No one was paying any attention to them. All eyes were on the suspended Xe-Lo.

Suspension was the polite way of describing the early stages of the Podemos purge of dissidents. Along with the purge was coming the spin. Xe-Lo, we were led to believe, had applied pressure to the initials - B.B. (Biel Barceló) and C.C. (Catalina Cladera) - to seek to ensure continued funding to the laboratory run by the alarmingly big-haired Podemosite doctor, Daniel Bachiller, who could himself be mistaken for a member of the sisterhood.

The idea that there was pressure being applied seemed somewhat fanciful. Had she tied B.B. to his parliamentary chair and poked him until he agreed to handing over every last euro of tourist tax revenue to the Bachiller lab? And what about C.C.? A fully paid-up member of the PSOE sisterhood, it was unlikely that she would accede to demands made from someone - Xe-Lo - who fell out in spectacular fashion with sweet and friendly Francina Armengol when she jumped PSOE ship some four years ago and ended up in the ranks of Podemos. To put it bluntly, Francina can't stand her.

And on closer examination, what was really the fuss about the Bachiller funding? He may not have been coming up with the research goods, but it turns out that this arrangement goes back some ten years. Should we conclude, therefore, that it was all the fault of Jaume Matas? It was during his reign that the funding started, and it continued through the Antich phase and on into the Bauzá era, when austerity was all the rage but apparently not when it came to a lab that wasn't achieving a great deal.

While Xe-Lo was resisting calls from the likes of Wild Man Més, David Abril, to vacate the speaker's chair, another one of the Podemos sisterhood was active in seeking a counter-purge. The also suspended Montse Seijas, who no one had ever heard of until last week, denounced Podemos general secretary Alberto Jarabo over his connections with the broadcaster IB3. Jarabo, in his former life, was a producer. Seijas, it turned out, had commissioned a report which raised "alarm" where she was concerned because of the apparent ongoing, if indirect, relationship between Jarabo and IB3; essentially, the production company for which he had been working has allegedly been getting more work. This report was, according to Seijas, sat on because of its supposedly defamatory nature.

Questions have been asked as to why Podemos High Command got involved in the local issue of the Bachiller lab and who put High Command up to suspending Xe-Lo and Seijas. The IB3 angle suddenly made things appear (potentially) somewhat clearer.

While all this local business was going on, High Command, in the form of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, was stamping his authority more firmly on the party. Amidst the internecine struggle between Iglesias and the Infant Iñigo Errejón, an Iglesias man, Ramón Espinar, was named general secretary of the party in Madrid. The loser was Rita Maestre, most famed for having taken her clothes off (well some) in a Madrid chapel and therefore having ended up in court on a charge of denying religious freedom (she was fined some four thousand euros). Rita is referred to, in somewhat disparaging terms, as "la chica de Errejón".

Anyway, her defeat confirmed the progressively more left-wing shift of Iglesias, who is now firmly aligned with the anti-capitalist extreme wing of Podemos, of which the Balearics Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, is a leading light. And it is Laura, as everyone knows, who wears the trousers in the Balearics. Jarabo is her soul mate. The Seijas IB3 intervention was a declaration of internal war. And the winners will not be either another Errejón "chica", Xe-Lo, or Seijas.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 November 2016

Morning high (7.40am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 14 November - Rain, wind, 17C; 15 November - Cloud, sun, wind, 17C; 16 November - Cloud, sun, 18C.

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

Overcast morning. Likely to remain mostly cloudy. Possible rain. Tomorrow looking like a day to stay indoors.

Evening update (19.15): High of 20.1C. Some sun but nothing remarkable.

From A Well In Alcudia To Prince Rainier

There is a well in Alcudia which, in August 1707, was covered over by the order of what then constituted a town hall. The local authority was concerned about the number of stones that children were throwing into it and possibly also by how many children might have disappeared into it.

A well from over three hundred years ago might seem like a peculiar starting-point for considering Mallorca's golfing heritage, but it was to prove be crucial in the creation of the island's first golf course. The well came to eventually be sited within Alcudia's electricity plant in the early years of the last century. The water was used to drive that plant, and the owner of the electricity distribution network in the town was a gentleman by the name of Pere Mas i Reus.

In 1933, Mas i Reus and Jaume Ensenyat acquired 198 hectares (around 490 acres) of land. It was sold to them by Joaquim Gual de Torrella, who himself had obtained the land from the bankrupt New Majorca Land Company, established by the British engineer Frederick Bateman for the purposes of draining and cultivating the Albufera wetland.

Mas i Reus, Ensenyat and Gual de Torrella's son, Mariano, were involved with an ambitious project. They planned to create a resort. Some one hundred plots were to be sold, a hotel was built and, central to the whole project, a golf course was created. Which was where the well came into the story. Its water was needed for the course and for the properties that were to be built on the plots. The well was, by then, no longer inside an electricity plant. The building had become a textile factory - Tapices Vidal - and Mas i Reus paid the factory two centimos of a peseta per cubic metre for general use of the water and seven centimos for watering purposes. In addition, he had to install a pipeline for the water to be supplied from the old town to the site.

The hotel was called the Hotel Golf. It is now the adults-only Vanity Golf, the home also to Team Sky when they train in Mallorca in the winter. The golf course was officially opened in February 1934. Ensenyat, in addition to believing that tourists could be attracted, felt that the course would be of value to the British (and American) residents in neighbouring Pollensa. Some members of this foreign community were invited to the opening.

What they witnessed and what they played was rudimentary. The course had nine holes, all of them on totally flat land. The greens were indistinguishable from the fairways, which were marked out with stones and shells. How successful (or not) the course was to prove to be, its life was short. The Civil War came, and the course was taken over and used as a landing-strip.

As for the well, that remains. The factory has long since closed, but it too remains, occupying a corner of Alcudia's market area. The well, though, has been accorded a certain status in the town's history, which speaks of it having a well-deserved place in the economic development of Alcudia and of Mallorca. How much greater or swifter that development might have been is purely hypothetical. The golf course and resort project were killed off by war. It wasn't until the 1960s that the plan for the resort, minus the golf course, was revived.

The importance of the well and therefore the provision of water cannot be underestimated. An indication of this was the fact that the Alcudia course wasn't strictly speaking the first. Mas i Reus and Ensenyat were both heavily involved with the Mallorca Tourist Board. Mas i Reus, though known more as an engineer, had joined its governing board as a spokesperson for the association of hoteliers in the mid-1920s. Both he and Ensenyat would almost certainly have attended a function at the Hotel Formentor in 1930, which was specifically for members of the tourist board. They would probably have observed that the hotel had a golf course.

Little is known about this course and it seems that it was never actually used. And the reason why not was that there wasn't sufficient provision for water to maintain it. A subsequent plan for the Formentor course never got off the ground. The year was 1936.

The Civil War and then the world war put everything on hold, including another plan for a resort with a golf course. Habitat Golf Santa Ponsa was founded in 1932, the garden city design of the whole resort having principally been the work of two Germans - a Berlin building tycoon Heinrich Mendelssohn and architect Max Säume.

It wasn't to be until 1964 that a golf course - a sustainable one - was inaugurated. The concept for the Son Vida course, originally just nine holes, was mainly that of one of the partners in the hotel, the American Steve Kusak. Another of the partners, Jose Luis Ferrer of Binissalem wine fame, was said by his daughter to have had no idea about golf or golf courses. Once he had visited courses in Monaco and Zurich, his enthusiasm for the development of the course was kindled. It was Prince Rainier of Monaco who teed off for the first time. Mallorca's golf was finally, and after the stuttering attempts before the war, on course.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 November 2016

Morning high (7.35am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 13 November - Cloud, 20C; 14 November - Cloud, sun, 18C; 15 November - Cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3, locally West 4 in the later afternoon.

Fairly cloudy first thing. Should be some decent sun though. Tomorrow looking cloudy most of the day with a chance of rain.

Evening update (19.15): Average. High of 20.3C.

The Antiquity Of Goodness: Dijous Bo

The Balearic tourism ministry was proudly announcing at the World Travel Market that "traditional" fairs are to form part of its promotional efforts for the low season. An immediate question that this raises is why they haven't apparently been considered important in the past. While it is true to say that what generally lamentable low-season attempts have been made until now have included the fairs and also fiestas, an impression given is that this has been done simply because they exist rather than because they demand being pushed in a coherent marketing fashion.

A further impression, for far too long, has been that low-season occasions, such as fairs, are solely Mallorcan affairs; what visitors there might be have been treated as a bonus or nuisance, depending on point of view. Yet fairs are also part of the wider culture and heritage of Mallorca, something which has been promoted in times past, but which was far more of a focus in promotional terms in the first half of the last century (at least until the war anyway) than was subsequently the case. The ministry now plans to give culture and heritage more of a centre stage.

It's not as if parts of the island haven't recognised that there is genuine value to be extracted from occasions like fairs. But this value has still been determined by the limits of tourism seasons. In Alcudia, for example, an old fair that used to be held was revived in 1989. Initially it was in November. It was moved forward by a month because no tourists were going.

November qualifies as low season, aka and misleadingly the winter season (Mallorca's tourism defies seasonal convention by only having two seasons). In the middle of it is the biggest fair of all. Subject to arguments with Sineu (and Sineu can offer strong proof), it is the oldest fair - Dijous Bo.

This does, however, require some qualifying of a geographical nature. Palma had fairs before either Inca or Sineu emerged. Dijous Bo is, therefore, a champion of the "part forana", i.e. all of the island except Palma. Both towns were accorded royal privilege in the early fourteenth century to hold fairs, a duopoly that wasn't to be broken until Llucmajor's challenge to it in the mid-sixteenth century.

In the case of Inca certainly, its fairs and markets became a focus for tensions that existed with Palma. For current-day promoters of the island's culture and its traditional fairs, it should be instructive to explain how Mallorca became in essence two separate entities - Palma and the rest, a division which still very much exists. The late fourteenth century artisans of the part forana treated Inca as the principal expression of their separateness from Palma. Such was the antagonism with the capital that in 1463 there was a plot to assassinate members of the government who were going to the fair. This owed no small amount to a several decade dispute over taxes derived from the town's market.

None of this explains, however, when Dijous Bo started. The fourteenth-century angle is somewhat misleading. The traditional Thursday market can with some certainty be traced back to 1258. It is logical to assume, therefore, that a grander market, as in a fair, piggybacked onto the Thursday market. But Dijous Bo, as in the name, was a much later invention, while its definitive place in the November calendar has to do with the Llucmajor intervention. The compromise that was reached once Inca (and Sineu) had failed to overturn in the courts the granting of a fair to Llucmajor in 1545 led to the scheduling of the four Inca fairs as they now are. The Thursday in November when it is held is erroneously attributed to it always being the third Thursday in the month. It isn't; it is the fourth Thursday after the feast of Saint Luke (18 October).

The first time that there is any written evidence of the name Dijous Bo comes from an 1807 work by historian Josep Barberi. This says that the Thursday fair of the sequence was locally referred to as "bo" because of the amount of business that was done. Although the word "bo" can mean good, it was taken more to mean convenient, as in suitable for purpose. A later interpretation was that it meant much or most, because of its sheer scale and therefore because it had become the most important market in Mallorca.

Despite uncertainties over its origin, there is no doubting the fact that Dijous Bo is the island's most important fair. It is also, regardless of the modernity it now has, the most traditional. How well will it be promoted?

* Dijous Bo is this coming Thursday, 17 November.

Friday, November 11, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 November 2016

Morning high (8.15am): 15.8C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 12 November - Cloud, 20C; 13 November - Cloud, 19C; 14 November - Cloud, sun, 19C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 5 to 6 veering Northeast 3 to 4 by the evening. Swells of one metre.

Nice and bright first thing. Should remain so. Weekend looking cloudy with possible showers.

Evening update (20.45): Really quite pleasant. Felt warmer than a high of 21.4C.

The Pariah Status Of Airbnb

Among all the various exhibitors at London's World Travel Market this week, there was no sign of what is arguably the most important business in the travel market right at the moment. Airbnb was not there. Why would it be there? This is a business of the internet. That is its whole point of being. Why be physical in a promotional sense?

Being a web-based operation is not, though, a reason. All tourism businesses are web-based in one way or another. Some, like Airbnb, are exclusively so, such as the Palma-based Hotelbeds, which did exhibit in London and which took the opportunity to announce that it is planning on tripling sales of its transfer and activity bank division. There again, Hotelbeds is a different business to Airbnb. It works with hotels and others, and while it does offer tourist apartments, it has always made a virtue of these being properly regulated and legal. "We can't do things any other way," has said its managing director, Carlos Muñoz.

For Hotelbeds, therefore, travel fairs are perfect opportunities to forge deals with other businesses, which is what it is constantly doing in order to grow. Airbnb does make deals, as it broadens the scope of its operation, but the core business doesn't rely on other companies - or not directly. It is dependent on private individuals. But then there also also, because it can't be denied, businesses which have multiple units of accommodation to market, whether legally or illegally.

What was a name praised and synonymous with the shared (collaborative) economy and with a new style of accommodation has now acquired - where some are concerned - pariah status. Exhibiting might just seem like a red rag to a bull. And one of the bulls might have been Palma's normally all-smiles mayor, José Hila. Prior to travelling to London, Hila was in Barcelona for a meeting of mayors from various Spanish cities. The purpose of that meeting was to discuss Airbnb.

Cities are unlikely to all adopt the same policies, but the fact that they were gathering to share experiences was taken as a sign that they are getting their act together in seeking to put pressure on Airbnb; this pressure is mounting in cities outside Spain as well. The city authority in Paris announced earlier this week that it wants to avoid a situation like that in Barcelona, where rentals are pretty much out of control despite tough action by that city's authority, and will do so by obliging Airbnb (and others) to obtain the registration number of any property that is marketed.

Systems of registration exist in various cities and destinations. There is a system in the Balearics. Regulated properties for rent have a number. The problem is of course that regardless of insistence on registration proof, there are still illegal properties. The only attempted remedy has been, as in Barcelona, to slap large fines on operators like Airbnb. These in turn run up against legal challenges, while Spain's National Competition Commission is lurking in the background and taking a highly permissive stance on services like Airbnb.

Another city that has been facing problems, as reported by the BBC this week, is Amsterdam. Other towns and cities in the Netherlands are also affected, so the government has introduced regulations by which properties can be rented out for no more than two months and for a maximum of four people. Tourist tax is then paid at the same rate as hotels. Amsterdam city spokesperson, Sebastiaan Meijer, says that the downside of the sharing economy can now be seen: properties being bought and rented out all year as an "illegal hotel". He also wonders whether people want to end up with streets having more tourists than residents. This is something being asked in many cities, not least in Palma.

The regional government has to take tough and effective action against Airbnb and other such sites. It is increasingly evident just how damaging the so-called collaborative accommodation economy is. Were it restricted, it might not be, but restrictions which exist are wholly inadequate. This has led, for instance, to the speculative purchase of properties with a single aim in mind: Sebastiaan Meijer's illegal hotels. The social distortion is obvious, with local people unable to find or afford accommodation. 

The Majorca Hoteliers Federation took time at the World Travel Market to present a report to Biel Barceló about the harmful effects. The government has responded by saying that its legislation will impose "iron restrictions" on apartments for tourist rent: they will be authorised but under tough conditions. There will be more inspections and higher fines. But we've heard all this before. What needs to be heard is effective legislation. We await it with great anticipation.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 November 2016

Morning high (7.37am): 12.8C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 11 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 12 November - Cloud, sun, 21C; 13 November - Cloud, 20C.

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

Patchy cloud first up. Should be a decent day with a good deal of sun.

Evening update (19.30): Ok sort of a day. High of 20.2C.

What Does Trump Think Of Spain?

One would have to assume that a long, long way down the list of things on Donald Trump's mind as he was preparing to speak on Wednesday morning was how it was all playing in Spain. The president-elect, not slow to resort to Twitter, has demonstrated a general lack of interest in the country if his tweets are anything to go by.

In January last year, he hashtagged Spain as in Miss Spain, having suggested that the top five in the 63rd Miss Universe contest should be - in order - USA, Thailand, Colombia, Spain and Jamaica. 

Other occasions when Spain loomed onto the Trump Twitter radar were in April 2012 when he announced how much the Obamas like Spanish vacations - the visit of Michelle and daughters in 2010 had apparently cost US taxpayers 476,000 dollars; a reference in 2013 to the Spanish government shutting down wind turbines because the cost of maintenance was higher than the income generated; one of 2012 in which he suggested that the "whole euro thing will eventually be doomed"; and a 2014 note that he was making a big speech in Barcelona before heading off to Scotland and Ireland. The big speech, which went completely unnoticed in the Spanish media, was at an international congress for sales professionals.

The tweets don't offer a great insight, if any, into Trump's thinking about Spain, other than that he indeed doesn't think about the country to any extent. The whole euro thing being doomed may yet be prophetic, but at the time he tweeted, Spain was only barely managing to avoid being on its knees and the whole euro thing did look as though it were liable to collapse. As for wind turbines, his views on alternative energies and climate change are a matter for public record, so no real surprise that he should pick up on them.

However, his views on the whole euro thing did include greater reflections on the state of Spain and its relations with the European Union at that time. The Spanish economic affairs minister, Luis de Guindos (who is keeping his position in the new cabinet), in essence has confirmed Trump's opinion. In a book he has written, de Guindos has revealed just how bad things were in 2012. At a G-20 summit, members of the Spanish delegation were seriously contemplating throwing in the euro towel. The problems posed by the Spanish economy went well beyond Europe; G-20 saw the country as a risk to global stability.

Trump also saw Spain as a land of opportunity. The reason? Plummeting real-estate values. Anti-globalist as he may appear, Trump is not the parochial individual some of the US electorate might have been led to believe; not when he owns hotels outside the US, such as Turnberry, and has licensed the Trump name to others. One of the points of speculation of his presidency to come will surely be to what extent he has at the back of his mind (or further forward than that) the Trump empire.

De Guindos, Mariano Rajoy and the Spanish government have been given a greater collective headache because of Trump's victory. If he's good to his word and goes for protectionist policies, this is not great news for Spain. Rajoy constantly appears to be head of a government needing to engage in crisis management, and these are crises not of its making. He inherited the mess in 2011. Now he has Brexit and Trump to worry about. De Guindos and others in the cabinet will be concerned that economic recovery will falter.

Rajoy was quick to go onto Twitter and to congratulate Trump on his victory. "We will continue to work to strengthen the relationship that unites us to the United States, an indispensable partner," he tweeted. Trump, at some point, is going to have to talk to Rajoy; it was best, therefore, for the Spanish premier to get in his good wishes, as he's likely to need them.

Other reaction was less positive. PSOE voiced its concern. There is now "enormous uncertainty" was one statement, although it was modified by noting confidence in the institutions and systems of control in the US democracy; Trump has yet to have to deal with these. Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos believed that liberty had been lost and protectionism had been a winner and he attacked the populism of both the right and the left. How can the lies be combated, he wonders.

One of those populists, Pablo Iglesias of Podemos, attacked Trump's xenophobia and rejected the idea that he is "anti-system". He was right, but then what will be the "system"? Rajoy needs to keep saying nice things on Twitter. Not, one imagines, that Trump will be paying a great deal of attention. He has other Spanish speakers more on his mind: down Mexico way.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 9 November 2016

Morning high (6.11am): 13.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 10 November - Sun, 19C; 11 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 12 November - Cloud, sun, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 4 to 5 increasing West-Northwest 6 to 7. Swells to two metres.

A windy day ahead. Quite sunny.

Evening update (20.00): High of 20.3C. Some sun. Windy now.

The Slow Death Of The Holiday Brochure

It was one of those annually exciting times. Off you went to the travel agents and back you came with armfuls of brochures. Hours would then be devoted to poring over their contents. Families would come together to select their favoured destination and hotel. Groups of friends would argue over the merits of one place or another. Others had no intention of going anywhere. Brochures were the closest they got to velvety white sands, turquoise seas and hotels that may or may not have actually been built.

The holiday brochure has the feeling of the past. It is somehow symbolic of the days of Cliff Michelmore and Judith Chalmers; of the days of holiday innocence and inexperience. If the brochure said there was a sea view, then it was accepted that there would be. Only on arrival did the hotel turn out to be a mile from the coast with other hotels in the way blocking what little view there might have been.

Eventually, consumer law was to bring to an end the misrepresentation. Brochures became more reliable and they also became more exotic, as did the destinations on offer. No more was it a straight fight between Mallorca and the Costa Brava. This additional lavishness spawned greater sophistication and an endless supply of imagery and verbiage. Brochure talk and brochure views demanded velvety white sands, crystal clear waters, turquoise seas. There are those - and not just brochure writers - who insist on using such hackneyed descriptions. The brochure views, depending on the market segment, also required smiling, happy families splashing at a water's edge; couples looking at each other adoringly as the sun set and the wine glass was filled; and for the youth there were riotous scenes of wet t-shirt contests.

All this talk, all these views became clichés. Destinations were indistinguishable. What mattered was the standardised marketing: families were all like those in the brochures, the children never older than ten; the couples were firmly middle-class and well-heeled; youth was boisterous but never with its arse hanging out of its shorts. They could have been anywhere.

Somewhere along the line came emotion. This represented an upping of the touchstone stakes. Thomson's 2011 telly ad with the line "holidays are the most precious time of all" did this more brilliantly than ever: it was marketing genius. Against this background, far better conveyed by audiovisual media, the brochure started to become less and less relevant. Its uni-dimensionality, its absence of interactivity, its sheer antiquity was making it redundant.

And redundant is what it is due to be, at least where Tui and Thomas Cook are concerned. Both plan to phase out brochures by 2020. They have for some while cut back on their printing and distribution in any event. Cost has been one reason; the inflexible nature of print is another. A consumer world consumed by multimedia no longer responds to the brochure in the same way. The tourist-consumer wants prior experience of what holiday experiences can be expected. It is no longer sufficient to explain how many square metres a room might have. The tourist-consumers want to be able, for example, to see what this means, and rightly so: how many people can actually conceive what x amount of square metres really represents?

A form of virtual reality is now to replace the brochure. Tui will "digitise" some 600 agencies in the UK so that the consumer, courtesy of high-definitiion technology, can "live" the destinations that are being offered: resorts themselves as well as hotel interiors and exteriors. It all makes total sense to do so and to therefore dispense with the brochure. There is no need for the velvety-white sand written cliché; the actual cliché, its very existence, can be confirmed in a virtual environment. Brochure copywriters are to be made redundant, and not before time.

But anachronistic as the brochure may be, should it pass totally into tourist marketing history? Old technologies, old ways of doing things have stubborn habits of persisting and indeed of making comebacks. Think vinyl, for example. Downloads cannot aspire to match the mystery of the LP cover, the smell of the cover and the hugeness of 33 rpm. Newspapers have yet to succumb to the threat of the internet; likewise books have staved off the advances of Kindle. People, consumers continue to have a taste for the physical, and this isn't simply a generational thing; the young take to vinyl partly because of its curiosity, partly because of its sound, partly because of its aesthetics.

These, however, are products. A brochure is not. It sells a product. And for any business with a view on the bottom line, the cost of sales and ultimate profit will always outweigh a nostalgic hankering for paper. The brochure is going. How many will mourn its passing?

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 November 2016

Morning high (7.52am): 8.6C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 9 November - Cloud, sun, 20C; 10 November - Cloud, sun, 19C; 11 November - Cloud, 21C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 backing Northwest in the afternoon. Swells reaching two metres.

Damp and chilly first thing; there has been rain. May be some more but with any luck getting brighter during the morning.

Evening update (19.30): High of 16.6C. More rain at times, heavier in Puerto Pollensa than elsewhere. Some sunny spells.

Spain Is Not Croatia: Tourism ministers

Tourism is an odd thing politically. Important as it is, it isn't generally granted high political status. In the European Union, there appear to be only three countries which have a minister devoted to tourism alone: Bulgaria, Croatia and Malta. The latter of these is never mentioned in discussions of Mallorca and Spain's competitor destinations, but the first two most certainly are. The advances of their sun-and-beach tourism have been plotted strategically around the cabinet table.

There are other countries which relegate tourism to a lowly political level. The UK is one of them. It has a parliamentary under secretary of state for sport, tourism and heritage: Tracey Crouch, whose CV suggests that her knowledge of tourism is significantly less than her knowledge of football.

For the most part, EU nations place tourism within ministries which have cabinet status. In Germany, as an example, tourism comes under the ministry of economic affairs and energy. The French find a place for tourism in the foreign ministry. The nation which receives more tourists than anywhere else - France - doesn't have a dedicated minister.

Spain doesn't have a specific minister either. There was hope, prior to the announcement of the new cabinet, that it would. In the end Mariano Rajoy lumped tourism together with energy (as had previously been the case) and with the "digital agenda". In so doing, Rajoy failed to remove the potential conflict of responsibilities which dogged José Manuel Soria and that caused the disputes with the Balearics over oil. The apparent need for tourism to co-exist with energy is a source of bafflement. There again, what's good for the Germans ... even if tourism in that country is delegated downwards from the cabinet table. It could be more baffling: in Luxembourg, hive of tourist activity as it is, they have a minister for tourism, housing and, bizarrely enough, the middle classes.

At least tourism is directly represented at the Spanish cabinet table, when it is not in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia.

EU countries clearly have varying degrees of economic dependence on tourism. In Spain, it contributes 11.5% of GDP, a percentage that rises dramatically according to region, such as the Balearics. This is greater than in France, where it is just under 10%, but well below Croatia with 20%. In a Daily Telegraph list of the twenty countries on the planet most reliant on tourism, Croatia sits at number eighteen. Malta is five places above it. No wonder they have dedicated tourism ministers.

Of the major economic powers in the EU, Spain's dependence on tourism is the greatest; Italy lags behind by around one per cent. Although high, this dependence is not as fundamental as in, say, Croatia. But GDP figures can explain only so much. There is the indirect contribution as well and perhaps just as importantly there is the social and psychological contribution. While miscreants are going around daubing anti-tourist slogans - and not just in Palma - no one can (or should) forget that it was tourism above all that turned Spain into a major economic power. It is in the national psyche, therefore, which maybe helps to explain the degree to which a ministerial appointment has been discussed. The column inches have been numerous, the analysis of the new minister has been intense. The debate as to the need to a dedicated tourism minister continues, though some are counting blessings that Rajoy didn't go back to how things were for a time under Zapatero when there was no cabinet representation.

Yet it remains something of a mystery as to why tourism doesn't enjoy greater status in political affairs. Alvaro Nadal, the new minister, has said that "tourism is our jewel in the crown that has a snowball effect on the whole of the economy". Quite so; 11.5% of GDP does indeed explain only so much. Moreover, as Rajoy sought to bring Spain out of economic crisis, he repeatedly referred - quite correctly - to tourism being the motor of the economy. Its reward is to be allied to the nation's digitalisation and energy needs. It doesn't appear to make sense.

Nadal has also said that there is a need for tourism to be given "a strong impulse to reinvent itself". What does he mean by this? Is the sector not already heading in new directions of diversification and greater quality? In the Balearics, we'd like to believe so. But then, the Balearics are not Extremadura or Castile and Leon.

Spain's tourism diversity is vast. And herein perhaps lies the rub. While Balearic tourism interests must at all costs be defended, these interests are not as reliant on a national minister as is the case with other regions. The islands arguably have far more need of a national energy minister, so long as he doesn't want to start drilling for oil.