Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Renting The Tramuntana

What does someone who organises an event called Foro Vacacional do after he leaves the organisation he was organising it on behalf of? Answer: he becomes the head of the Foro Vacacional, he being Juan Estarellas, the former president (founder) of the Aptur holiday rentals' association. The Foro is more than just an event, it is a body which promotes a professionalisation of the rentals' market.

Estarellas stepped down as president of Aptur just after a forum took place in February. Aptur had been the organiser of the forum. Aptur and the forum can seem as though they are much the same, even if they are not.

The world of holiday rentals in Mallorca (and the Balearics) might appear to be a small one, given the apparent ubiquity of Sr. Estarellas, but small it has ceased to be, as I think we all know. It is big business, and just to prove the point, businesses involved with that February forum were none other than Airbnb, Booking.com and HomeAway.

These three giants of the online rentals' market (aka collaborative economy) provided data with which Aptur, sorry, Foro Vacacional was able to announce at the same time as there was another forum (this one for the Tramuntana mountains) that holiday rentals generate 283 million euros in the Tramuntana each year. In fact, they apparently generate 1,700 million euros in total across the seventeen municipalities under consideration. Eh?

This higher figure was excluded from at least two reports of this income - one of which I wrote. It was difficult to understand whether the lower amount was just spending on staying in actual properties and so therefore the higher one was total revenue from spending (restaurants, shops, etc.). Whatever it was for, are we really to believe that in each of the seventeen municipalities there is on average a nice round annual revenue of 100 million euros?

These figures, however one looks at them, are astronomical. They may well be right, but the problem as ever is that numbers are tossed about and inevitably invite some scepticism. Designed to highlight current economic benefit and potential future benefit, they can either be taken as being impressive or somewhat alarming. As with other parts of the island, there are concerns about the Tramuntana being overrun by tourism and not just the tourism staying in a mountain holiday rental property.

The Foro Vacacional study suggests that cycling tourism brings in some 150 million euros on its own (this is a figure, it would appear, for the whole island or possibly the Balearics). Cycling tourism is viewed as a growth sector for the Tramuntana. Hence, and as part of the ongoing professionalism, rental properties in the mountains will be able to classify themselves as cycling friendly and be graded according to facilities. Which is fine, but this inevitably raises - yet again - the issue of saturation. The number of cyclists on roads in the mountains is something that has concerned various town halls, Escorca most certainly. In Bunyola, the town hall is having to take measures against the "invasion" of bikes in the main square.

The growth of rentals' tourism, of whatever type, has proved to be extremely beneficial to municipalities without a great deal of tourism. Selva is an example. So successful has the promotion of the town been, however, that the town hall has become alarmed at the pressure being placed on infrastructure - roads, water supplies and so on. The massive increase in properties for rent has caught the town hall on the hop.

Fornalutx is another case. Courtesy of a poster having been installed in the town hall the other day, it has now officially become one of the limited number of Spain's prettiest villages (the only one in Mallorca or the Balearics). Criteria for this award include traffic and cleanliness. But doesn't Fornalutx run the risk of encountering similar issues to Selva from the publicity given to its newly acquired status and from the onward march of rentals? Might its virtuous prettiness in fact prove to be a burden?

This said, one comes back to the figures. Foro Vacacional excluded Calvia from the list of municipalities because of the distortion created by the Calvia resorts. But there is distortion elsewhere, Pollensa being the prime example. It, as has been well reported, has more rentals' places than hotel places. In this regard, it is unique among the island's main tourism municipalities.

The distribution is, therefore, highly uneven. Andratx, Pollensa and Soller must surely account for the bulk of this Tramuntana rentals' trade. But will the potential future trade across the Tramuntana be realised? Foro Vacacional will hope so, and the upcoming legislation (zoning and all) might well add to this hope. However, while the likes of Pollensa can absorb this trade, would villages right in the mountains be able to do likewise?

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