Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 October 2017

Morning high (6.15am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 1 November - Cloud, sun, 22C; 2 November - Cloud, sun, 24C; 3 November - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Should be a reasonable enough day. Possible risk of a shower for any ghoulish activities this evening.

Evening update (20.15): Quite pleasant. Not particularly warm - high of 21.4C.

From Samhain To Dark Night: Halloween

There is, one feels, still a sense in Mallorca that Halloween isn't really anything to do with Mallorca. Natives of a certain tradition look on aghast as supermarkets mount displays of ghoulish costumes, secure in a belief that it is all a terrifying Anglo-Saxon import running amok in the invention of customs - commercialised ones in particular. So while the ubiquitous DJ Juan Campos will tonight be trawling his database in search of witch-themed tunes with which to bedevil Son Amar's already wicked Vampirika, the hardy traditionalists will be sticking to the view that witches only emerge in Mallorca on one of the two nights of fire in January and June.

One doesn't really need reminding that the Anglo-Saxon angle isn't entirely accurate. It was the Celts who started it all and Christianity eventually got round to borrowing All Hallows' Eve from the Scots. Whatever ancient Celtic blood may still circulate in the veins of Mallorcans, it has been diluted by many, many centuries of cultural solution. As prehistoric Mallorca owed something to migrant Celtic tribes, then there is a loose - very loose - family connection to the Scots.

The distance of millennia, however, has meant that the correct version of a Mallorca 31 October is its function as the eve of All Saints. While there are examples of paganism that can be said to survive, albeit highly modified, in certain Mallorcan traditions, an acknowledgement of Halloween isn't one of them. In Christian terms, All Saints' Eve was a necessary precursor to the Christian invention of All Saints' Day (some time in the fourth century, or so it would seem). But in a way, given a Mallorcan fascination for the demonic and a dark side, Halloween's pagan origins would fit nicely. The Celtic winter started with Samhain (1 November insofar as there was a 1 November), so the eve of Samhain was the occasion for sacrifice and for allowing the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes, the connection having been made between the death of summer and human death.

As an aside, it is interesting that 1 November in Mallorca should now represent the official start of the winter tourism season, given that 31 October is the final day of the official summer season. But let's not dwell on the Day of the Dead being a metaphor for tourism's low period of the year. And in any event, the Day of the Dead isn't 1 November; it is 2 November, All Souls' Day.

It is perhaps easier to consider Halloween as part of the three-day Allhallowtide, given the degree to which the dead are the common theme and can move from one day to the other. Tradition thus decrees, for instance, the legacy of the "pa dels morts", the bread of the dead. It has been noted that the placing of bread on a tomb on All Souls' Day was a custom from at least the mid-fourteenth century. "Panetets de mort" have over the centuries ceased to be bread-based and have been transformed into something tastier - and sweeter. Rosaries of sweets that can include chocolate coins, marzipan and what have you seem to have their origins in these distant-time panetets, which were strung together like beads. Having a hole to allow them to be held together may also explain the preference for bunyol doughnuts with a hole in the middle over the Allhallowtide festivities.

That grand oracle of all things Mallorcan and Balearic, the Archduke Louis Salvador, does perhaps provide one of the better insights into how Halloween was in the final years of the nineteenth century. Or rather, wasn't. He confirms the view that not a lot was ever made of All Hallows' Eve, but the rest of Allhallowtide was a different matter. On All Souls' Day, noted the Archduke, "it is a general custom to hear at least one mass for the souls of deceased relatives and to visit the cemetery where candles are lit on many graves".

The Archduke in fact made quite a study of the treatment of death and the dead in Mallorca, which is probably a story for another time. Suffice it to say that he wouldn't have encountered the "Nit Fosca", a recent tradition which - as far as I can make out - is confined to Pollensa.

"Nit fosca (de l'ànima)" means the dark night (of the soul). In its strictest form, it refers to a spiritual crisis along the journey to the union with God. I can't say for certain that this is where they got hold of the title in Pollensa, but "nit fosca" is nevertheless appropriate enough for modern-day ghoulishness at Halloween. And yes, on Halloween, they have a dark night - a night of terror. This is for young and old, and the old (fifteen years or older) take their turn in indulging in this terror from half nine until midnight. Such is the terror, one is advised, that it is not an event recommended for those with a heart condition.

Just as well to be forewarned, one supposes. There are enough dead as it is at this time of year.

* The video is of Nit Fosca in Pollensa, 2014.

Monday, October 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 October 2017

Morning high (7.22am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 31 October - Cloud, sun, 21C; 1 November - Cloud, sun, 23C; 2 November - Sun, cloud, 23C

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

Starting out fine, but rain quite possible at any time today.

Evening update (20.00): Well that wasn't quite right. Nice and sunny until around mid-aftemoon. Clouded over but no rain. High of 25.2C. 

The Christmas Lottery Is Cancelled

God, does Rajoy know what he's done by pressing the 155 button and preparing to send in the entire Spanish army plus the Armada to blockade and lay siege to Barcelona? He's only gone and put the mockers on the Christmas lottery, that's what.

Where has been the dialogue? Where have been the attempts at consensus? Rajoy has steadfastly refused to listen to Més, who held in their hands the means of preventing 155. Press the button, Super Mariano, and we won't sell tickets for the Christmas lottery. But no, Super's gone and done it, so the Balearics are to be deprived of putting pennies (bundles of euros to be precise) in an old fat man's hat and getting fat on the geese and winnings.

Moreover, Més were warning that lottery deprivation is not the only measure they're contemplating. How can Rajoy not take account of Més? Does he not realise that, for instance, the party's Menorcan wing hoovered up three seats in parliament on the basis of 6,568 votes? That's real people power, Super, you should take note. Visca Catalunya! Visca the Balearic Republic of Més! And visca also the splendours of D'Hondt and PR that delivered unto us three Més Menorca MPs, plus their six some-time buddies in Mallorca - Biel et al.

What further measures might Més now adopt? With their 13.8% of the electorate barred from the lottery, will the faithful be persuaded to divert their lottery euros to bolstering the ecotax fund, so that Biel can move the "purposes" goal posts once again and bet all the revenue on arming the Més Republican Army? Will David Abril unilaterally declare independence from himself?

Mariano really should have been aware. Just a month or so ago, Més joined hands and sang out for democracy and Catalonia in the home town of Sweet and Friendly Francina (who obviously wouldn't have attended even if she had been invited, which she wouldn't have been). There they all were in Inca - Biel, Mick of the Council, Mother Santiago, Vince at Environment, Guillem of Alaro - putting the fine touches to a Més strategy later to become resistance to 155. We're not selling any lottery tickets, Rajoy, they agreed. The Spanish nation will thus be brought to its knees. Not that there was much Spanish nation in Inca.

Més had sent "observers" to Catalonia during all the trouble and strife leading up to the fateful utterance of independence. Més had also been piling the pressure on poor old Frankie Antich. The Menorcan wing (6,568 votes) was issuing dire warnings - again - about its relationship with its "partners" (i.e. Francina and PSOE) in the Balearic government if Frankie said yes to 155. In the end, the old boy managed to get lost in the corridors of the Senate and failed to put in an appearance. Diplomatic absence, one might call it.

But now it's happened, what next? It's all well and good Super sacking Carles, but will Carles take it to a tribunal for unfair dismissal? And which tribunal? Where? Carles clearly hasn't thought about that. Nor, one imagines, has Mariano. The case could drag on for years.

What will become of the Catalonia stand at the World Travel Market next month? Will Biel relocate what remains of Balearic tourism and install the Balearic stand within one for the glory of the Catalan Lands? And what's with all the various "requests" that the Catalonia parliament is making of the Catalonia government (such as it is)? There's more than a touch of brass neck to be requesting that the government initiates procedures for dual nationality. Brass neck and a lack of coherence. Isn't the whole point about independence that there are separate nations?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 October 2017

Morning high (6.25am): 12.1C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 30 October - Cloud, 24C; 31 October - Cloud, sun, 21C; 1 November - Cloud, sun, 22C

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

Clocks back, but at this time - before half six - still just about dark, with some stars in what seems to be a clear sky. Should be sunny and pretty warm today. Tomorrow looking wet.

Evening update (19.00): Pretty good - high of 27.8C.

The Evil Count Of Galatzó

"Where the legend gathers, its indecency at its most horrendous, is the backdrop of the mountains and oak woods of Galatzó, where the vulture is still dark, stains of dead flesh and bones unburied, those brave ones who confronted the furies of its lord."

This is an approximate translation of a verse from a poem by Guillem Colom i Ferrà.  It comes from a collection published in 1950 with the title El Comte Mal, poema en dotze cants, the poem of twelve songs about the Evil Count. Colom's poem is just one of a number of works about this count, whose legend lies deep in the consciousness of Mallorcan folklore and which, as is often the case with this folklore, is borrowed culture from Catalonia.

The Galatzó finca, acquired by Calvia town hall some ten years or so ago, is sometimes referred to as one of the gateways to the Tramuntana mountains. Of various hiking trails within Calvia and into the bordering municipalities of Andratx, Estellencs and Puigunyent, the finca is a dominant feature. But while it reveals its flora and fauna and its reminders of times past with dry-stone huts and charcoal-burning ovens, it hides a legend that is engraved into folk tradition.

Where does one start with this legend? It can be traced back to the Mataplana family, the first documentary evidence of whom is from the late eleventh century. Hugo V de Mataplana was among the invasion force of Jaume I in 1229. The count of the legend was Hugo VII, or at least he was to provide the context. It seems, insofar as it is ever possible to distinguish between legend and reality, that he was mistaken for another count - Arnau, a despotic lord who violated the daughter of the Viscount of Albesa. Arnau himself is not so distant, in legendary terms, from Hellequin of Boulogne (the source of the Harlequin), who gave rise to a legend of devils in the ninth century.

Arnau was to enter Catalan mythology as a rich nobleman whose numerous sins included a relationship with an abbess. For his sins he was condemned for all eternity. His soul was to be in permanent pain as he rode a black horse with flames coming out of its mouth and eyes. He and the horse were accompanied by a pack of wild and "diabolical" (devilish) dogs.

The legend of Comte Arnau, the Comte Mal, took hold in the Catalonia of the fourteenth century. By then, the links with Mallorca were well-established, so it is reasonable to assume that the Evil Count slipped into local folklore at some point between 600 and 700 years ago. Far more recently, as in the first half of the nineteenth century, there were two literary works which were to definitively establish the legend of the count. These were La Cruz de Calatrava o el Conde Malo by Juan A. Ferrer de Sant Jordi y Vives and Las bodas del Conde Malo (the wedding of the evil count) by José Maria Quadrado.

The work by Ferrer, the "cross of Calatrava", apparently drew on the story of a housekeeper who at night would hear the rattling of the devil's chains that had shackled the evil nobleman. While the real origin of the works by both these authors was Comte Arnau, he had morphed into the Conde de Santa María de Formiguera, otherwise known as Ramon Zaforteza, a member of one of Mallorca's most important noble families.

To cut a very long story short, Zaforteza was at the centre of a seventeenth-century clash that arose from the family imposing its jurisdiction over the town of Santa Margalida. There were a number of violent episodes and deaths on both sides in the argument. It was because of this that he was to eventually come to be known as the Comte Mal. This was despite his notable later attempts to restore the prestige he had lost because of the incidents in Santa Margalida. One of these was an extension to Can Formiguera, a building close to the Cathedral in Palma, the tower of which was supposedly created so that he could observe a young nun from the Order of Saint Claire, with whom he was in love.

There are folk tales about this building - that there was an underground gallery that connected it to the convent and that Zaforteza received the assistance of the devil in building the tower. But most importantly, there was the tale of the Evil Count's horse. It was ridden on one of the Zaforteza estates - the one-time farmstead that is now the finca of Galatzó.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 October 2017

Morning high (7.05am): 19.9C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 29 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 30 October - Cloud, 22C; 31 October - Sun, cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 7 easing North 3 by the evening. Waves of three metres.

Very mild morning. Expect it to be quite breezy today, and the northerlies may be a little chilly.

Evening update (20.15): High of 22.3C. Pleasant enough.

Tourist Tax Logic

So, the tourist tax is not to go up during the low season. Despite the pressure from Podemos for an all-year doubling, the government has determined that it is wise to leave the tax as it is - 50% off the current summer rate. Greater wisdom, it might be argued, would have been displayed if the tax had been scrapped for the low season. The government, ministers Barceló and Cladera at any rate, suggested that keeping the existing rate will not make a significant difference to anticipated revenue in 2018. This said much for the lack of low-season tourism. It also, logically, would not make a significant difference if there were no low-season tax.

Logic, where Barceló was concerned, had to do with the "Better in Winter" campaign. Quite. So why was an increase to the low-season rate ever contemplated in the first place? There is another form of logic that Barceló is not telling us about. This is the political logic of the realities of the government and parliament. Who was it who had originally called for a freezing of the low-season rate? Més in Menorca, that's who. Més, in its combined Mallorca-Menorca form, is deeply divided. The Menorcans are not forgiving the way in which Ruth Mateu is taking the rap for the Més contracts' affair. Their three parliamentary deputies can make life awkward for the government, if they so choose; they having formally split from Més in Mallorca - Barceló's domain. The logic has as much to do with realpolitik as it does with any tourism policy.

In addition, there is the logic that will confront Barceló next month at the World Travel Market in London. It would make no sense to go there and attempt to convince tour operators to assist in his fantasy of "diverting" large numbers of tourists away from spring and summer to autumn and winter, if at the same time he is having to explain a doubling of the low-season rate. Again, one has to wonder why this doubling was even considered.

Yet another aspect is the policy of tourism responsibility transfers to the island councils. Barceló referred to different low-season circumstances in Formentera, Ibiza and Menorca. The least one can say about this is that a tourism minister has for once recognised that there are three other islands. But with the islands now far more to the fore in shaping their own destinies and their promotion, a "tax break" makes political sense. Inherent to what he said, however, was a suggestion that Mallorca is that much better off than the other islands in the low season. It is better off, but all things are relative. His observation smacked of a magnanimity that disguised Mallorca's own, long-standing low-season failings.

A certain amount of publicity given this week to the introduction of a tourist tax in Greece next year will not have done Barceló's London mission any harm. This said, the Greek tax has been known about for several months. The rates are similar to the new ones in the Balearics, though oddly enough they apply only to hotels. One can imagine the Greek hoteliers crying the same foul as Balearic hoteliers did with the old ecotax: the foul of discrimination in favour of other forms of accommodation. Still, there is to be a tax in Greece, and where are the howls of reproach in the foreign media that are vented when Mallorca gets an increased tax? Corfu, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes and Zante just don't cut it in the same media way as Mallorca.

Barceló, in a sense, can also thank the Catalonia crisis as this will overshadow all else in London. However, he might just find "Better in Winter" taking a knock from an independence movement that he personally endorses. The World Travel & Tourism Council brings together 150 of the most powerful companies in the sector. Its president, Gloria Guevera, was warning earlier this week of a "domino effect" from the crisis that will hit other Spanish destinations. It is being suggested that Spain's tourist total for this year might not after all top the 80 million mark because of a slump in fourth-quarter tourism. Then there is next year to be concerned about.

Friday, October 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 October 2017

Morning high (6.43am): 11.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 28 October - Sun, cloud, wind, 23C; 29 October - Sun, cloud, 23C; 30 October - Cloud, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3 increasing North 4 to 5 by the evening.

Yet another perfect autumn day in store. Better forecast now for tomorrow, though there is an alert in place for wind.

Evening update (20.00): Phew - high of 28.6C.

Ten Per Cent Swings In The Season

One does have to be careful with anecdotal evidence. There's plenty of it around. It is of the things-are-so-quiet variety; the never-known-it-like-this sort (in a negative way).

The season is drawing towards its official close. Over the past few weeks, from September onwards there has been this evidence. But it can depend. Let me supply my own contrary evidence. In Alcudia on Tuesday last week I observed how busy things were. It was hard to remember there having been so many coaches this late in the season. There was agreement, one response having to do with the ongoing problem of parking: there were just so many cars around.

A day or so later there was a post on Facebook. It came from a bar. Other bar owners chipped in. They couldn't recall a busier October. These weren't "newbie" bar owners. They've been in Alcudia for years. They've known the very best and the very worst of times. Moreover, they are bars in the main tourism centre, where all-inclusive dominates. What was going on, someone asked. Something must be right for there to be this many people, for business to be as brisk in mid to late October.

A further piece of evidence was at Bellevue, the giant complex of economy-class, overwhelmingly but not exclusively all-inclusive offer. With the capacity for up to 5,000 guests, it isn't necessary to keep all the seventeen blocks open as the season winds down. Yet they only started closing them a week or so back. They would normally have been closed earlier. The solitary bar that serves the outlying part of Bellevue, which is shut down before any other parts, only closed a few days ago. It was a long season for the bar. Uncommonly so.

Two weeks ago there was a report with a headline which referred to a bad end to the season. Evidence was supplied by the Mallorca restaurants association and by one of the associations which represents smaller retailers. Of the two I'm more inclined to listen to the former. The retailers bleat so often that their words are lost amidst their constant complaints and their unwillingness to admit that there is oversupply of non-differentiated offer and fierce market dynamics of the internet and shopping malls. I've all but given up with them. The restaurants, on the other hand, are worthy of attention. Business from September onwards was down ten per cent.

Yet this same report said that in early season - March to May - there had been increases in turnover of up to ten per cent. How does one explain the apparent difference, as explained by these associations, with September and October? September, in particular, is a month always anticipated by businesses. The tourist profile changes from the predominantly family one of August, which isn't typically a high-spending segment. As far as the associations are concerned, the main reason was the lack of tourist spending power. Are tourists in September and October that different to those in April and May that they can mean a yo-yo of up ten and down ten per cent? Generally speaking, they are not.

Lower tourist spending has become the accepted excuse for when things aren't as good as might be hoped. This lower spending can be related to all-inclusive or not. But something happened between spring and autumn which may offer more light on the swing in spending - the holiday rentals' legislation.

One again relies on mostly anecdotal evidence, but there is plenty which suggests that the legislation has had a dramatic impact. With apartments being pulled from the market, it would seem that a good deal of business has dried up, or at least this is the impression formed in those areas with a high reliance on rentals, such as Puerto Pollensa and even Palma.

It is useful to note that Alcudia ranks only three places below Pollensa in a national analysis of the proliferation of holiday rentals per head of population. Alcudia has the fourth highest level in the whole of Spain. But on the basis of what one sees and hears (and even now, closer to the end of the month, things still seem unusually busy), Alcudia is doing well where Pollensa is not.

The number of hotel places is markedly different, yet so many of these places are all-inclusive. So, what gives? Once more, it may well all depend, and much will depend on the sheer level of demand. Where hotel occupancy remains comparatively high right up to the end of the season, general business is ok, regardless of all-inclusive. The other part of the equation must be holiday rentals, and one really does begin to wonder what effect there will be next year. There was a mid-season shock in the form of the legislation. Will that shock persist next year and right through the season?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 October 2017

Morning high (7.21am): 12.7C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 October - Sun, 26C; 28 October - Cloud, 23C; 29 October - Cloud, sun, 23C

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

Another sunny day to come. Very moderate breezes.

Evening update (19.45): Very fine. High of 27.3C.

2019 Elections: Change Or No Change?

Starting with the obvious caveat that polls aren't always accurate, the one conducted by the Balearic Institute of Social Studies for voting intentions in Palma does make for interesting reading.

Palma town hall has twenty-nine councillors. The election in 2015 returned the following: nine Partido Popular; six PSOE; five Més; five Podemos; four Ciudadanos (C's). The ruling administration at the town hall therefore changed from one with a PP majority to what there is now - a pact between PSOE, Més and Podemos. In order to form a majority, there need to be fifteen councillors. The pact was able to deliver this plus one.

The poll by the institute asked about voting intentions were there to be an election now - the actual election isn't until May 2019. It found increased support for the PP, PSOE, the C's and for El Pi, who don't currently have a councillor. Més and Podemos, on the other hand, saw their support drop. The maths of this poll indicate that the pact could continue, despite the loss of one councillor by both Més and Podemos. One more for PSOE would push the total to fifteen, just scraping a majority.

An alternative conclusion, thanks to the workings of the D'Hondt method of allocating seats under proportional representation, is that the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos might both gain one seat and El Pi might win one. Were that to be the case, then a three-way coalition of the centre-right could replace the current pact.

The institute has also conducted a poll for voting intentions for the Council of Mallorca, where the pact mirrors that of Palma town hall. And the findings of the poll pretty much mirror the Palma poll. Més and Podemos are both down by one seat; PSOE may gain one; the C's are up (possibly by two); El Pi, which have representation at the Council, remain the same, as do the PP. If the poll is accurate, then PSOE would need to gain in order for the pact to survive. There are 33 seats at the Council of Mallorca, of which PSOE, Més and Podemos currently have eighteen. It is possible they could miss establishing a majority by one, while a combination of the PP, C's and El Pi would have a majority.

In June there was a mid-term poll for the Balearic parliament. While Podemos isn't formally part of the government, its seats are what put PSOE and Més into government in 2015. The June poll suggests that the pact wouldn't survive, with Més and Podemos both losing two seats and PSOE losing one. For the centre-right, there were gains for the C's and El Pi; the PP stayed where they are with twenty seats.

What these polls all indicate is that the next elections are going to be very difficult to call. They show a general ebbing away of support for Més and Podemos, but perhaps most significantly they do not reveal any sign of a recovery by the PP. An assumption that some have been making - an erroneous one in my view, and backed up by these polls - is that the PP will just walk back into power in 2019. This is what happened in 2003 and 2011 after the previous PSOE-led governments, but at present it would appear that the PP would need to rely on D'Hondt falling favourably for them and the C's and El Pi being prepared to make pacts.

It's revealing to look back and see what opinion polling was like at the mid-term of the Bauzá PP government. There was a very different picture. The PP had lost six to seven seats, meaning they were below the majority of thirty. It was to get much worse for the PP. They lost fifteen seats at the election itself, and they are now - according to the opinion poll - stuck on that twenty.

So, two years can make a difference - positively, negatively or even through the unexpected. When that mid-term poll in 2013 was carried out, Podemos weren't around. In the space of two years they emerged from nowhere to get ten seats in the Balearic parliament.

There won't be a repeat of the surprise package in 2019, so will there be anything to disrupt the patterns revealed by these polls? One factor that I have highlighted previously is the new deal for Balearic financing. If it comes through and is favourable, the electorate may look upon it with favour as well, though it would be more of a PSOE achievement than one of Més (or Podemos).

As for the PP, they are going to have do something pretty remarkable over the next eighteen months or so, and with Biel Company showing little evidence of being a dynamic leader, I'm far from convinced that they will improve their position to any significant extent.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2017

Morning high (7.23am): 11.2C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 26 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 27 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 28 October - Cloud, 24C

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

Sunny, sunny, sunny.

Evening update (20.00): Very nice. High of 26.9C.

The Non-Communication Of The Tourist Tax

There was a gathering last week of representatives of Spain's overseas tourism offices. They met with the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, and there were people from the government in attendance as well. The acting president of the federation, Gabriel Llobera, called for regional government "responsibility" apropos the tourist tax. Which meant that he didn't want it to be increased. Fat chance of that, chum, the revenue's already been marked down in the government's budget and spending plan for 2018. He proposed that Madrid be asked for more money instead of the tax losing "our clients". Where's he been? This government has spent its entire period in office asking, nay demanding that Madrid hands over more cash.

The tourist tax, in Llobera's view, is clearly a form of general revenue-raising. The government of course denies this, which is why it's doubling the rate next year. It, the government, takes us all for fools. Of course it's revenue-raising, however much it might be glossed up with the vagueness of the constant chanting of sustainability, etc., etc.

The director of the Munich office, Álvaro Blanco, said that German tourists are accustomed to paying this type of tax. While true that there has long been a tax on hotel stays in Germany (which applies to everyone), it's only modest. There is being accustomed to paying a tax, and there is being accustomed to paying one at a particular rate. Biel Barceló recently came out with the ridiculous statement that the Balearic tax was "the cheapest, the lowest in Europe and even when it is doubled, it is still going to be relatively cheap in comparison". Taken for fools.

Blanco then went on to say that the most important thing was "to communicate what is done with the money". He added: "It's important that it goes towards projects which give added value to the tourist." Communicate. Now, there would be a novelty.

The tourism director-general, Pilar Carbonell, was at that gathering. She said that the government is "totally transparent" in respect of tourist tax collection and the allocations for spending. However, she admitted that "the government has failed to communicate where the tax money goes, and we have to rectify this". Carbonell pointed out that there is a web page with the information about tax spending, "but people don't know about it". As far as self-condemnation of an inability to communicate effectively goes, then this took some beating.

The director-general is right. There is a web page, but it takes a lot of finding. The government's website reflects the government's own labyrinthine organisational structure. Nothing, or very little, is easy to locate. I went hunting for it the other day. I wanted a complete list of the projects for the spending of the tourist tax revenue raised this year. All I got was the list for last year. Having made the announcement of this year's spending round last Monday, you would think that there would be a post that itemises it. Things obviously take a bit of time.

It isn't just that there is a failure to communicate. The communication which exists is lamentable, not least in terms of the transparency. Why, for example, do some projects not receive funding? It's no use the government pointing to its multi-page plan with its equations and specifications. No one, other than me, is going to bother wading through that lot. Even if they do, they still won't know the answer. And I don't.

Carbonell says that communication should all be about showing how tax money is "improving and preserving our destination". Fine, then each project should come replete with an explanation as to how. And all the projects should be clearly set out and available as information. It might help if the government had any proper social media means of doing so. But it doesn't. Its communication is wretched. Or should one say that it is wretchedly limited. The government's Facebook page, in Catalan of course, is asking the citizens their preferences for the seventy projects to receive tourist tax funding. Isn't this a bit late? The projects have been decided.

Participation is a different side to the communication coin. Podemos have called for there to be citizen participation in tourist tax-spending decision-making. Perhaps there should be, though given experiences with this participation in Palma - absurdly low numbers of people voting for projects from the 900 grand set aside for the "people's projects" - there could be little confidence in there being meaningful participation.

And what of the people who pay the tax? Should their views be taken into account? Maybe they should be, but one suspects that elements - politically and within society - might object. Moreover, how could tourists determine whether 4.7 million for a finca in Arta is worthwhile funding? They will just have to accept that it is worthwhile and that it is they who are paying for it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2017

Morning high (7.35am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 26 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 27 October - Sun, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4. Swells of one to two metres.

Should be a decent day. Bit breezy from the north perhaps.

Evening update (20.15): Pretty good - high of 24.7C.

The End Of Tourism

In 1983 the first Balearic government was formed. In addition to the president, Gabriel Cañellas, and the vice-president, Joan Rotger, there were nine ministers. Two of these ministers had one portfolio only. Jaume Llompart was the interior  minister and Jaume Cladera was the tourism minister. Debate will always be had on such matters, but Cladera is often held up as having been the Balearics best tourism minister. He went into the job holding an advantage that no others since have been able to claim. He was from the tourism industry and had been closely involved with the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) prior to his being made minister and the tourist board losing most of its role for promoting tourism, something it had been doing for almost eighty years.

Cladera was to remain tourism minister throughout the period of the second Cañellas administration of 1987 to 1991 and into the third, during which he was replaced by Joan Flaquer. Subsequent governments had their tourism ministers, and while there were to be other sole ministerial responsibilities, e.g. for health, tourism stood on its own. From 1983 to 2007 there were ministers who only had responsibility for tourism. No other ministry had such consistency of function.

When the 2007 administration of Francesc Antich came along, the PSOE-Unió Mallorquina-PSM Mallorcan socialist pact combined tourism for the first time. Employment and training were grafted on. The Bauzá government from 2011 changed things. Although Carlos Delgado and then Jaime Martínez also had responsibility for sport, tourism was pretty much restored to how it had previously been. Then came the current government. Biel Barceló is the government vice-president, he is the minister for innovation and research, and he is the minister for tourism.

The Antich PSOE-led government from 1999 hadn't tampered with the previous model, though the strategic importance of tourism for that administration took on a different complexion: Celestí Alomar was the minister who introduced the original ecotax. The two other PSOE pacts have tampered, and there might just be more to come.

Barceló, in announcing the formalisation of procedures to transfer tourism promotion responsibilities to the island councils and the downgrading of the role of the Balearic Tourism Agency, let it slip that he thought that after the 2019 election there might not be a tourism ministry. In other words, tourism would be rolled into another. It might, for example, be how tourism is currently treated by the Council of Mallorca - a subsidiary responsibility under the umbrella of economic affairs and finance.

One of the more extraordinary aspects of the suggestion that tourism will be further diminished at ministerial level is that it seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Yet it would break with 36 years of ministerial and government tradition and would, moreover, be highly symbolic. Barceló, one assumes, said this with one eye on Més and the pact still being in power after the next election. The Partido Popular, one would also assume, would not reduce tourism in the same way. Therefore, can we conclude that the very idea that tourism ceases to be a ministry in its own right and that there is no longer a minister with a specific tourism portfolio is an indication of what this current government really thinks about tourism?

The suggestion is even more extraordinary when one considers the fact that there has been a great deal of pressure placed on the national government to have a minister with sole tourism responsibility. In the Balearics, where in comparative GDP terms tourism is vastly more significant than it is nationally, a tourism minister hasn't just been important, it has been imperative.

One accepts that the island councils are to assume greater powers, but the transfer of these should not mean that the regional government abandons a ministerial function. Tourism is simply too important to be consumed by another ministry. It should not be allowed to become a component of, say, a general industry ministry, as it is an industry that stands apart from and above all other industry. Tourism is the Balearics, the Balearics is tourism, regardless of the attitude of this current government.

With the transfer for powers, one can understand that the current ministry of tourism, innovation and research wouldn't require the same level of budgeting. As things stand, it already has the second lowest budget of all ministries (74 million euros this year). But even stripped down, there is surely enough justification in terms of global planning and organisation to say nothing of coordination nationally and internationally for it to command more than the smallest of all the ministries - that of the presidency (24.6 million euros). 

Here, though, may lie the answer. I long ago once advocated, because of its strategic importance, that tourism should be a direct responsibility of the presidency. The ministry of the presidency and tourism. This government would never sanction such a notion.

Monday, October 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2017

Morning high (6.33am): 14.3C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Sun, 24C; 25 October - Sun, 25C; 26 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Cloudy morning but improving later. Still looking good for the rest of the week.

Evening update (20.00): Some rain in the morning, not much though. Got better. Sun was out for a time. High of 21.8C.

Santa Margalida Livid About Tourist Tax

Joan Monjo, Santa Margalida's mayor, says that he has instructed a lawyer to prepare a report into a possible legal challenge to decisions made regarding the distribution of tourist tax revenue.

The committee which makes these decisions that are then ratified by the government's cabinet, announced spending plans earlier this week. There had been a total of 122 projects to be considered. This was whittled down to 62 plus eight ongoing from last year. A joint Santa Margalida-Muro project was not among the 62.

This project required 360,000 euros, equivalent to 0.73% of the 49 million euros for the 62 (the complete spend will be 64 million to include the eight projects from 2016). It was for an archaeological route on the Son Real finca. In August, Monjo supplied a good deal of detail about this project. It would connect two historically important sites - the Talayotic settlement of Son Serra de Muro and the neo-Romanesque church of Son Serra de Marina. It would embrace other sites of high heritage significance - the dolmen of Son Baulo, the Son Real necropolis, the old Arab farmhouse of Santa Eulària, the Sa Nineta talayot. There would be secondary elements, such as the Punta del Patró and the coastal towers that were built in the 1940s for submarine target practice.

In addition to the actual route, the money being asked for would have gone towards promotion in different forms, including geolocation and audio guides. Moreover, it would also act as a cycling route. Monjo said of it that it was a project which encompasses the restoration of heritage, cultural enrichment and a contribution to reducing tourism seasonality. On every point, it was a project that conformed fairly and squarely with "purposes" for spending tourist tax revenue, and bear in mind that the amount was not that significant.

The annual plan for the spending of the tourist tax was published in the summer. Like all government documents it is convoluted to say the least, but it sets out criteria for justifying interventions to be made with tax revenue. These were assigned maximum points values. Therefore projects would be evaluated according to how they met these criteria and to their meeting specifications for all the documentation which has to be presented by those seeking funding. Under "project character", for instance, the plan refers to the acquisition and/or rehabilitation of emblematic places with high cultural and environmental value. This makes specific reference to the fact that 2018 is European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Given all this, why has it been turned down, especially when one considers that the Son Real finca was the stellar project in terms of spending for the old ecotax? The finca, much of it, was acquired by a government with similar political constituent parts to the current administration - PSOE and the PSM Mallorcan Socialists who are the main part of what is now Més.

Monjo seems to be in little doubt as to why: the political make-up of the committee. He explains that the government calls for projects to be submitted, establishes the bases for funding (the annual plan) but then it is "the government and its ministries which take the money". He adds that it is a "perversion of the system" and also notes that the government is having a laugh at municipalities such as Santa Margalida which are where the bulk of tourist tax revenue is raised.

Is he right in his assessment? Well, I don't know that he's entirely wrong, or at least that's the impression one has about this spending committee. It is weighted towards the government, each island council has representation and Palma town hall has representation separate to all other town halls, which are themselves represented by their federation. The government, the island councils and Palma reflect each other in terms of their political components - PSOE, Més, Podemos (or variants thereof)

The committee, and one can't help but feel this, is something of a charade. It includes environmentalists GOB who vote against the spending plans because they believe all the money should go towards the environment. Business representation, such as through the Confederation of Balearic Business Associations, can appear almost irrelevant. It goes along with the projects because it knows it can't do anything else. The town halls have the same representation as GOB: two members, one of whom abstained when it came to the spending decisions.

Where Santa Margalida is concerned, it is politically opposed to the government. It is a coalition of El Pi (Monjo) and the Partido Popular. Monjo, never short of a few words, has not exactly endeared himself to the government, while the internal workings of Santa Margalida town hall are such that there are regular buttings of heads with Més, in the form of ex-mayor Toni Reus, an influential figure in the party. Indeed, Suma pel Canvi, which is the coalition opposition grouping which includes Més, says that the route would go past an agrotourism property in Muro, which is managed by a company of which Monjo is the sole administrator. Which may be the case, but what real difference does this make?

Is the decision to exclude the project all down to politics then? Monjo seems to think so. Because of the rejection, he says that the town hall will withdraw the money it spends on archaeological excavations. Once more, therefore, Son Real is a political football between the government and the town hall, the latter having felt over the years since it was acquired that it has never been managed satisfactorily. And in this regard the town hall is right.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2017

Morning high (7.47am): 19.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Cloud, sun, 23C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 25 October - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Rain possible today, though the forecast is better than what it was. At present the outlook for the week is good. May start rainy tomorrow morning but then generally sunny and warm.

Evening update (19.15): Dull old day with some rain. High of 19.2C, so the temperature went down from the morning.

Things Just Got Més-ier: Independence And Tourism

The Banbury Boy, Mick of the Council, has had his say about the slight to-do that has been cracking off in Catalonia. Mick hasn't demanded immediate legal independence, installation as the next member state of the European Union, participation at the next football Euros, and an agreement to devote all the money raised by the Christmas El Gordo lottery to shore up an economy about to do its best to become the new Extremadura (which Catalonia with a bit of help from the Balearics has been keeping afloat for decades). No, none of that (with the possible exception of the first); Mick has instead been concerning himself with the last two presidents of the Balearics.

Frankie Antich and J.R. Bauzá have themselves reasonably remunerated sinecures as members of the Senate. These are courtesy of the Balearic parliament. Whereas the citizens elect five Balearic senators, parliament, through its benevolence, secures former presidents nice little earners in Madrid. In the case of Antich there wasn't much of a fuss about this. With J.R. it was a way of managing to get rid of him. This didn't of course stop J.R. attempting to make a comeback. It was believed that he was exploiting his presence in Madrid to drum up support to march triumphantly into the Balearic PP leadership once more. Which he might have believed, but no one else in the PP in Madrid did.

His one-man PR campaign (PR for himself) is, it seems, more or less all he does in Madrid. While Antich, in between having a heart attack, at least attempts to justify himself by asking questions in the Senate, J.R. remains silent, all the time plotting his next failed comeback. Recently, because he clearly wasn't needed in Madrid, he was seen among the Palma crowds demonstrating their support for Spanish unity. And it is this, rather than any under-performance in a Senate style, which has attracted Mick's interest.

The president of the Council of Mallorca, which is rapidly becoming its own independent state within the loose alliance known as the autonomous community of the Balearics, is insisting that J.R. - and Frankie Antich - vote against Rajoy's Article 155 nuclear option. Both of them owe the fact that they are senators to that parliamentary grace and favouring. And as the Balearic parliament has extended the fraternal hand of support to Carles Puigdemont and his pals, then they should both say "no" to Rajoy and 155.

The chances of J.R. doing this are about as slim as him finally abandoning his ambitions for political renaissance. Antich, cloistered in the Madrid halls of power, has gone native and is tagging along behind Pedro Sánchez in having said he'll say "yes" to 155. It is here where things get a tad awkward. Mick will know full well that J.R. is a hopeless case, but he and Més are determined that Antich remembers that he's from the Balearics, the mini-me homeland of independence (in a Més fashion), and not a political creation of Madrid.

The other Frankie, Armengol, has been hoping to persuade the former Frankie to be as sweet and friendly as she is and bow to the Més command. She has thus been engaged in dialogue with Frankie A Mark I in seeking to arrive at a 155 consensus, one that he clearly doesn't believe in. Will her intervention do the trick for Mick? We will find out, but the whole business has revealed the extent to which Més appear to be labouring under an impression that they are the true power in the Balearic land, when everyone of course knows that it is Podemos.

But Més are discovering that power grab comes at a cost, roughly valued at 80,000 euros in the case of the combined price for two contracts that the not-quite-yet-former director of the Balearic Tourism Agency sanctioned. Pere Muñoz is for some bizarre reason still acting director of the agency, and while he and Mrs. Doubtfire, the one-time minister for opacity, are the convenient fallpersons for the Més contracts mess, it now emerges that payment for at least one contract was allegedly being made even before it was signed.

Biel Barceló, meanwhile, rises above all this fuss and then comes out with the astonishing announcement that the agency is in any event going to be shut down. This is because Mick and the Council are about to take over all the promotion of tourism, i.e. cultural, gastronomic, natural tourism for the millions of tourists planning on coming to Mallorca in the winter.

So Pere would have been out of a job anyway. Can we conclude this? We probably can. Alternatively, he may have been switched to a new post as director for managing the spending of the tourist tax. Biel, in dismantling the agency, has hit upon a fabulous ruse for the use of public money. The agency will be turned into another agency - one to manage tourist tax revenue spending projects.

It will do what? Why in God's name is such an agency needed? Is it not the case that Biel decides how the revenue's going to be spent, then informs the rest of the committee before handing over large sums of tourist tax moolah to Palma town hall for it to get on and carry out the projects? What do you need an agency for? Aren't town halls (and others) competent enough at managing projects?

Erm, yes, maybe there is the need for an agency.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2017

Morning high (6.57am): 18C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Cloud, 22C; 23 October - Cloud, 21C; 24 October - Sun, 24C

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

Forecast as it was yesterday - fine for most of today but taking a tumble by evening. Tomorrow has a cloudy and rainy look.

Evening update (19.45): Excellent - high of 27.9C.

Barceló Adding To Tourism Industry Uncertainty

The storm clouds are gathering for Biel Barceló. The Més contracts affair, it needs stressing, is not in any way - allegedly or otherwise - on a scale of what once used to go on at the tourism ministry, but it nevertheless induces some uncertainty at the ministry at a time when it needs it the least.

In the bad old days of Unió Mallorquina control of the ministry, which lasted for much of the 2007-2011 administration until the party was kicked out of the ruling government pact, things got to such a pretty pass that the tourism industry barely knew from one day to the next who it was dealing with. Three ministers came and went until eventually PSOE took over and installed Joana Barceló for the final year or so of the administration. Along with the ministers, out also went various officials who were under suspicion.

The industry is used to the ministry's chopping and changing. It happens every four years. This turnaround can be dealt with because it's predictable. It's when things become unpredictable that the industry gets the jitters. And with the UM there was the specific issue of Mallorca and the Balearics being given a thoroughly bad name because of corruption. While the industry can carry on and does so regardless of politicians and political shenanigans, it - as with any other industry - prefers a state of calm and as much certainty as possible. Right now, there is too much uncertainty as it is, e.g. Brexit and any Catalonia effect, and heading towards the first major travel fair of the winter period - London's World Travel Market in November - there is the additional headache of the Més contracts.

Barceló can probably ride out the storm, despite calls for his head. President Armengol expressed her confidence in him earlier this week, which was probably more sincere than a football club chairman's vote of confidence in his manager, but there's no disguising the fact that his neck is potentially on the line. It also needs stressing that he personally hasn't been mentioned by the anti-corruption prosecution service, but the citing of the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency (Pere Muñoz) is too close to him for comfort. It starts to sound a bit like the UM revisited, and it starts to make Barceló appear like damaged goods.

The nub of the prosecutor's case against Muñoz is that a contract with a total value of 80,000 euros was split in such a way as to circumvent normal procedures for the awarding of a contract with that amount. There were two contracts for what was to have been a tourist survey. The argument presented by the ministry is that there was nothing untoward in this as the first contract (for a lower amount to Jaume Garau, the one-time Més campaign manager) was for the specification of the survey. The other contract was for the implementation, i.e. the conducting of the survey and its analysis. This was to a Madrid-based company. However, it is alleged that Garau exerted influence over Muñoz in order to ensure that this company got the contract, for which there was no public tender.

A peculiar aspect of this affair is that despite Muñoz having resigned, he hasn't actually gone. Apparently this is to be confirmed at a meeting of the tourism agency in London. Why? This makes no sense. Is Muñoz actually going to be in London? Whether he is or he isn't, Barceló needed to have distanced himself pronto and not let the matter drag on. As it is, the contracts case is hovering over him when he needs to be doing all he can to allay industry anxieties about a host of issues, only one of which is the doubling of the tourist tax, about which there is still a lack of clarity as to its application in the low season.

Friday, October 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2017

Morning high (7.01am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 22 October - Cloud, 22C; 23 October - Cloud, 22C

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

A much better day anticipated. Weekend looking ok to begin with but going downhill later on on Saturday.

Evening update (20.00): And it was much better. High of 23.8C.

All-Inclusive And Holiday Rentals Order

Earlier this week there were ministerial pronouncements which reinforced the direction in which government policy is heading. President Armengol said that order is to be put into rules for all-inclusive hotels. Principally, these will introduce some form of limit on the consumption of alcohol - the means of doing this has not been set out - as the government seeks a general raising of the quality of tourist. Through these rules, she hopes, there will be more business for bars and restaurants outside all-inclusive complexes and a reduction in "booze tourism". Will there be? Or will it be the case that some tourist elements merely head for the nearest supermarket and see what offers are available in order to top up on the limits imposed? And a note for Calvia town hall in this regard. Getting supermarkets to eliminate front-of-house displays of booze won't make any difference. Meanwhile, there are other tourism municipalities where there is no ban on displays.

On holiday rentals, Biel Barceló announced that the legislation will enable the possibility of renting out apartments in a legal and commercialised fashion, which was not the case under the Partido Popular's 2012 tourism law. He's right, it does raise the possibility. The problem is that there are all the strings that are attached. One of these is the principle of zoning. About this he remarked that "the most saturated zones will be protected" and rentals in apartments will be in municipalities where there is low tourism activity.

I have always believed that this would be the case. Indeed we already know that there are some coastal areas which have been classified as "saturated" and where there won't be any zoning - Playa de Palma, Cala Millor, Magalluf, for example. The Council of Mallorca, responsible for zoning, is now applying yet more principles for zoning to the nine broadly determined areas of Mallorca. These principles relate to the type of land and to the level of "saturation". The upshot is, in essence, that the interior will get the lion's share of apartment rentals.

I'd said that this would be the case, and it now seems certain that it will be the case. Consequently, what will it mean for coastal resorts, e.g. Puerto Pollensa or Colonia Sant Jordi, where there are more special cases to be made for apartment rentals? No new rentals? It could well be.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2017

Morning high (5.40am): 18.2C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 22 October - Cloud, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 4 to 5 easing 3 to 4 around midday and 2 by the evening.

Raining with some thunder in the distance. Looking like it'll be wet all day.

Evening update (20.00): Pretty miserable. Occasional bursts of sun but otherwise grey. Rain stopped in the morning, though. High of 19.6C.

The PR Of Consensus And Dialogue

I'm sure that it can't have escaped your attention that Francina Armengol has devoted her thus far 843 days as president of the Balearics to the pursuit of consensus and dialogue. Never before has there been so much consensus and so much dialogue. One imagines that the walls of Can Armengol (not that attic development in Palma that she had nothing to do with) are adorned with posters bearing large legends. "It's good to talk", "engage with your interlocutor", "consent to consensus" and other such motivational messages confront her before she steps out each sunny morn (mostly sunny), ever prepared to conjure up consensus and deliver dialogue in arriving at harmonious accords in the name of the citizens and coexistence. By the way, I have an increasing issue with coexistence as it sounds a somewhat contrived state of being, but whatever.

Such is the determination of the Armengol advocacy of what we can abbreviate to C&D that it can unfortunately rebound on her, not least when members of the Partido Popular are engaged as her parliamentary interlocutors and basically take the rip out of her. A note to the PP, however: perhaps some C&D of your own might not go amiss. And it is of course the mighty PP in Madrid which is charged with failing to follow the path of C&D with the hapless Carles Puigdemont, whose own consensus has obliged him to take a course that one suspects, in another life, he wouldn't have taken. Such are the duties of governmental coalitions and support bases that you plunge your region (some say nation) into total crisis.

Puigdemont should really serve as a model and as a warning to Armengol about the inherent risks of C but with a D that is a one-way form of dialogue and communication. A hole is dug deeper while a form of groupthink swirls around, made more dogmatic as the pots and pans are beaten with ever greater ferocity and the more extreme elements within coalition plot a path towards what, quite frankly, looms with an ever larger D, that of destruction.

The Armengol C&D, for internal Balearic consumption as opposed to her calling on Rajoy and Puigdemont to try it out, necessitates keeping an open ear to partners in government. When a president is thrust into power with the dubious level of mandate that PSOE was at the 2015 regional election, she cannot wield any great power because she and PSOE don't have it. They are endlessly subject to the exigencies of others and to bending to their will because they have no other choice, short of abandoning so-called progressive politics and policies (meaning left-wing) and attempting C&D with the PP or others with a less progressive attitude.

So, all this C&D stuff is essentially a PR ruse to justify the nature of a pact with competing objectives, one of which is an aspiration for independence, be it that of Catalonia or the Balearics. The Més proposition in favour of Balearic sovereignty is plainly preposterous in terms of a PSOE global vision. As a party it wants as little to do with Catalonia's demands as the PP (and Ciudadanos) wish. Armengol might attempt a touch of D with David Abril and chums on the question of Balearic independence, but you can rest assured that there is no C - consensus does not exist.

The president will thus have been taken aback when the PP launched into her by accusing her of holding independence sympathies. This was done in part because she hasn't said anything about the Més independence statement. If and when she does, we can be reasonably sure that she'll crack out the C&D line and say absolutely nothing.

The constant recourse to reminding the citizens that her government is one predicated on the principles of consensus and dialogue has more than a hint of desperation and delusion about it. Here is an administration attempting to act in a manner that culturally doesn't come naturally. It's like a football team adopting three at the back when it's always been used to 4-4-2. The system is awkward, the players aren't adept because they've been brought up another way. This is not the German system, where they've stuck to a method of consensus and consistently delivered Angela Merkel.

The greatest charade of all lies with Podemos. They are not about consensus, they are about Podemos. While there is much to admire about Podemos - confronting corruption, for instance - there is also much which is unnerving, and Armengol and PSOE know this full well, and PSOE have demonstrated this concern in the past, as with Pedro Sánchez and a refusal to give Pablo Iglesias governmental houseroom.

But you can't blame her for persistence, and so today as with every other day those legends on the wall will be her reminders. What'll be the theme today?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 October - Rain, 22C; 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 October - Sun, cloud, 27C

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

Cloud set to dominate today. Stormy weather on the cards for tomorrow as the southerly air at present collides with a strong northerly.

Evening update (19.45): Pretty warm, high of 28.4C. Not looking good overnight.

Are Tourist Friends Electric?

For those of you who have ever paid the tourist tax, are you delighted at the results of the deliberations of the judging committee for the impulse of sustainable tourism? Sixty-two finalists had been hewn from hopefuls twice that number and with shopping lists worth more than four times the revenue on offer - for new projects, that is. And when the sixty-two aspirants were paraded before the judging panel, they were all given a prize. There are no losers in the tourist tax competition, except for the sixty who had been given the heave-ho in the prelims.

So, if you have, for instance, spent 49.50 euros (plus VAT) for fourteen nights at a three-star superior for a family of four (one child over sixteen, the other younger) in the past few months, are you satisfied that you may have contributed 0.001% to the cost of "electric mobility", otherwise known as charging-points for electric vehicles? You are satisfied? Well, good for you, and some time in the future you'll be able to use these charging-points when hire cars are all electric or you'll be safe in the knowledge that the bus taking you to your resort from the airport is fully powered by electricity. Gosh, isn't this impulse for sustainable tourism a great thing and a wonder to behold, if you can actually behold it.

All this electric mobility, thanks to the nature of its funding, should require charging-points across the isles (and I suppose we are talking plural because it's only Mallorca that is ever referred to) to have legends emblazoned on them which read "Electric mobility: POWERED BY ECOTAX". Thataway, just in case you have failed to be satisfied, you will become so. "Heavens, so that's where my money goes. Well done, Balearic government, God bless you and thank you. The world is being saved. If only it weren't for all that permafrost being defrosted."

It isn't only you, as tourists, who will be thanking the government. So also will be all those who have been agitating for a dismantling of the tourism economic monoculture. Most curiously, this is a purpose for the tourist tax. Not about tourism but about something else, the Holy Grail of economic diversification. The 4.6 million euros that the judges have decided to lavish on electric mobility will, we are assured, be instrumental in diversifying the economy. Will it be?

To me, this sounds suspiciously like replacing one thing with another. Replacement isn't diversification. The ministers for tourism, innovation and research, land, energy and transport (aka mobility), and industry, trade and employment all suggest that it is diversification. Well, they must know something that you and I don't. Are there to be thousands of jobs created to enable drivers to plug their cars in and which will allow restaurant waiters to abandon the terraces and earn five grand a month, thereby contributing to quality employment?

It's not, I hasten to add, that I am against electric mobility. Quite the contrary. Anything that provides green, clean energy is to be welcomed. But it comes with its own plug-in of spin, which is the case with much of the bull, righteousness, virtuousness and cliché attached in cable form to the sustainable tourism tax. The eco-credentials of the ecotax were being sounded long into the ozone of autumn air as the judges and recipients explained the tourist tax spending verdicts. And there is no greater credential than when "footprints" can be referred to.

Més compatriots, Barceló and Noguera, were both on the footprint trail. The numerous (62 plus eight ongoing from last year) projects, opined the tourism minister, will help to alleviate the eco-unfriendly footprint of tourism (or words to that effect). Quite right. For far too long tourists have been getting away with using petrol for hire cars and relying on coal to power their hotel (and private apartment) air-con systems. Not any more. Our tourist friends are electric, and solar, to boot. 

Palma's mayor, continuing with the narrative of indignation that had endured from the fact that the chief judge - Barceló - had failed to last year give the city any direct tax funding, appeared moderately satisfied. But he was engaged in a battle of the footprints. Palma's tourism footprint is bigger than anyone else's. It's still only getting around five million, some of it to be shared with the neighbours (Llucmajor), but it's better than the 2016 spending zero. How, though, is this giant tourism footprint to be addressed? The odd track in Bellver forest does, I suppose, involve some footprints, but another way is to restore the Torres del Temple. And what, pray, has that got to do with footprints? The place has been crumbling for decades because no one has bothered to spend any money on it.

Still, the restoration will doubtless be welcomed by tourists because of its heritage value. Assuming, that is, they can find anywhere to park having arrived in Palma powered by ecotax.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2017

Morning high (6.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 October - Cloud, 27C; 19 October - Cloud, 21C; 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

Expect another fine day and make the most. Tomorrow and Thursday looking cloudy with the chance of rain.

Evening update (20.00): Not bad. High of 26.1C.

It's Time For GOB To Shut Up

Four years ago, in marking the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Grup Ornitològic de Balears, I concluded that GOB had "moved a long way from its original remit but that its relevance (was) stronger than ever". This was a conclusion drawn partly from the fact that tourism and population growth had been placing ever greater strains on Mallorca. There were reasons to praise GOB, such as its historical involvement with preventing development on the island of Dragonera or the work over the decades at the La Trapa biological reserve in the Tramuntana. There is a great deal to admire about GOB; it is an organisation that represents the environmental conscience of Mallorca and has been the island's environmental soul since the 1970s. I'm not a paid-up member of GOB but I often voice my support. However ... .

Two years before that article, I had spoken about issues in which GOB had involved itself but which had little to do with its stated objectives of the "conservation, dissemination and study of nature and the environment of the Balearic Islands". One issue was having leapt to the defence of the TV Mallorca radio and television station. A further was having been part of an anti-corruption platform established in 2010. Broadcasting can be valuable in conveying messages about the environment. Corruption can lead to development that is destructive of the environment. Neither issue was totally divorced from the GOB objectives but then neither was directly associated with them.

A bus station is to be built in Puerto Pollensa. It will make use of an existing development: a small plot owned by the municipality that was tarmacked in the recent past and made into a proper car park. The bus station is necessary, and one of its purposes will be to act as the terminal for a shuttle service to Formentor. The shuttle has been deemed to be a requirement to counteract the "saturation" of vehicles that go along the promontory's twisty road to the lighthouse. It is a sort of environmental solution.

GOB disagrees with this bus station. It doesn't disagree with the principle of the bus station, just its location. It would prefer it to be sited close to what has been described as the "green heart" of Puerto Pollensa, the small park of La Gola, with a lake that is the confluence of the torrent and of the sea. GOB's proposed site wouldn't be environmentally detrimental but it would nevertheless be in an area of greater environmental sensitivity than the site where the bus station will be built.

GOB's objection has to do with the Pollensa town hall general urban plan. The site for the bus station, the organisation says, can only be used for sociocultural, sporting or health care reasons or as an open public space. A bus station is therefore contrary to this plan. The town hall, and here one encounters semantics, says that it isn't a bus station, only bus stops. However it is defined is largely immaterial; GOB has been raising an objection that has nothing whatsoever to do with its objectives. The bus station is an urban planning matter, pure and simple.

Here is an example of where the organisation stretches the limits of its remit and indeed exceeds them, as was the case with TV Mallorca. There are other entities whose roles are to challenge matters such as a bus station: political parties, for instance. But it is here where the problem with GOB lies. It acts like a political party without having any of the responsibility. Its power base has grown enormously since it started life as a bird conservation organisation. It has become inherent to the political process to the extent that its representation on the tourist tax revenue spending committee equates to that of the federation for all the town halls in the Balearics (except Palma).

When GOB fired off a statement attacking the farmers and hunters ("the defenders of the rural world") for their recent protest over government environmental policies, it was seeking to make sure that the government didn't back track; a government it would hope to be highly receptive to its wishes. It is engaged in a battle for who owns the environment, when in fact it belongs to everyone, and that includes those who adhere to a rural way of life, such as the farmers.

But more than this are the politics. There is a GOB youth wing. It has been intimately linked with the highly radical Arran and Endavant groups in attacking tourism. GOB itself was the main organiser of the "massification" demo last month. Its political nature has now become almost indistinguishable from a left-wing, Catalanist, nationalist or independence agenda.

In so doing it can alienate. The environment crosses the spectrum of political views. It is to be defended but not in such a partisan way. GOB's constant interference generates just this sort of alienation. It needs to know when to shut up.

Monday, October 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2017

Morning high (6.56am): 16.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 17 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 18 October - Cloud, 27C; 19 October - Cloud, 24C

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

Mainly sunny again. Outlook for the week - possible showers Wednesday and Thursday, improving into the weekend.

Evening update (19.45): Like yesterday. Cloudy and then the sun appeared and was very pleasant. High of 25.8C.

Rentals In Pollensa: Legality Full Stop

You do come across some strange snippets of suspect information. A recent example, in the form of a comment, said that a business owner with a large-scale apartment block (fully tourist) had told the person who left the comment that "responsibility for defining who can/cannot rent has been passed to the local mayor".

Firstly I wondered what this large-scale (fully tourist) apartment block could mean. One has to suppose that it is one of those buildings with a tourism ministry licence with an activity as tourist apartments - the AT designation. If so, then the rentals' legislation is irrelevant. But more importantly was the bit about the local mayor. Where does this stuff come from? A mayor, a town hall is in no position to make this definition. A mayor may be, will be consulted about provisions stemming from the holiday rentals' law, but it is the Council of Mallorca which defines where rentals will be (the zoning) and it is the tourism ministry which grants licences (or not).

If mayors really were in this position, then this week's meeting in Pollensa with Miquel Àngel March would have had a quite different outcome. The mayor and Tomeu Cifre Bennàsar (urban planning) met with the Puerto Pollensa and Cala San Vicente residents' associations, the Pollensa trade association, the Pollensa restaurants' association and the association for holiday villa businesses. The result of the meeting was a lemon. The mayor said that he believed that there will be few restrictions on holiday rentals in Pollensa, suggesting that Mercedes Garrido, the Council of Mallorca councillor with ultimate responsibility for zoning decisions, has intimated this. The mayor may be right, but he was making it clear - as if this were needed - that it isn't he who makes these decisions.

They got together presumably so they could lobby the mayor in making the strongest possible representations to the Council. The mayor, one assumes, is already fully aware that Pollensa's tourism economy has a high dependency on rentals. He would probably already have known, as the Cala San Vicente people pointed out, that this part of the municipality is particularly reliant. Rentals, the Cala San Vicente association said, are a question of "survival" for what is the "most depressed" area of Pollensa.

The mayor, it shouldn't be forgotten, is a former spokesperson for GOB, the environmentalists. They were the ones leading the "massification" demo in Palma last month. They are the ones who are agitating for limits. Rentals are intimately linked to the issues of massification and limits. But the mayor represents the whole of Pollensa, he is a guardian of municipal welfare, well-being and wealth. I wonder what he really thinks about rentals.

There won't be much zoning in Pollensa, said the mayor. Does he know this for certain? And the point with zoning is that even if there little of it, there is still the issue of the allocation of rentals' places. These have to be decided - almost 43,000 are available - for the whole of Mallorca: private accommodation and hotels. The amount is not great, if there is to be anything like some equality in distribution, while Pollensa - as we know - already has an exceptionally high number of legal rentals: the proportion is much greater than anywhere else.

It isn't just a fear that apartments won't be legalised in Pollensa. There is a further fear. It is raised by the following clause in the legislation: "It will not be possible to commercialise tourist stays in any dwelling for which a sanction has been imposed for a serious or very serious infraction of urban legality, so long as this legality remains unrestored." Has been imposed or could be imposed.

Pollensa, as well as being known for its high number or rental properties, is now just as well known for its urban planning infractions. The anti-corruption prosecution service demanded documentation from the town hall. It has been handed over. The Council of Mallorca's Agency for the Defence of Territory will be interested. We are talking here about villas, and it is a question not of holiday rental legality but of legality full stop. The tourism minister, Biel Barceló, when explaining that existing rentals will be unaffected by the legislation did provide a caveat: so long as the properties are themselves fully legal. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 October 2017

Morning high (6.25am): 15.2C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 18 October - Cloud, 25C

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

And continuing in the same way ... . May be that there's some chance of showers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Evening update (19.30): Rather cloudier than expected early on. Got better - high of 27C.

Absolutely Fabulous: Parliamentary Fashion

You really can tell so much from fashion or someone's dress sense, can't you. Or you can be left entirely nonplussed by sudden transformations. What did we make, for instance, of our very good friend, Balti of the Balearic Parliament Presidency, having donned what looked suspiciously like a suit? Admittedly it was denim, but there was that rarest of sights in a Balti-style: matching top and bottom. Was this a sign of Balti edging towards establishment respectability? Can we anticipate him getting a haircut some time over the remaining period of the current administration? Or was it simply that the Felanitx charity shop had got some updated stock in?

The new Balti look was given an airing at the do for the Guardia Civil on Wednesday evening, when the atmosphere was so frosty between Sweet and Friendly Francina and the Witch of Salom that they should have all been togged up in scarves and mittens. The reason for this, what with Maria looking straight at Francina when accusing the government of undermining national identity, had something to do with a bit of a carry-on in Catalonia, whatever that was all about.

Balti wasn't alone in mystifying or intriguing keen political fashion observers. Earlier in the week there was a line-up of various parliamentarians who had gathered for a photo opp to publicise a highly worthy initiative, which is that next year will be the year of mental health in the Balearics. One stresses that this is a most laudable idea, but what sort of statements were some of our dear parliamentarians making in order to honour it? I mean, why was Marga Prohens dressed in some kind of Baby Doll frock and looking as though she was sweet sixteen? The contrast with the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, couldn't have been greater. Laura was in a power black dress. She might have failed in her bid to become the Podemos Coordinator, but she was leaving the victor - Granny Mae - in no doubt as to who still wears the trousers, the boots and the black dress around Podemos. She has, after all, spent the past couple of years letting Alberto Jarabo know this.

But there was more. The Earth Mother, Patricia Gómez, had traded in the kaftan for a full-length black gown and white jacket. The health ministry must have been having a cocktail party to celebrate having reduced consultant waiting times by 0.47% this month. It was hard to think what other explanation there could possibly have been.

And then, ah yes then, there was Xe-Lo. Removed from the public eye for some months since having been dispatched to the Valley of the Fallen behind the PP in the parliament arena, Balti's predecessor was clearly determined to make a real statement and to confirm one's suspicions that she had indeed spent much of her time as parliament president developing the Xe-Lo range for the fuller feminist.

What a statement it was too. Black t-shirt on which was emblazoned in a sparkly silver on two rows - FABU LOUS. Well, you go for it, girlfriend. It must indeed be absolutely fabulous to still be picking up the parliamentary pay cheque, despite having been banished by Podemos. But while we're at it, what actually was it with the use of English? Does the government's linguistic "normalisation" police know about this? Maybe there should in fact be a government fashion normalisation department. No, forget that, they might actually think it's a good idea and put Balti in charge.

* Photo comes from the Partido Popular.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 October 2017

Morning high (7.06am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 15 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

More of the same. Sunny.

Evening update (20.30): High of 27.5C.

Tourism Ministry's Work: Good Or Bad?

How does one assess the performance of a government minister? Who does the assessment? What is it that is being assessed?

I'll leave these questions hanging, so that you can mull them over while considering that the tourism minister Biel Barceló has said that he has been doing "good work" at the ministry. Another question is raised therefore. What constitutes "good"?

He was saying this while at the same time deflecting typical reproaches from the Partido Popular - these ones to do with the Més contracts affair and the PP's consequent demand that he resigns. To define how well he and the ministry have been doing, he drew attention to having gone beyond the "agreements for change" with Podemos (which underpin the current government). These agreements hadn't included establishing a limit on the number of tourist places or having a moratorium on new holiday rental licences (until the zoning for rentals has been determined).

So, it would seem that the Barceló self-appraisal of achievement hangs on these policies, both of which might be characterised as being de-tourism (and he didn't specifically mention the tourist tax). It is an oddity of government - this one anyway - that its ministerial aims include more medical professionals (especially if they speak Catalan), more jobs, more teachers, more finance, and more innovation and research (which is also a Barceló responsibility). Tourism, on the other hand, appears to be about less, notwithstanding the more tourists that the government believes it can shunt from the summer to the winter. Only the tourist tax is a clear policy for more.

The Balearic approach is really what some commentators mean when criticising radical tourism politics in Spain; Barcelona falls into the same bag. One recent article spoke about a "totalitarian" attitude. It highlighted in particular the attack on Gabriel Escarrer Julià of Meliá after he had taken issue with the tourist tax during his speech at the opening of the Palacio de Congresos. Seeking to deny Escarrer the freedom of speech was an example of this totalitarianism. I don't think it was. The row was completely pointless and the freedom of speech angle was frankly blown out of all proportion. If this was radical tourism politics displaying totalitarianism, then a better example was needed.

Some of what this government has been doing in terms of tourism is justified. The tourist tax doubling no, but then I disagree with the tax anyway, especially the way in which it has been manipulated to disguise a general revenue-raising purpose. The rentals issue has not been that well handled - it's too complicated and it is too restrictive - but the government was left with little choice. And it isn't the only government which has been faced with such a dilemma and felt the need to legislate. As a hypothesis, I wonder what the Partido Popular would have done had it been in government. Given its track record on rentals, it's highly unlikely that it would have been any more liberal. And despite what the PP say now, Carlos Delgado, when he first became tourism minister in 2011, did speak about the possible need to reduce numbers and he was mainly referring to hotels. Limits can make sense.

So are Barceló and the government particularly radical? I'm not sure that they are. They do admittedly have Podemos firmly in a de-tourism camp as well as some members of Més, but overall ... ? The problem perhaps is one of perception and one of tone. We can be sure that had it been the PP they wouldn't have appeared to equivocate over condemnation of anti-tourism sentiment.

But to come back to the question of who does the assessing, ultimately it's the voters. And surveys suggest that on issues such as the tourist tax and limits there is support. Good? Bad? I leave it you to decide.

Friday, October 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 October 2017

Morning high (6.16am): 14C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 14 October - Sun, 27C; 15 October - Sun, 25C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 2 to 4, temporarily East 3 in the afternoon.

Still all very calm, clear and sunny.

Evening update (19.45): High of 28.7C.

Everyone Forgets Menorca

In the eighteenth century it was of significant enough strategic importance that it meant a British admiral being executed for failing to "do his utmost" to prevent the French taking it. A three-nation tussle, with Spain the third, ensured that control was periodically passed. Ultimately though, the importance was not so great. The bargaining chip of Menorca was minor compared with the jackpot of Gibraltar. Spain was allowed to have it: Menorca, the minor island.

For a time Menorca had been flagged up on the Mediterranean geopolitical map. With the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 it obtained a sense of comparative normality, marked with a legacy of European powers' ambitions in the form of infrastructure and borrowed language: English lurks within the Menorquín tongue. Its burden, in a way, lies with toponymy. It has been saddled with the title of being minor. Geographically it obviously is. But culturally it has been made aware of its place. The major island to its south has always dominated.

They say that it is the oldest island in the Balearics, with a geological history starting some 410 million years ago. Some also say it is the oldest in civilisation terms. Maybe, maybe not. Archaeologists and anthropologists will argue that case until the final herd of autochthonous cows is brought home and provides the raw material of its famous cheese, though the cows are arguably less famed than the hens. Menorca's capital has (perhaps) given the world a generic product: mayonnaise. Not even Palma can boast that.

The minor island naturally attracts fewer tourists than the major island. And the stress is very much on the fewer. According to numbers in the Balearic Tourism Agency's yearbook, the total number of tourists in 2016 was 1,440,036; Mallorca received just under eleven million. This total shows a very different profile in terms of country of origin. The Spanish and the British accounted for very similar proportions of the tourist total - both around the 36% mark (523,216 in the case of the British, fewer than a thousand more than the Spanish). British representation in Mallorca was 21%; Spanish only 11%. By way of further comparison, Menorca's total visitor number in 2016 was only 48% of that of Ibiza and Formentera combined.

Menorca doesn't shout its existence or have it shouted on its behalf. There are no salacious headlines. There is no Magalluf or Playa de Palma. There are no tribes of international DJs flocking to its shores as they do to Ibiza's. Menorca is easy to overlook, which will be why many of the 1.44 million like it, one imagines. But being overlooked can mean being forgotten.

Towards the end of January 2012, Spanair ceased operations. By April of that year the president of the island's hoteliers association, Ashome, was holding talks with the Balearic government about the airline's "disappearance". He said at the time that Menorca had been all but cut off from Madrid because of Spanair's collapse. Other airlines were to take up the slack but they were attracted mostly by that 36% of Spanish tourism, mostly all of it crammed into three to four months in the summer. Did the talks with the government achieve anything? Well, no.

In percentage if not real terms, Menorca has higher hotel occupancy than Mallorca in October. The island's small-scale tourism does quite well from its October trade trade. So the collapse of Monarch is going to make a significant difference. The airline was more important to Menorca than it was to Mallorca: the second highest carrier from the UK and the seventh highest in all. Ashome reckons that the collapse will leave an economic hole of at least 800,000 euros, to which some more will be added because hotels haven't yet quantified the losses.

This may not sound like a vast amount, but for the island's October business it is still something of a disaster. An airline going bust isn't a natural phenomenon, but an airline - one as important as Monarch was to Menorca - is a source of general economic well-being. When Mallorca's potato fields are flooded, the calls for aid go out and there are worries about exports and Mallorca's balance of trade. Does Menorca not deserve a slight consideration because of manmade wreckage? All that one hears from the Balearic government is "concern" at the Monarch demise, and this is despite the transport minister, Marc Pons, being Menorcan.

The government hasn't as yet come to a definitive decision on the doubling of the tourist tax in winter. Més in Menorca has called for a freezing because the island can do with all the help it can get in the off-season. There should be a decision to freeze the tax, even if it is just for Menorca alone. Were there to be, then it might demonstrate more than just the easily expressed "concern". Menorca is too easily forgotten.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 October 2017

Morning high (6.53am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 13 October - Sun, 26C; 14 October - Sun, 26C; 15 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Happy National Day. Sun all the way, quite possibly also in Catalonia.

Evening update (20.15): High of 27.6C.

Flying Flags: National Day

Today, 12 October, is a national holiday. It is Spain's National Day, a celebration rooted, oddly enough, not in Spain but in Argentina. In 1913, there was the first Fiesta de la Raza - the festival of the race, the Spanish race. This fiesta grew out of what was already a celebration in Buenos Aires for Columbus. Today is symbolic in different ways - National Day, Columbus's discovery of an island that he thought must have been near China, the day of the Virgen del Pilar (Spain's female patron saint) and the day of the Guardia Civil. Given events in Catalonia, you couldn't conceive of a day that is more symbolic.

The old festival of the race became the Día de la Hispanidad - a global event in honour of Spanishness, with all its faded imperial glory. The 1913 fiesta was fifteen years after the terminal blows to Spanish imperialism that were inflicted by the Americans. The Caribbean and The Philippines would never be the same. One hundred and four years on from that first fiesta, it might be argued that this imperialism is once more faltering - Catalonia (some of it) wants away.

Amidst all the angst, posturing and navel-gazing surrounding Catalonia and its desire to leave the Spanish Empire, there is a subtext of a race nature. The Catalans, and it isn't the other way round, have been characterised by some commentators as racists. One should qualify this by saying that some Catalans have been characterised in this fashion, those who seemingly - so the argument goes - consider themselves superior to the Spanish. Racism and xenophobia have been allowed to consume the secessionist tendency: racism and xenophobia directed at an inferior race, the Spanish.

Where do such notions spring from? To an extent they are manifestations of a moral superiority founded on centuries of victimhood. Yet curiously, the same victimhood does not reveal itself in demands for independence in the likes of Aragon or the Balearics (despite what Més might think). If any region really has a claim, then it is Aragon, which did after all hold the crown of which Catalonia was once a part.

It also comes from perceptions of greater culture, greater sophistication, greater entrepreneurialism. Catalonia was fundamental to Spain's emergence as an economic power. It was not a region lumbered with idleness. It is not an Andalusia, with which there has long been an antagonism and one which, for a good period of the twentieth century, had strong racist connotations.

The Catalans, those who identify squarely with Catalonia as opposed to those who do not, are therefore a race apart: the un-Spanish Spanish. The Fiesta de la Raza is someone else's national day, someone else's race.

Yet really it's all about regional rivalries that extend way back when. History, to be honest, can at times get extraordinarily tiresome. But Catalonia and the Catalans aren't the only ones to perceive themselves as different. What is this Spanishness within Spain that is celebrated? Like other countries, it is a combination of old cultures, such as the Basques (who've been doing a reasonable job at keeping their heads down just lately) and the Galicians. Spain and Spanishness are thus historical accidents, conveniences, contrivances. But the same can be said for most countries.

While most of Spain will wave its flag today and line up against the treacherous Catalans, in the Balearics there is the mini-me of Catalonia. Independence-driven Catalans look upon the Balearics with a patronising and wonky Oriol Junqueras eye. The Balearics are good Catalans, when of course the great majority are no such thing. But the Balearics are cousins (inferior? cousins) for the fomenting. Division with Spain needs an outlet beyond the borders of Catalonia. The Balearics provide an outlet. Or at least a small minority might believe so.

There is of course division. We've witnessed it on the streets. On Saturday there was the unedifying but somewhat bizarre sight of a one-time Partido Popular president of the Balearics defending his stall with Mallorcan sovereignty literature. Cristòfol Soler is now a supporter of independence. The stall was attacked by Joan Font of Sa Fundació Jaume III: "We are Mallorcans, we are not Catalans." Mallorcans but also Spaniards.

Font has caused a bit of embarrassment for the university because he's a teacher there. The university wishes to declare its neutrality, which was why the dean of the philosophy and letters faculty, Miquel Deyá (a one-time director of universities for the PP), took down two independence flags, only to then be branded a fascist. Deyá was part of the education ministry when schools placed Catalan flags on buildings in defiance of José Ramón Bauzá. And now, Ciudadanos, whose leader has been willing Rajoy to adopt Article 155, are denouncing indoctrination of an independence nature in Balearic schools.

Division, but in truth only small. Which flags will fly in Mallorca today?