Wednesday, January 31, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 January 2018

Morning high (6.24am): 4.5C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 1 February - Cloud, rain, 16C; 2 February - Rain, wind, 13C; 3 February - Cloud, sun, 15C

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

Make the most of today. Tomorrow is due to get increasingly windy, with showers likely, and continuing into Friday.

Evening update (20.15): High of 20.1C.

A Failure To Connect

It is staggering in a way that an opinion poll sixteen months before an election takes place can have created as much reaction as it has. It is less staggering when one appreciates that the similarities of the poll with one several months before. If the polls don't lie, then there is a clear pattern, and Balearic political parties know what it is. They are all potential winners and all potential losers. Everything is up for grabs.

The reactions from the left have been predictable enough. They have focused on the weakness of the Partido Popular and their need to break bread with Ciudadanos. It is, however, a sign of one's own weakness that one should divert the attention to the weaknesses of others. At least David Abril of Més was prepared to admit that the potential loss of three seats is a concern, even if he appeared to believe that there will be a different outcome in May 2019. He may not really be as bothered as he once was; he's said that he will be leaving politics after the next party congress.

Two others who had their say were Jaume Font of El Pi and Laura Camargo of Podemos. They represented a very clear difference, not just because of their politics but also because of how they come across. Camargo, and she is not alone in Podemos ranks, can appear aloof, as if she is talking down while at the same time hectoring. Podemos are littered with her sort, those who approach their task with an academic disassociation. In other words, people don't warm to them. (I'll make an exception with Pablo Iglesias. He can be charming, funny and likable.)

For a party which is supposedly meant to be the saviour of the common man and woman, Podemos can convey precisely the opposite impression. Camargo, when she was not describing a potential PP and C's alliance as a "disgrace", referred to restoring confidence of society in a "progressive majority" and to "reaching agreements on the roadmap for transformation and opening consultations in the citizens' assemblies". The words were understandable, but what was she really saying? That's part of the problem with Podemos. They speak Podemos-speak, and those doing the speaking can give the impression of being ever so slightly objectionable and supercilious. Alberto Jarabo is another.

Is a failure to connect with people as much a reason why Podemos have gone backwards (three fewer seats, according to the poll) as anything to do with the party's policies and occasional brinkmanship? Possibly. In Mallorca (and it should of course be the same anywhere) there is a need for politicians to connect with different constituencies. With Podemos, one can feel that they appeal to an elite rather than to the ordinary man or woman in the street, especially if this man or woman happens to be out in the sticks of the "part forana".

Here is where one can observe the great contrast between a Camargo and a Jaume Font. He is a veteran Mallorcan politician, a one-time mayor of Sa Pobla. It doesn't get any more solidly Mallorcan than a native of Sa Pobla. It isn't altogether surprising that Font should have a better approval rating than anyone else, including President Armengol who, for all her faults with talking in consensus and dialogue riddles, is not unlikable. Font is a man for the occasional quip. He is only really matched in this regard by Miquel Ensenyat, the Més president of the Council of Mallorca (another likable person). But he is also capable of making very cutting observations. He has done so with the holiday rentals zoning. Decisions for this should not be made from Palma.

This remark was not a throwaway. One could understand exactly where Font was coming from. As a former minister (when he was with the PP under Matas), he has been part of the Palma elite, but he remains the product of the part forana, an advocate for the ordinary Mallorcan. He knows how to connect, and he can do so in a manner that is genuine when compared with, say, a Podemos artificiality. Moreover, he needs no lessons from the left about the Catalan thing. He's a member of the Obra Cultural Balear.

The apparent impasse that the poll indicates is crying out for a leader who can really make a connection. The PP don't have one in Biel Company; Armengol is Armengol; Podemos have Mae de la Concha lurking in the background, about whom no one knows anything; Xavier Pericay of the C's is stuffy and professorial; Font can do it, but El Pi won't; Més seem to have no idea where they're going - how much they'd love Ensenyat to say yes, but he wants to stay at the Council of Mallorca. The connection cupboard is hardly full.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 January 2018

Morning high (8.03am): 4.6C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 31 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 1 February - Rain, 17C; 2 February - Rain, 13C

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

Cold start. Fine and sunny later. Looking ahead ... Thursday and Friday don't seem too clever.

Evening update (21.15): Good. High of 19.1C.

The Keys To A Municipal Shield

For no particular reason, Sa Pobla town hall the other day updated its Facebook profile picture. It was the municipal shield. Someone commented on this. Sa Pobla has one of the best shields in Mallorca, he observed. And what is it about the shield that merits this accolade? Essentially, the same as what would presumably qualify Lloseta's shield for being ranked among the meritorious of Mallorca. A griffin. The Sa Pobla shield is a beige griffin on a red background surrounded by appropriately heraldic frippery.

But why a griffin? Simple. Sa Pobla is the centre of Mallorca's demons. In the Middle Ages the griffin was a representation of the devil. The cult of Sant Antoni, demons and all, was imported to Mallorca in the Middle Ages. Sa Pobla was the focal point for the saint. Hence, the griffin. This explains Sa Pobla's shield. As for Lloseta's ... .

In some instances, the shields of the town halls have very long pasts. Inca's is a case in point. It has of course undergone a considerable transformation in terms of its graphics since the thirteenth century, but the image of a running dog is an original element. Again, the question arises. Why a dog? Is Inca famous for its dogs? No. Was it famous for dogs in the Middle Ages? No. The reason for the dog, according to legend, is linked to the story of the Muslim overlord of Inca. When Jaume I undertook his conquest in the thirteenth century, this lord vowed to be faithful to him. Apparently, it was his dog that was incorporated into the shield as a sign of this faithfulness. There again, it's possible that there is a completely different story.

Many of the symbols are otherwise pretty obvious. Alcudia, Arta, Capdepera, Palma all feature castles. Some are rather peculiar. What does one make, for example, of Binissalem's? It looks as if it should be hanging over a petrol station. A Shell station. It is a shell, the shell of Santiago, the patron saint of Binissalem, better known in Mallorca as Sant Jaume. The shield of Ses Salines, in all honesty, looks downright odd. It's clear what it is, but a pile of salt doesn't give off an especially heraldic image. In fact, there is a complete absence of heraldry in Ses Salines. In its favour, one can say that it isn't pretentious.

Another peculiar one is Bunyola's. They've gone and stuck five doughnuts ("bunyols") on their shield. Well, yes, we get the association, but Bunyola - in terms of its toponymy - doesn't have anything to do with doughnuts (some say fritters). It is seemingly a corruption of words meaning small vineyard.

Then there are the mysterious suns of Andratx and Soller. Why? Doesn't everywhere in Mallorca have sun? They do, but it's all to do with the setting sun, the theory being that in Andratx (or Soller), the last of the sun is to be seen. Hmm, stretching a point perhaps.

I have a personal liking for the shield of Maria de la Salut. It has a dignified, Romanesque M, topped by a crown. The M in question has nothing to do with James Bond, but everything to do with the Virgin Mary and the messengers of health, which is how Maria de la Salut came to be known as Maria de la Salut. I'm also taken by the Petra shield. The cross keys are associated with the parish church of Sant Pere, i.e. Saint Peter. The keys of Saint Peter are the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.

But these keys play a part in what is one of the stranger stories that lurk behind a municipal shield. In the September-October 1983 edition of Ariany (they just named the magazine after the place), the residents of the village were invited to offer their suggestions regarding the design of the municipal shield. Ariany had gained its "independence" from Petra the year before: it is the newest of Mallorca's municipalities.

The article considered elements of other shields, such as the religious connotations in those of Felanitx and Sant Joan, but it wasn't insistent on anything, other than that there should be reference to heraldic insignia for the Cotoner family. So, the shield had a cotton plant. But that wasn't all. Remarkably enough it took the town hall until January 1988 to finally decide, and when they did, there - next to the plant - were two keys, the keys of Saint Peter. And why the keys? It was all a bit of a dig at Petra. Ariany had been after its independence for years, and once independence was gained, Ariany was going to make sure Petra always remembered the fact. They nicked Petra's keys and used them in their own shield.

Ariany's, one of the best shields in Mallorca? As far as having a laugh is concerned perhaps. Otherwise, not really. Sa Pobla's is quite distinguished, but I'm going with Maria and trust that the shield brings good health.

Monday, January 29, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 January 2018

Morning high (7.27am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 30 January - Sun, 18C; 31 January - Sun, cloud, 18C; 1 February - Cloud, 18C

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

A sunny day today.

Evening update (19.45): Pleasant. High of 18.1C.

Jaume The Kingmaker

The maths are simple, give or take a plus or minus here and there. The latest poll suggests that a coalition of the right/centre-right could come into power after the 2019 election. This poll doesn't show any great movement from one last summer. It merely confirms the fact that the only party making a notable gain in the opinion polls is one of those on the loosely defined centre-right - Ciudadanos. It further verifies that PSOE and the Partido Popular are stuck in neutral and that Podemos and Més are in reverse.

If nothing else, the poll reveals that the "new politics" are very much alive. The pattern in the past with PSOE-led governments has been for the PP to come along and trounce them. There's no chance of that happening in 2019, and the PP know it. The party's spokesperson, Marga Prohens, has alluded to the fact that the PP will need a pact in order to form a government.

Unless there is some form of political earthquake between now and May next year, it is clear that there will be a coalition of one form or another. Polls, as we know, are not always accurate, but as the latest shows little movement compared with the previous, it is probably a fair reflection of wider voter sentiment.

A conclusion that the right/centre-right would automatically make an alliance, assuming they together reach the thirty seat majority threshold, is too simplistic. There are issues which bind them and those which do not. El Pi, forecast to increase by one its seats in parliament (from the current three to four), is already being cast in the role of kingmaker. Potentially, El Pi could go either way.

One of the principal differences between the PP, the C's and El Pi is the Catalan question, in particular the language and culture. El Pi was formed in a circuitous fashion. It is the amalgamation of the Convergencia, which was the remnant of the defunct and discredited Unió Mallorquina, and the Lliga Regionalista. This latter party was formed by Jaume Font, now the president of El Pi, after he left the PP. A reason for him having done so was that he was under investigation by a court (the case was later closed). The PP ethics, newly introduced by José Ramón Bauzá, barred election candidacy to anyone being investigated. Font disagreed with this, but he also disagreed with Bauzá's increasingly anti-Catalan stance prior to the 2011 election.

The PP, under new leader Biel Company, have moderated their views. The party has returned to what it once was in the Balearics: accepting of Catalan and also of regionalism. In this regard, the PP aren't distant from El Pi, which also clings to the sort of soft-nationalism that Maria Munar advocated with the UM. There is more of an issue with the C's.

One has to assume that the gains made by the C's (six or seven seats, according to the poll, compared with the current two) owe at least something to the party's stance on Catalonia and to educational matters in the Balearics. The leader of the C's, Xavier Pericay, has been a constant critic of Catalanism in education and of alleged political indoctrination (in favour of Catalan independence and republicanism) in schools. The PP might be prepared to swallow this, but El Pi might not.

For the parties of the government pact, the poll indicates a best-case scenario of them just crossing the finishing line. They would need the one seat of Gent per Formentera (pretty much assured) in order to get to the thirty majority, but this hardly represents a ringing endorsement of the government. Més and Podemos have both slipped, by a combined six seats at most in the poll. Both have their internal issues and both, so it would seem, are being penalised for a radicalism, the counterpoint to which is the rise of the C's.

PSOE, says the poll, might gain one seat and be bumped up to fifteen, but as with the PP, it is a party that finds itself suffering because of the new politics and the past errors. PSOE would be most unlikely to wish to abandon the so-called "progressive" politics enshrined in its agreements with Més and Podemos, but one still feels that it only has these agreements because it has no other choice.

If the pact parties failed to gain a majority, might El Pi be persuaded to ally with them? One can't rule anything out, but it would be hard to see how such an alliance could ever work. To take but one example, there are holiday rentals. El Pi sees things very differently.

As things stand, it is just possible that the election will lead to a minority government. El Pi would be the kingmaker. All the parties need to be nice to Jaume Font.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 January 2018

Morning high (8.10am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 29 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 30 January - Sun, cloud, 17C; 31 January - Cloud, 18C

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

Calmer morning. Mild. Don't anticipate much sun today. Could be some rain.

Evening update (19.00): There was some sun. Not a bad day. High of 16.1C.

Mallorca's Frankenstein And Dracula

Frankenstein's daughter, we have learned from one quarter, is the Council's Great Map Of Mallorca's Zones. Frankenstein himself, in a Mallorcan touristic style, was invented by Biel Barceló, a minister with a moderate grasp of tourism reality, who has been replaced by a school teacher with no grasp at all. Biel's Frankenstein was cobbled together by Podemos, who managed to initially wreck what was already the considerable wreckage of the holiday rentals legislation.

The daughter of Frankenstein, the Great Map, has yet to be fully activated. In true Mallorcan political style, it has been given "initial" approval by the Council, which means that it has in fact been fully approved but that the Council needs to undertake the charade known as "public consultation". Town halls, Aptur, GOB and all others will make their submissions, will have press conferences at which they condemn the whole process, and at the end of all this, the Great Map will be as it ever was.

In order to fully activate it, however, a grand ceremony will be required. The Great Map will be transported to Lluc Monastery. Mick of the Council, donning something suitably Druidic, will raise his arms, incant the Sibil-la and invoke the spirits of Ramon Llull and the Black Madonna. Lightning will strike the two bolts attached to the Great Map and result in an apocalyptic fire that wipes out most of the protected "rustic" land of Escorca, thus rendering the Partido Popular mayor's wish for holiday rentals on this land redundant.

By Mick's side will be the other Frankenstein's daughter: the daughter of Francina, Mercedes of the Council. Mercedes, in line to inherit the PSOE Earth from Francina, has spent her entire time since being put in charge of Mallorca's land contending with saturation of one form or another. It was Mercedes who came up with the idea for shuttle buses for beaches and other parts of the island. The town halls weren't all impressed with that idea either, and we discovered last week that the shuttle bus that will save Formentor from its fate of being overrun by tourists can't operate until the transport ministry has sorted out the new bus service concessions. Oh well, never mind.

Mercedes' potential elevation to the status of New Frankenstein as leader of PSOE does appear to owe something to the fact that a principal challenger, Iago at employment, can't do the Catalan thing with total fluency. It makes one wonder, given Catalan correctness within the government, how Iago ever came to be a minister when he insists on going around and speaking Castellano. One does, though, appreciate why he wasn't made health minister. It wouldn't really do for him to now be informing nurses that if they don't attain B2 level Catalan, they'll be out of a job. And informing them, moreover, in Castellano.

This slight, how can one put it, lack of linguistic policy consistency is nothing compared with the PP's lack of consistency regarding holiday rentals. A Damascene conversion has been experienced by some within the party, not least its nominal leader, Biel Company. Gone are the days when Jaime "Two Paellas" Martínez would studiously ignore requests for a more liberalised approach. The PP now appear to have nailed their blue colours to the blue mast of the Great Map and wish to make the whole of Mallorca blue, i.e. no restrictions and rentals 365 days a year everywhere. Which helps to explain why Antoni Solivellas, the mayor of Escorca, wishes to turn the protected green of the municipality into a nice PP blue: the part of Escorca remaining habitable, that is, following the Great Fire of the Great Map.

Because of their previous form in having sided one hundred per cent with their hotelier chums, the PP really do have some brass neck in now pursuing opportunistic opposition to the Great Map. They have stuck their own two bolts into their neck and become their own Frankenstein. But while they've been doing this, who should emerge from his own ashes than none other than J.R. Bauzá? Yes, the PP's resident Count Dracula is back for another go. Not content with the humiliations he has suffered since being exiled to Madrid and generally spurned by everyone, including most of the PP, Dracula wants to sink his teeth into the Balearics once again.

"We want Bauzá in the political front line." "We are with Bauzá". "Values in action". These are the messages that J.R. has probably himself come up with in calling the negligible faithful to a gathering at a Palma restaurant.

So, while Dracula jockeys for a renewed position at the head of the PP and Frankenstein's daughter continues her advance to the PSOE leadership, we are left with Més. And what's their problem? Well, neither the school teaching tourism minister, Bel, or Mother Santiago at social services is going to be able to pull the different factions together. A compromise candidate to run for the presidency next year would now appear to be Alaro's mayor, Guillem Balboa. And that candidacy, for once, would be something that the whole of Mallorca could be proud of.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 January 2018

Morning high (7.28am): 10.1C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 28 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 19C; 29 January - Cloud, sun, 18C; 30 January - Cloud, sun, 18C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 occasionally 7.

Very windy and staying windy, with the risk of showers at any time today. Yellow alert for coastal conditions.

Evening update (20.30): Some rain, no sun. High of 11.7C.

Days Of Renting And Sewage

So then, just so everyone is clear ... Alcudia town, Pollensa town, El Vilà, La Font and Ullaró are saturated. Everywhere else isn't: Puerto Alcudia, Alcanada, Playa de Muro, Can Picafort, Son Serra, Muro, Santa Margalida, Sa Pobla, Búger, Campanet, Crestatx, Bonaire, Barcares, Puerto Pollensa, Formentor, Cala San Vicente.

How on earth do they arrive at such conclusions? No one really knows. They just do. And having arrived at these conclusions, the saturated areas can be eligible to no more than sixty days of holiday rental per annum, licences renewable every five years at the mere cost of 5,000 euros per accommodation place, assuming any licences are eventually forthcoming.

Licences being forthcoming is as much of the issue as all this daft zoning business. It isn't clear how they will be divvied out. I have seen a list per municipality of rental places, but as this list comes to over 100,000 places I have to assume that it is one that takes account of what is already legal (there are only some 30,000 new places on offer). If I'm reading this list correctly, in the case of Pollensa, as an example, there would be some 3,000 going spare. How many of these might end up being apartment places would be anyone's guess. There are hurdles to be overcome, such as communities' rights of veto.

Pollensa's mayor, Miquel Àngel March, has said that he's satisfied with the conclusions. Pollensa is saturated, thus there is the sixty-day restriction. But what was it that March said almost two years ago about problems of accommodation in Puerto Pollensa? I don't know that he is entirely satisfied. Alcudia's Toni Mir isn't satisfied, because the town is deemed to be saturated. The town hall will be letting the Council of Mallorca know what it thinks of this saturation. It won't get very far.

Elsewhere, Sa Pobla's Biel Ferragut is doubtless happy. The town hall has been betting on a favourable rentals outcome in order to boost the Sa Pobla tourism economy. Muro's Marti Fornés hasn't said anything; he's probably keeping his head down, given his historical links to the local hotel industry. Joan Monjo in Santa Margalida, an El Pi man like Mir, has no saturation concerns.

For now, though, it is all a bit of a waiting game. The Council of Mallorca still has its plan to tidy up, and the government has its moratorium to finish. Nothing, it seems to me, is likely to alter this summer. There are too many factors to take account of in facilitating licences, and they will take time to deal with.

While Santa Margalida town, Can Picafort and Son Serra have been given the blue or orange colour-coded all-clear for 365 days a year rental, the town hall is in the process of reclassifying land in Can Picafort in order that some new hotels can pop up. The timing of this, what with all the discussion of saturation (or not), might be considered a little unfortunate. And just as unfortunate is the ongoing row over the Son Baulo sewage and water treatment plant.

A reason why a new plant is needed is that the one in Albufera can't cope with all the additional demand placed on it by tourism. Increased numbers of tourists have meant increased strain on a plant that is considered to be obsolete. Adding more hotels in Can Picafort would simply create even greater problems. Yet Santa Margalida town hall continues to defy everyone and anyone when it comes to the Son Baulo plant.

Muro town hall is now taking the matter to court. Specifically, it wants a legal review of the Santa Margalida decision to unilaterally break an agreement for the Son Baulo plant that was signed in 2005. In a statement, Muro makes clear that at the turn of the century it was already understood that capacity at the Albufera plant was being exceeded. That was eighteen years ago, and nothing has happened.

Adding greater weight to the Muro court case is the decision of the government's Abaqua water agency (the successor to Ibasan, which was the agency that signed the 2005 agreement) to instruct the regional attorney to challenge the Santa Margalida decision. The agency points out that the Son Baulo plant was declared to be in the general interest in 2010, meaning that there isn't a legal obstacle blocking its construction. That's the theory anyway. In practice, eight more years have passed, and the courts are now involved.

Friday, January 26, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 January 2018

Morning high (5.53am): 13.5C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 27 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 17C; 28 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C; 29 January - Cloud, sun, 17C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 4 to 5 veering Northeast 6 to 7 during the afternoon.

Some weather expected today. Windy with a strong northerly this afternoon. Rain possible, especially later on and overnight.

Evening update (21.30): Well, the "gota friá" has made its presence known. Already up to 30 litres of rain per square metre in parts. Storm rumbling. High today of 14.3C.

The Explanation Game: Tourist Tax

President Armengol attempted to go on the offensive last week. She was being harangued in Madrid by leading hoteliers over the tourist tax. Carmen Riu criticised the lack of information for tourists about how tourist tax revenue is spent. Armengol responded by stressing the "great social acceptance" of the tax, noting that others (i.e. Greece) were bringing in a similar tax, and then challenging Riu to provide an example of how a tourist tax purpose is better explained than in the Balearics. "I paid seven euros tourist tax in Brussels, and no one told me what it was for."

Well, quite. Go to a city where there is a tourist tax (or whatever it is called), and there invariably won't be any explanation. Why should there be? It's a tax. You pay it. End of story.

The Balearic government can, one supposes, to be applauded for attempting to get across how the tax is spent. There is at least some transparency, even if the communication is utterly lamentable. But why is so much emphasis being placed on the need to explain the purpose of the tax? Did Catalonia undertake a major information campaign to detail the reasons for its tax when it came in back in 2011? No. There was information, mainly just through the press, and strange though it may seem, the tax was to be spent on tourism.

Most variants on the tourist tax theme are simply means of increasing revenue, be these for cities, towns or national governments. Rome, for instance, was pretty clear when it introduced its tax. Italy was in deep economic trouble, so therefore Rome was as well. The tax was to help pay for services. There was no attempt at wrapping it up as something that it wasn't. It was a tax, and one to swell the city authority's coffers.

A problem for the Balearic government is that it has disappeared so far up its collective backside of sustainability allied to the need for transparency (etc. etc.) that it has ended up being unable to truly explain why there is a tax. If it were being truthful, it would admit that it is a general tax (didn't the finance minister more or less say this on one occasion?). But no, it has to massage the message with all the sustainable guff that it comes out with. Which is by no means to decry policies of sustainability; merely that everyone grows sick of hearing about them. Everything's for sustainability. Thus, the tax and its purpose lose meaning.

Is it the case, however, that the government sees a need to inform because it is fully aware that there might just be some resistance to the tax? Its own statements have included the fact that there were barely any complaints when the tax came in. Which is true, but these were complaints sent directly to the tourism ministry. Who does that? Three or four people, it seems. Everyone else complains on social media, of which this government appears to be embarrassingly ignorant.

This apparent lack of complaint equates to the government message of social acceptance of the tax. There are taxes elsewhere, and travellers are now used to them. The Balearic tax is no different.

It's true that it isn't totally different. There are tourist taxes for whole countries with a high reliance on sun and beach tourism, e.g. Croatia. But they aren't on the scale of the Balearic tax. Travellers may be used to paying high taxes in cities, they may even now be accepting of some form of tax for when they (typical families) have their annual holidays, but it is the amount that is different. It can prove costly.

The desperate need to convince has now led the tourism ministry to fire off letters of explanation to Abta and its German counterpart, DRV. And what do we find in this letter? The same old business about the percentage of the overall cost of the holiday which Biel Barceló trotted out. As for "market prices" determining the new rate in 2018, what market? The justification is arrant nonsense. Or would be if the Greeks hadn't come along and introduced their tax. Greece has given the tourism ministry its opportunity. "Look, we're explaining how our tax is being spent. It's saving the environment (or words to that effect). What are the Greeks doing? Just slapping on a tax to raise revenue for the government?" Which of course the Balearic government isn't.

Being overlooked is the fact that the Greek tax is per room and not per person. But by resorting to making a comparison with the Greeks just seems to weaken the government's message, not strengthen it. If the government were so convinced of its case, it wouldn't need to explain anything. It isn't convinced, because although it won't admit this, there isn't "great social acceptance".

Thursday, January 25, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 January 2018

Morning high (8.32am): 6.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 26 January - Cloud, rain, 17C; 27 January - Rain, 16C; 28 January - Cloud, sun, 19C

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

Some low cloud (or perhaps fog) to start with. Lifting to give a decent sunny day. Tomorrow going downhill.

Evening update (19.30): High of 19.3C. Wind has got up, change is on its way.

Cuba And Mallorca's Globalisation

Towards the end of June 2016, it was announced that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide had finalised an agreement to manage the Gaviota 5th Avenue Hotel in Havana. The announcement was an historic one. The hotel was to be the first one to operate under a US company since Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959.

More than a quarter of a century ago, Meliá Hotels International (as now is) opened the Sol Palmeras Hotel in Cuba. It was the group's first hotel on the island. At the time of celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary, father and son Escarrer restated their "unwavering commitment to the present and the future of the Cuban tourism industry".

Meliá is the largest foreign hotel operator in Cuba. Such is the company's status that it has a "position of honour" in the history of the development of the island's tourism. This position had brought with it 29 hotels under its management in Cuba at the time of the anniversary: 29 more than any US hotel concern. A history of joint venture investments with the Cuban government had stood Meliá in good stead, and it continues to. From the start of this year, four more hotels came under its management. Two others are to be added between now and 2019.

A few days ago, it was reported that four leading Mallorcan hotel groups are to invest some 1,000 million euros in Cuba this year. Meliá was one; Barceló, Be Live (Globalia) and Iberostar were the others. The report made, and cue the howls of criticism, including those of Més. Joana Campomar, for some reason hauled up in front of the press, insisted that rather than all this money going on Cuban investment it should be dedicated to improving working conditions and new technologies in the Balearics. She was hardly about to say, good on you, hoteliers, and why stop at just 1,000 million for Cuba?

The hoteliers, especially the major ones, are most people's Aunt Sallys. By most people I don't just mean islanders who dislike the massive amounts of money they make and the low wages they pay. There are also the non-islanders, for whom the hoteliers are the devil's work in depriving the Balearics of apartment rentals. It is curious of course, where the critical islanders are concerned, that they are probably exactly the same people who want highly restrictive rentals regulations because they can't find anywhere to live. In the same camp therefore, but with different perspectives, even if they can be hypocritical in not acknowledging that the hoteliers are basically batting on their behalf: more so now because of the wage agreement.

Admittedly, it can appear somewhat unfortunate that you have Fluxà, Hidalgo and Escarrer the Father being photographed sipping mojitos (or whatever) with the Cuban tourism minister and explaining their investment largesse. The fat cats just get fatter. Two of that threesome are on the Forbes Billionaires List. One who wasn't photographed - or rather two who weren't - were Carmen and Luis Riu. They are jointly listed by Forbes. Riu quit Cuba three years ago, citing the lack of quality of hotels under their management and a certain exasperation with Cuban red tape. Meliá, it would seem, have never had a problem with this, or have at least learned how to deal with it.

Investment in Cuba, or indeed in the various other destinations in which Mallorca hotels are active, grates with the lobby that has its issues with tourism. Those who want limits or de-growth in Mallorca's tourism tend to also be those who are anti-globalisation. The hoteliers, especially the leading companies, are the only real example of Mallorca engaging in globalisation.

But what do people expect? I personally endorse the notion of tourism limits on the island, but I have no problem with overseas investment. Why should I? These are businesses, after all, and very good ones. They invest abroad in order to grow. And one reason is that they have little scope to grow in the Balearics. They can't just stick up loads of new hotels because they're not allowed to. New hotel developments in the recent past are ones for land that had been allocated for tourism accommodation purposes. Future developments will require a quid pro quo. New hotel places will mean eliminating existing ones, and this policy would be unlikely to change even if a right-wing government comes into power.

With Cuba there is also the historical context. It was Cuba (and Puerto Rico) that once provided entrepreneurial opportunities for Mallorca, and the ties with Mallorca and with Spain remained strong despite the loss of both to the Americans. So, Cuba has always been a place to do business. And because the Americans banned all business contact, the island was wide open to the Spanish. It still is, despite Obama and because of Trump.

Mallorca has global businesses, whether some people like it or not.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 January 2018

Morning high (7.50am): 5.9C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 25 January - Sun, cloud, 21C; 26 January - Rain, 17C; 27 January - Cloud, sun, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 3 tending to South 3 in the afternoon.

Clear skies. Another bright, sunny day to come.

Evening update (19.45): High of 20.5C. Bit of a chilly breeze now the evening has arrived.

Valencia: Tourism Common Sense

I would like to introduce you to a gentleman called Francesc Colomer Sánchez. You probably haven't heard of him, unless you live in or are from Valencia (the region, that is). Colomer is a politician with the PSPV, the Valencia arm of PSOE. He has a degree in philosophy (about which more below) and has been the mayor of Benicàssim on three occasions. This is a coastal town in Valencia, for which tourism is vitally important. It also plays host to one of Spain's most important rock and pop music festivals, held each year in July. Colomer, when he was first the mayor (he took office when he was only 24), was a driving force behind starting the festival.

Colomer was for a time the president (speaker) of the Valencia parliament during the current legislature. He stepped down in order to become the Valencia region's secretary of tourism. Valencia has an unusual government structure in this regard. There isn't a tourism ministry as such. The Valencia Tourism Agency, of which Colomer is secretary, reports directly to the regional president, Ximo Puig.

Philosophy is important to Colomer. In a recent interview, he mentioned the word often. This interview, from Hosteltur, reveals someone who is a clear thinker about tourism, and this thinking isn't clouded by philosophical musings. It is right down to earth, there is an absence of allusions to political ideologies. It is quite simply very sensible.

In Valencia there is talk of a tourist tax. Colomer rejects the idea. His explanation why demonstrates his thinking, and it is worth quoting what he said. "I am against it for various reasons. For one, there are markets which are highly sensitive to price - in the UK, spending power may fall because of Brexit. Another reason is that it seems unfair to me that there is a tax on accommodation ... when this brings people who spend in shops, restaurants or theatres. And we shouldn't forget a more philosophical concept, which is that hospitality is an attribute of our tourism. We should not transfer to the tourist our insolvencies or our incapacity to organise a city ... . In this philosophical respect, I don't see there being a tax on the tourist who already pays for everything."

Picking over what he says, one thing is very striking. A tourist tax is contradictory to a philosophy of providing hospitality. What a powerful notion, and partly this power springs from Colomer's attitude towards tourism and tourists. There is a pride in rejecting a tax that can undermine a reputation for being hospitable and being grateful for what tourism brings.

The contrast with the Balearics is great. For starters, Colomer doesn't litter his arguments with sustainability or any of the political buzz words and phrases of the moment. Most obviously, and unlike the Balearics, he is a socialist politician who doesn't see merit in the tourist tax. Would it be too much to ask that Valencia seconds him to the Balearics?

There are other aspects that Colomer covers in this interview which show just how different Valencia is to the Balearics. One of the most significant is how tourism policy is directed. The Valencia government is to be a 50% stakeholder in this. New legislation in the region establishes that there is "collaborative governance" of tourism. Businesses, unions, universities, chambers of commerce, leading tourism "brands", provincial administrations, the principal cities in the region: these are all part of this collaboration.

So, in Valencia, rather than pitting different sectors together, they want to bring them together. The result, one would trust, would be consensus and genuine consensus at that and not the consensus of all the blather that we get in the Balearics. And at the heart of this is someone who displays a grasp of his subject that shames the Balearics and the on-message repetitions by politicians who give the impression of being intellectual pygmies by comparison.

Biel Barceló, when he was tourism minister, suggested that the tourism ministry could disappear. This would be because of the transfer of responsibilities to the island councils. In Valencia, there may not be a ministry as such, but the importance of tourism is plain to see. The regional president heads the tourism structure, something I have advocated for the Balearics in the past.

Valencia isn't without its tourism problems. Like the Balearics, the region has to contend with illegal accommodation, and they're coming down hard on it. Colomer wants the Spanish government to take a role and harmonise legislation, which the national tourism minister seems most disinclined to do. Valencia also has its centres of very dense tourism populations: Benidorm, for instance. But it has by and large escaped anti-tourism protests. Might this owe at least something to the messages of politicians?

Among those messages are ones of common sense, spoken by a philosopher. Lucky old Valencia.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 January 2018

Morning high (8.15am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 24 January - Sun, 19C; 25 January - Sun, cloud, 21C; 26 January - Rain, 17C

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

More of the same. Warm and sunny. All going wrong on Friday and over the weekend.

Evening update (21.15): Very fine. High of 21.3C.

The Story Of Mallorca's Squares

The origin of the town or village square is pretty obvious. It was the nucleus of the village. Its function was the same in most societies, but in the case of Mallorca and Spain, the square tended to be where political and religious power was at its most evident. Town halls could be on the square, so could the parish church.

This is by no means the case in all Mallorca's "pueblos", but there are examples of this conjunction of secular and religious authority surrounding the focal centre. Muro is one. Its imposing Sant Joan Baptista Church stares across at the Ajuntament, and the Ajuntament stares back. Yet oddly perhaps, the square over which both stare is not like most squares. It isn't also surrounded by bars, cafés and restaurants. 

Sa Pobla is another example and it is more representative of the Mallorcan square in that it does have the bars. At one end of the rectangular square is the town hall; at the other end, the church. This is, moreover, a Plaça Major, the main or biggest square. In Muro, they named the square after a count, the Comte d'Empúries (Ponç I, if memory serves correct).

The main square is therefore not always "Major". In some villages, it has largely ceased to have a name. Algaida, Bunyola, Sineu and Soller, here are places where it is commonly just "Sa Plaça". In the case of Soller, it is the Constitution Square. Alcudia has one of these as well. It was the original main square before being superseded by the area that combines a square - Carles V - with two promenades in making up the principal market zone. There are plenty of places which have a specific Plaça Mercat, but not Alcudia.

So ingrained into local society are the squares that they have inspired writings. In Alcudia, the author Alexandre Cuéllar penned Café de Plaça, a tribute to a Mallorcan type of café society of the late 1950s, one that would just watch the world go by and which was essentially a satire on idleness.

There are of course numerous squares in the villages or towns, some of which aren't really squares at all. They are just areas. Can Picafort, for example, has a Plaça Cervantes. It isn't a square but a broader part of the seafront prom. But such is the affinity with the concept of a square that names can be assigned even if they are inaccurate.

Some squares just seem to emerge, and they do so - or at least this is how it appears - in order to locate fiesta events. Puerto Alcudia has a Plaça Varadero. In reality, it is - like Can Picafort - part of the prom. It doesn't conform to the notion of a square, not least because one side of it is the sea and two more sides are just extensions of the prom.

The squares, the sheer number of them, conceal their own places in village history. Pollensa has a Plaça Major with a parish church but no evidence of local administration. Otherwise, it is a perfect example of the square, with an iconic bar (Ca'n Moixet) and various others. But it has only comparatively recently become the main square. The process started in the middle of the nineteenth century. They've even determined when - 1856. The square grew around the parish church, the first stone for which had been laid in 1714. The church, as it now is, took more than 150 years to complete, but its presence created what became the nucleus of the village and still is.

Before the Plaça Major, there was the Plaça Vella, which presumably had another name at some point (or maybe they hadn't bothered with a name). The old square dates from the fourteenth century. Streets that lead off it are the oldest in Pollensa, and so the old square was possibly the original nucleus. It has its own peculiar place in current-day culture because it is the square where they raise and climb the pine for Sant Antoni, assuming that it doesn't snap, like it did last week.

But Plaça Vella was probably not the first square. The Plaça Almoina, barely a square at all, given how small it is, is from the Middle Ages. It took its name from the Almoina "casa", a charity for the poor. The Valencian saint, Vicent Ferrer, preached in Pollensa in the fourteenth century, and there is an image of him on the Almoina house. The square is where streets such as Joan Mas converge, and it was named after the hero captain who led the local Christians to victory over the Moors. Plaça Almoina is the starting-point for the famous re-enactment.

Behind the squares, therefore, there is a great deal of the past. They aren't just simply places to sit, have a coffee or beer and watch the world go by. That square you're in today? What's its story?

Monday, January 22, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 January 2018

Morning high (8.16am): 15.6C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 January - Sun, 20C; 24 January - Sun, 19C; 25 January - Sun, cloud, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4 to 5 easing West 3 by the late afternoon.

Much like yesterday. Mild to start and positively springlike later. The current pattern holding good until Thursday.

Evening update (20.15): High of 22.9C.

The Colour Purple For Saturated

What do you think to the rentals zoning map then? I trust you have paid careful attention. A great deal of work has clearly gone into producing something as mind-boggling as has been produced. But while you have been attempting to decipher the meanings of red, purple, blue, orange, yellow, green and grey, you might have overlooked a logo on the bottom right-hand corner. The logo is for a consultancy called GAAT, which stands for Gabinet d'Análisi Ambiental i Territorial.

This consultancy, according to its website, has twenty years experience of environmental and territorial work in the Balearics. One of its commitments is to the protection of the islands - "always fragile and under constant pressure". It has drafted numerous urban plans in Mallorca and Menorca, and indeed it has. GAAT is a very respected consultancy.

But behind every consultancy, might one suggest that there are some politics. One of the two heads of projects is Maria Magdalena Pons Esteva. She was a candidate in Binissalem for Més at the 2015 municipal elections. Politically, the zoning map has been the responsibility of a PSOE councillor at the Council of Mallorca, but it is a map which seems to meet with the approval with the Més president of the Council and with those in Més higher up the political food chain, those in the government.

The politics of the zoning is already evident. The map was unveiled on Friday, and the reaction - at municipal level - shows the obvious disagreements. Miquel Àngel March, mayor of Pollensa, isn't from Més, but he was a one-time GOB spokesperson. He approves of the map, as does Jaume Servera in Soller. He is a member of Més. Servera and March appear content that their "pueblos" have been declared saturated.

Other mayors aren't content. The Partido Popular's Llorenç Galmés in Santanyi fails to understand what criteria have been applied in declaring Santanyi "saturated". I'm unsure what the PP mayor of Binissalem thinks, but then Binissalem is blue not purple, i.e. it is not saturated or a pueblo with major tourism pressure, which strictly speaking is how the purple pueblos are defined. Toni Mir (El Pi) in Alcudia says that "we are not in agreement" with the saturation declaration. By we, one suspects he means El Pi. The PSOE partners plus the chap with Més-type leanings who has the environment portfolio may well think differently to the mayor.

El Pi is the party which has most been to the fore in defending holiday rentals. The PP, one has to say, are johnny-come-lately converts. They never were when they were in government. Opposition is of course a different matter. The government's regulation of holiday rentals has been a "disaster" from the word go. Maybe, but no more disastrous than the PP's was.

While El Pi and the PP do accept that something needs to be done in order to avoid excessive amounts of rentals and problems with housing, they are taking issue with the sixty-day business. Alcudia, Pollensa, Santanyi, Soller: here are pueblos where there will be rentals for no more than sixty days a year, and these have to be owners' main places of residence. Things are different in each of these municipalities' resorts. They are orange and not the colour purple, meaning that they are not saturated and can therefore have rentals that are made available for 365 days a year.

The PP, despite the apparent hypocrisy they are now spouting, given their stance when in government, do have a point when they refer to the "permissiveness" being shown to coastal resorts while there is, at the same time, restriction in many of the pueblos. It is, as Galmés notes, hard to understand precisely what the criteria. At what point does somewhere become "saturated" and according to what rationale? The consultancy presumably knows.

There is an air with this map of some sort of academic exercise. There may be very sound thinking and methodology behind it, but it would be nice to know precisely what. A further point about the map is that it is, for the time being, largely academic. The Council's PIAT plan for intervention in tourist areas has yet to be completed. It may mean some modification of the zones. The Council explained that it was taking the consultancy firm longer than had been expected to finalise the PIAT. And yes, GAAT is working on this as well.

A further academic aspect is that we don't have any idea how the holiday rentals places (some 30,000) are to be allocated. One assumes that they won't be on a first come, first served basis. So the zoning map is for now comparatively bare. At some point, they'll start putting Monopoly-type houses (flats) on it in order to make it complete. Red, purple, orange, blue and yellow houses. Mind-boggling.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 January 2018

Morning high (8.12am): 16.2C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 January - Sun, 21C; 23 January - Sun, 20C; 24 January - Sun, 20C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 5 to 6 easing 4 to 5.

Mild morning. Sunny day to come.

Evening update (20.15): Well, that was quite warm. Very pleasant, high of 22C.

When Bel Went To Madrid

"Now then, Bel, just listen to what I have to tell the hoteliers, and then later, when the press want to hear from us, give them the normal lines about seeking consensus, lengthening the tourism season, diverting tourists away from the summer to the low season thanks to the success of the 'Better in Winter' campaign, redistributing wealth, creating jobs and so on. Have you got that?"

"Yes, I think so, Francina. But are you saying that I shouldn't say anything to the hoteliers?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying, Bel. Look, you may be the tourism minister, but you've barely been in the job a month, which is not enough time for you to have the faintest idea what you're talking about other than spouting the normal nonsense to the press like myself and every other minister."

"Oh, very well, but I thought this trip was going to be my chance to demonstrate what a firm grip I have on tourism in pursuit of sustainability and securing the future of the environment and the wealth of the citizens."

"You may have thought that, Bel, but the hoteliers aren't going to fall for you being even remotely in charge or having a firm grip on anything. If you must, when it comes to the press, you can trot out some percentage of what the tourist tax will cost the typical family of four relative to the total cost of the holiday. Biel used to do that, which would stun them all into silence for a moment or two."

"But I don't know what the cost of a holiday is for a typical family of four."

"Quite. That's why you're the tourism minister. Now, are we ready for the hoteliers?"

"Yes, Francina."

And so, alas poor Bel, who sat round the table, maintaining a respectful silence as the hoteliers trained their eyes only on Francina. But it wasn't all a waste of time. There were the various photo opportunities. Look, there's the delegation from (insert the town hall as applicable), time for a photo with them. Not that Bel was left on her own. Oh no, all the others were in the photos as well. Francina, Cosmic Bonet of the Council, Mercedes of the Council, Mick of the Council, and anyone else they could drag in.

For the town halls, what a splendid event the Fitur fair was. My, how the media drool over all this stuff. "Mr (Ms) Mayor, what is your assessment of your participation at this year's fair?" "It has been extremely positive. A great success." Meanwhile, and out of view, the massive piles of newly printed brochures for cultural tourism in whatever municipality were remaining stubbornly massive.

Although Mick, Mercedes and Cosmic had taken themselves off to Madrid to, for instance, demonstrate how Mallorca inspires culture (about which we heard not a botifarró), they had more urgent, headline-grabbing matters to attend to back in Palma. Yes, the Great Map Of Mallorca's Zones was unveiled, a cartographer's delight of colour coding, each colour designed to strike sorrow or joy into the hearts of prospective owners of holiday rental accommodation.

"Now then, the red zones are ... ?" "They're saturated." "Ok, and the purple ones?" "They're high tourism pressure." "Isn't that the same thing?" "No, red is saturated and purple is high tourism pressure." "But they amount to the same thing." "Well, yes, sort of." "The grey areas - and I'm not referring to the whole thinking behind zoning - what are they for?" "They're industrial estates." "Industrial estates?" "Industrial estates." "Since when have car showrooms been likely holiday rental accommodation?" "Have you looked on Airbnb lately?"

What a fabulous week it was for tourism, but less than fabulous for Bel, whose thunder was stolen in Madrid and then later in Palma when the Great Map was put on display.

Still, we can now expect her to refer to the Great Map when explaining how sustainability is to be assured, how wealth is to be redistributed to the citizens, how the land (our land) will be saved, how jobs will be created ... . What she probably won't be saying is anything about the tourist tax percentage of the total cost of the holiday for a family of four. Where's Biel when we need him?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 January 2018

Morning high (6.40am): 8.7C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 21 January - Sun, wind, 18C; 22 January - Sun, 17C; 23 January - Sun, 15C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 veering Southwest 4 to 5 around mid-afternoon.

Should be reasonably sunny today after a cloudy start. Windy later and overnight. The next few days are looking very pleasant.

Evening update (20.00): High of 18.3C.

Gloves Off: Rentals And Tax Handbagging

When the tourism industry troops off for its away days in London for the World Travel Market, an impression given is that the industry doesn't air its dirty linen. The impression is of course a false one. The hoteliers and tour operators are happy with the tourist tax? They most certainly are not, though they tend to confine their criticisms to places behind closed doors. At the last fair, however, they came out with the line about one million tourists being lost.

A big difference between, say, the London fair and the one held in Madrid is that the latter is, fairly obviously, a Spanish affair. Sure, there is a big international element, but Madrid provides way more of an assessment of Spanish issues than London, Berlin and others ever will do. As such, therefore, London is not truly representative, and by and large the whole of the industry prefers to keep it that way. A full-on public barney doesn't look good and only creates negative publicity.

London also doesn't have a pre-fair conference quite like Madrid has with the Exceltur forum. Organised on behalf of the tourism industry elite (which Exceltur represents), it offers a stage for what one might describe as full and frank discussions. The Spanish media is engrossed, but other media pay scant attention. It is only Madrid, after all, and they all speak Spanish, unless someone attempts to sneak in some Catalan.

This is to demean the importance of Fitur. Much though London or Berlin might consider themselves to be the centres of the European tourism universe, Madrid is the real centre. The UN's World Tourism Organisation is based in Madrid, the capital of the country that receives more tourists than any other on the planet with the exception of France. Despite the Catalonia effect, Spain leapt above the US last year. The Trump effect, the negative Trump effect, was a key reason why.

The Spanish tourism universe doesn't of course solely revolve around the Balearics, but given that the islands account for more than 15% of the annual foreign tourist total, then what happens in the Balearics matters. The islands are the tourism arguments in relatively large microcosm, and these Balearic arguments tend to be heard more loudly than those of any other region of Spain. They were being given full voice at the Exceltur conference. The foreign media and indeed foreign tourists are naturally familiar with some of these arguments, but if they aren't, then they most certainly would have been if they had been paying attention to Madrid.

President Armengol was basically subjected to a complete handbagging. It was led by two of Mallorca's leading hoteliers - the baron of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer, and the baroness of Riu, Carmen Riu. They laid into her over the tourist tax and the holiday rentals legislation. With the latter, it was perhaps odd to hear that the government was being accused of not being restrictive enough, but the point was nevertheless emphasised, as if it needed to be: the hoteliers want tight regulation of the rentals sector.

On top of this, Armengol was reprimanded by José María González, the president of Europcar, who was supposedly moderating the session. His beef had to do with government interference in the hire-car sector, including the plan for electric vehicles. Then there was the president of the Baleària shipping company, Adolfo Utor. It was illogical, he said, to have a tourist tax which supposedly is going to reduce tourist numbers, while the government is at the same time looking for better subventions for travelling to the islands and also wanting there to be a cut to the tourist rate of IVA (VAT).  

The impression of all this is far from being a false one. Most of the tourism industry, and not just the hoteliers, seems to finally be losing its patience and rag with the Balearic government. Such an impression wouldn't be conveyed at other fairs, but at Madrid it can be, as it is mainly one for a domestic audience. But a problem for the hoteliers, and not only those in Mallorca, as the issue applies widely in Spain, is that the more they go on the offensive over questions such as holiday rentals, the more they can be (and are) accused of just looking after their own greedy interests.

Yet they do have a substantial amount of support. It is curious support because much of it comes from an entirely different political and social perspective. While the national tourism minister, Álvaro Nadal (Partido Popular), can coincide with the hoteliers in blaming holiday rentals for tourism saturation, so left-wing governments and organisations level the same blame.

But the hoteliers would basically like an industry cast in a PP image. A further problem for them, however, is now being able to rely on the PP at elections. Rather than handbaggings, maybe there needs to be more glad-handing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 January 2018

Morning high (7.52am): 5.9C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 January - Cloud, sun, 19C; 21 January - Sun, cloud, 19C; 22 January - Sun, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3 occasionally 4, veering North by the late afternoon.

Fairly cloudy first thing. Expected to be mainly cloudy with some chance of a shower this evening and overnight.

Evening update (21.45): Wasn't too bad really. High of 18.5C.

Too Slow To Legislate: Rentals

Javi López is an MEP from the PSOE socialist party in Catalonia. Via the European Parliament, López has called on the EU to act against websites such as Airbnb. He says that these websites - or more accurately the availability of rented accommodation for visitors - are driving residents out of large cities such as Barcelona. He recognises that the so-called collaborative economy constitutes a market revolution and does offer new opportunities for consumer. However, this comes at costs - unfair competition, the "gentrification" of urban centres, threats to labour rights, exorbitant increases in prices, loss of trade for small businesses, the creation of "ghost" urban centres deprived of life because residents have been expelled.

In order to address these issues, López wants the EU to regulate websites at a European community level in similar ways to which cities or governments have done in order to ensure the "equitable" availability of housing. The chances of the EU doing this are, you would think, pretty slim. In June 2016 the European Commission presented its recommendations for member states with regard to the collaborative economy in its different guises, so therefore the likes of Uber as well as Airbnb.

These recommendations included one which stated that restrictions or bans could only be permitted if they were "proportional", which did rather beg a question as to what proportional means. “Absolute bans and quantitative restrictions should only be used as a measure of last resort,” said the commission, a vice-president of which stated that stricter regulations on sharing economy companies could cost Europe. What also is a "last resort"?

While not seeking to be restrictive, the commission nevertheless accepted that the collaborative economy does raise questions related to employment and consumer protection, social security, tax issues and safety standards. Since then, there does seem to have been a shift in European thinking. While remaining steadfast to a principle of non-restriction, there has been a growing appreciation of difficulties surrounding matters that had been identified in June 2016, not least the payment of tax.

The European Commission is in the process of analysing guidelines for the holiday rental industry, but it would still seem most unlikely that it would go as far as politicians such as López would like. Meanwhile, and despite the recommendations that were made some eighteen months ago, there are all manner of local regulations that are designed to be restrictive.

In Amsterdam, as an example, the town hall has announced that from the start of 2019 owners of apartments that promote via Airbnb or similar will only be able to rent out for a maximum of thirty days per annum. At present, there is a limit of sixty days. The decision has been taken in order to "limit the negative influence of holiday rental apartments". According to the town hall, the numbers of apartments marketed on websites went up from 4,500 in 2013 to 22,000 in 2017. This increase has "unwished-for repercussions in various neighbourhoods of Amsterdam".

The situation has of course been mirrored elsewhere - Palma, for instance - and it has cascaded downwards from the big cities to the resorts, and not only in Mallorca. The Amsterdam figures, with a fivefold increase in the space of five years, speaks volumes for the spectacular rise of the collaborative economy holiday rental industry, but the term collaborative economy has now been shown to stand for speculation and for abuse. What was once a good idea has been turned into a monster of greed with its demands of complete freedom of market, often with little consideration for labour and tax standards, that is breeding social discontent.

I will continue to maintain that had there been legislation in 2012 or 2013 that would have permitted the legalisation of at least a proportion of apartments (if not all of them) so that these could have been openly marketed as tourist lets, we would not now be in the situation that we find ourselves. Much of the stock of holiday rental apartments that has surfaced since then is purely because of speculation that has been created by the websites. Had there been legislation, effective and clear legislation, anything coming onto the market after, say, 2013 or 2014, would have been illegal and would remain illegal. Unfortunately, the Partido Popular chose to sit on their hands and did nothing.

As a consequence we have the broad brush approach of the current government allied to the absurdities that are bound to emerge from zoning. And this approach, meanwhile, seems to run counter to what the European Commission recommended. Or is it a justifiable and proportional "last resort"? Who knows, but the Aptur holiday rentals association would like to get an answer; hence why it intends a challenge to the Balearic legislation in Brussels. But a challenge based on what? The EU now seems unsure. The collaborative economy has created a legislative minefield that is being plotted with slowness and uncertainties.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 January 2018

Morning high (7.24am): 9.9C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 19 January - Cloud, sun, 17C; 20 January - Cloud, sun, 19C; 21 January - Cloud, sun, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 veering West-Southwest around midday.

Uneventful sort of a day - some sunny spells, light winds, mild.

Evening update (20.00): High of 17.3C.

In An Abandoned Way

Tucked away not far from the bullring in Alcudia is what remains of a one-time club or disco. You wouldn't know it was there. You would have to go and look for it. I just happened to come across it. I have long meant to find out more about it, though whenever I've mentioned it, I have drawn blank looks.

This is a case, if you like, of unobtrusive abandonment. The place has been left to rot, but it doesn't offend the senses; that's because it's hidden. But there are numerous examples of obtrusive abandonment. Mallorca is littered with them.

Alcudia has a fine or rather not so fine example of this - the ruin that it is the Es Fogueró Palace. Once upon a time this was the grandest of all night spots. Julio Iglesias performed there. It's been closed for 25 years, and no one knows what to do with it. The town hall came up with a plan a few years ago. The idea was to restore the building and relocate much of Alcudia's nightlife to it. The thinking was, given its location and the location of the existing nightlife, that it would provide the perfect solution to problems with noise. The nightlife businesspeople didn't consider it to be perfect. The plan was scrapped.

Opposite this abandoned edifice is the industrial estate. At long last it might actually be used. And once life is breathed into it, then - so other thinking goes - Es Fogueró can be revitalised. It's not clear how or indeed why, but that's the thinking, which might be defined as: think straw, think clutch.

Abandonment occurs for all manner of reasons. Businesses go bust or are no longer viable; people die and there is no one to inherit (or willing to pay the tax) or the family engages in a feud; some legality or other intrudes; something new comes along; there is no more need. Wherever you might be in Mallorca, you won't have to go far to find abandonment. It's everywhere.

Solutions are sometimes found. Political imperatives ensure that they are. The transformation of Son Dureta is a case in point. No one seemingly ever applied any thought what to do with the hospital once Son Espases opened. President Armengol is right to have said that it couldn't have continued as it was. More than just obtrusive, it was offensive. When there are clear needs for people's health and welfare, then it couldn't just carry on being unused.

With Son Dureta there is only a functional issue. There have been no demands that it had to remain for architectural or heritage reasons. With other examples of abandonment, these are the reasons, however justified or unjustified they might be. Which brings us of course to the Gesa building.

What was it about some legality or other intruding? God knows there has been enough legality surrounding the Gesa building. The latest court ruling appears to establish that it doesn't actually belong to Palma town hall but to Endesa. Whoever owns it, no one is taking any care of it. Yet it has a protected status, meaning an obligation that it can't just be left to vandals and graffiti artists.

But the protected status is, for many, a nonsense. Preserve industrial or commercial heritage by all means, but the Gesa building unfortunately has little going for it, other than the fact that the revered architect Josep Ferragut was responsible for it. And the reverence paid to Ferragut may owe at least something to the question marks surrounding his murder.

The town hall has floated some ideas as to how to use the building, but again there seems to have been straw-clutching in a desperate attempt to justify it remaining, when many would argue that it would be better to demolish it. A question then, if that decision were ever taken, would be who pays for the demolition.

Endesa has other form in this regard, most obviously the old power station in Alcudia. Again, one does have to ask, as with Son Dureta, what anyone thought was going to happen with it after it was decommissioned. The industrial heritage lobby insists that it should stay, Endesa ideally wants shot of it, especially as the company has now sold the old Poblat Gesa estate opposite (designed by Ferragut), the one that Endesa itself allowed to deteriorate into a state of abandonment.

There is so much of this stuff, not all of it as obtrusive as the Gesa building. There are the old houses in village centres, invaded by rats and pigeons. Certain town halls, Felanitx is one, are finally trying to get something done. And there are the other relics of the industrial past, for example the Can Morató carpet factory in Pollensa. Their futures drag on and on. Their abandonment continues until finally someone has a sensible idea. Son Dureta is, however, an exception.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 January 2018

Morning high (7.51am): 17.8C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 18 January - Cloud, sun, 18C; 19 January - Cloud, 17C; 20 January - Cloud, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 5 to 6 easing Variable 2 to 4 during the afternoon.

Mild and windy. Clear and bright morning, clouding over later.

Evening update (20.00): High of 18.6C, but the temperature has plummeted by at least six degrees since the midday maximums.

An Embarrassing Lack Of Riches

Some few years ago now, I was chatting to a good friend who is in the excursions business about cultural excursions in the low season (sometimes also referred to as "the winter"). To cut a fairly long story short, there was no real mileage in the idea as it would to be too costly to arrange (by comparison with excursions in the summer), while the type of tourist who might be interested will go off on their own excursions anyway - they'll hire a car or maybe even cycle.

There was another potential drawback. While accepting that there is some fine "culture" on the island, does any of it have what might be described as a unique selling point? This chat was before the Tramuntana acquired its heritage status, and the mountains might just be said to be a USP, because of the mix of cultural influences that shaped the landscape. But where mountains and Unesco are concerned, the Tramuntana is hardly unique. There are the Dolomites, for example, a couple of parts of the Swiss Alps for others, the Meteora peaks with their monasteries in Greece for another. And then there's the rest of the globe.

How about the Talayotic culture then? Does this represent a USP? To an extent it does insofar as it was a prehistoric culture of Mallorca and Menorca. But then primitive civilisations like that of the Talayotic period existed elsewhere. They differed but they did have similar things in common, such as materials for building. There are bits of prehistoric stone all over the Iberian Peninsula.

Only since living in Mallorca have I come to appreciate the island's culture and heritage. It is rich and it is fascinating, but prior to living here I never gave it any thought. And much as I might be an advocate of what I have discovered, it's a tough call to try and assert that it outstrips cultural heritage of other parts of the Mediterranean or further afield in Europe. Everywhere has this heritage.

The numerous elements of this culture - architecture, archaeology, landscape, customs, fiestas - are to a large extent for those of us in the know. By that I mainly mean people who live here. For sure there is knowledge away from the Balearics, there are visitors who come, are inspired, and then return, but the culture does tend to be a reflection of insularity. As such, it is very important, it is something to be proud of, but it doesn't have major global resonance. Hard as attempts are made to, for instance, persuade an indifferent world that good old Ramon Llull was one of the most important figures of European mediaevalism, that world remains stubbornly more interested in the culture to be found on and close to beaches.

The insular perspective of the island's culture has bred the approach to its promotion. It is undertaken from a Mallorcan point of view and it has been under administrations that were unlike the current one with its strand of island eco-nationalism. This is understandable, of course it is, but it can create a barrier if there is to be a genuine pursuit of an appealing cultural message.

The title here - an embarrassing lack of riches - doesn't refer to any absence of cultural richness. Instead it is a statement of the approach, an indication of which is what appears to be going to happen at the Madrid Fitur tourism fair. The new tourism minister, Bel Busquets, who one fears is going to be completely out of her depth, has been saying that Fitur will all be about promoting the "successful" Better in Winter campaign and specifically cultural heritage. Success? Who says? I will say again that the only body that has had success has been Palma 365. With someone in charge who understands marketing a destination, Pedro Homar, the 365 foundation has eventually done some good. The government? No.

This evening there is apparently to be the presentation of a programme entitled “Mallorca Inspires Culture”, whatever this is. It won't be at Fitur itself; it's at the Hotel Barceló Emperatriz. Most of the presentations are at the exhibition hall. On the agenda for the other days of Fitur there are numerous seminars and what have you, certain ones among which very firmly reflect the government's tourism interests. There are panels of experts for these seminars. They come from local administrations, such as Lanzarote, Seville, Barcelona. Is there anyone from Mallorca and the Balearics? No.

But given the revolving door at the Balearic tourism ministry, this is hardly surprising. But even without the door, was the talent ever really there? It is, as I say, a very tough call selling Mallorca's culture and by extension Better in Winter. The private sector could probably make a fist of it, but the public sector? And as from April, the Council of Mallorca takes over the marketing reins. Insularity is about to get more insular.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 January 2018

Morning high (7.24am): 11.8C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 18C; 18 January - Cloud, sun, 18C; 19 January - Cloud, sun, 18C

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

Fairly breezy morning. Westerly wind blowing all day and due to pick up this evening and overnight. Shouldn't be too fierce for this evening's bonfires and demons fire-runs though. Otherwise fine and sunny during the day.

Sant Antoni: Pigs And The French Connection

This evening in Manacor's parish church they'll be singing the "goigs" of Sant Antoni. The goigs are, roughly speaking, songs of joy or praise. They are sung elsewhere in Mallorca in celebration of the ancient saint, there are even practices for them in other villages, but Manacor specialises in the number of its rehearsals and the sheer emphasis placed on when the good folk of the town eventually gather for the real thing. While the likes of Alcudia and Muro are being bedevilled by demons with fire, Manacor is in the church and having a good old sing song.

Given Antoni's history, you will be unsurprised to learn that the goigs aren't entirely joyous in terms of content. Here was an ascetic saint who did after all live in the desert and was pestered by the devil on a regular basis. Hence, there are references to Lucifer (and the saint's triumph over him) and to the "perverse Demon". But thanks to the saint having not succumbed to the devil, the chorus for Sant Antoni - "glorious Sant Antoni" - calls on him to "guard us from all peril".

There is one possibly confusing reference to be found in the goigs. It is to Sant Antoni himself. We know him as Sant Antoni Abat, but the glorious Sant Antoni is in fact Sant Antoni de Viana. So, have we been getting it wrong with Sant Antoni Abat?

The Abat is a reference to an abbot. Antoni never was an abbot. Nor did he found a monastery or an abbey. It would have been difficult for him to have, given that he spent so much time by himself, living in caves or an abandoned fort in the Egyptian desert. The abbot part of his name would seem to have been given to him several centuries after he died (supposedly in 356 at the age of 105) and in a place a fair old distance from Egypt.

It is said that Antoni's preference was to have been buried in a secret place. As it turned out, the place wasn't so secret. His remains were taken to Alexandria and eventually to Constantinople, but they didn't stay there. In the eleventh century, concerned about what the Arabs were up to, Antoni (what was left of him) was transported to a region of France - Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, as it now is. A grand church was built in order to house him. The place became known as Saint Antoine-l'Abbaye. It was near to a village called Vienne which, to give it its Catalan name, is Viena del Delfinat. In Mallorquí, Viena was transformed into Viana.

Antoni does, depending where he's celebrated, have a number of names - Sant Antoni de Viana, Sant Antoni Abat, Sant Antoni d’Egipte, Sant Antoni l’Ermità, Sant Antoni del Foc, Sant Antoni del Desert, Sant Antoni dels Ases, Sant Antoni del Porquet and Sant Antoni el Gran. He is the patron saint of domestic animals; hence the blessings that take place tomorrow. Two of his names reflect this - ases (donkeys) and porquet (little pig or piglet).

The pig angle does, however, require a little more explanation. In 1095, a monastic order was founded in Sant Antoni's name in Saint Antoine-l'Abbaye. This was by a nobleman who was said to have been healed by the saint's relics. At the time there was a serious illness - ergotism, caused by the ergot fungus on cereals. This order went on to establish hospitals and to treat ergotism. One of them was in Palma.

A point about the pigs was that the monks from the order used pig fat in the treatment of patients - they would be smeared with it. Another point was that the pigs that belonged to the order were very much free range. They went more or less where they liked and were fed by the local people, who also gave food to the monks. This was despite the fact that in 1719 pigs were forbidden from wandering around the streets and squares of old Palma. The monks fought against the prohibition and retained their pig privileges.

The pigs were well looked after until it came to the day of Saint Martin, 11 November, which remains the traditional start to the "matances" season, the slaughter of pigs in order to make products such as sobrassada.

The order was dissolved in the late eighteenth century. It was the one which had in the seventeenth century tried to get the image of Sant Antoni moved from Sa Pobla to Palma. A lawsuit put an end to this, and the victory of Sa Pobla still inspires the cry of "Visca Sant Antoni", which will bellow out of the church this evening at the end of the Compline service. That victory does rather sum up the place of Sant Antoni in Mallorca's culture. He is very much the saint of Mallorca away from Palma, but when it is said that Antoni is the saint of Mallorca's peasant class, it is always Sant Antoni de Viana who is named.

* Re the image, "goigs" also written as "gois".

Monday, January 15, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 January 2018

Morning high (7.54am): 4.7C
Forecast high: 16C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 January - Sun, 18C; 17 January - Sun, cloud, wind, 19C; 18 January - Cloud, 18C

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

Cold start again. Should be mostly sunny today. Very good for tomorrow if a little breezy.

Evening update (19.30): Quite nice. High of 16.9C.

Compulsive Disorders

Biel Company is allegedly the president of the Partido Popular in the Balearics. For several months, despite his having been given this accolade, he was rarely to be seen or heard. He is now finally beginning to demonstrate that he is indeed the president and to allay any suspicions or fears that he had been run over by a tractor in his native Sant Joan while regressing to his former life as champion of the farming community.

If you are not already aware, then by goodness you are going to become aware that there is an election in sixteen months time. The long campaign has started. Biel will be hopeful that this campaign heralds the long goodbye for Sweet and Friendly Francina and her chums in Més and Podemos. His hope may be misplaced. Biel has not exactly been rallying the electoral troops to the PP side.

Doubtless recognising that his party is at present heading for another election disaster, Biel has come out fighting in the long campaign. If all else fails, and there is in fact nothing else to try and pin on the incumbent Balearic president, then it is necessary to call her a compulsive liar. Which he has. Francina's lying has to do with a demand that the PP repays some 150 grand of 2007 election subvention. As if anyone actually cares. It was ten years ago, it was the time of Matas. Get over it, and talk about matters in the present. But no, the compulsion - for both Biel and Francina - is to rake over the past, and where Biel is concerned, the raking appears to mainly have involved the soil of his own personal agricultural heritage.

Is Francina a compulsive liar? No, she is not. She does, however, suffer from a compulsive disorder. It is not treatable. It is called compulsive consensus. So essential has it become for Francina to insist that her government abides fully by the principle of consensus that she has clearly come to believe this. Unfortunately for Francina, no one else does. The evidence stacks up by the day and will stack up further as she and her governmental buddies go into full-on election mode. Yes, we have sixteen months of all this to endure.

If there is a compulsive liar, then last week once more revealed who it was, as if the revelation were in fact needed. Donald Trump is not just a compulsive liar, he is a compulsive lunatic. But at least with DT there is the entertainment factor, even though presidents are not usually judged by their ability to entertain us all royally. So, Biel needs to understand the true meaning of compulsive lying in a presidential sense. Francina isn't even on the first rung of the compulsion ladder; not when compared with the master who has scaled its heights in The White House.

Biel should really be devoting far greater attention to a different disorder - compulsive citizenship. All Balearic politicians suffer from this due to their constant invoking of the citizens, but where Biel is concerned he needs to take due note of the party that has named itself in the name of the citizens (there's compulsion for you) - Ciudadanos. Biel said that he wasn't worried about the rise and rise of the C's. Well, he's wrong not to be worried, especially as he needs to be very nice to them. The PP hasn't got a cat in hell's chance of recovering all the seats that Bauzá destroyed in 2015, so the C's have to be looked upon as very real, potential coalition allies after the May 2019 election.

This, however, will mean that Biel has to cosy up to the morose leader of the Cs, Xavier Pericay. And he has his own disorder - compulsive anti-Catalanism. On and on he drones in this manner. Sixteen more months we have of this. The citizens may as a result decide to switch off from the Citizens party. The citizens might also wish to know what the Citizens party has to offer them apart from not needing to have a Catalan qualification for being a nurse. Curiously enough, the wild man of Més, compulsive independentist David Abril, has hit the nail on the head in this regard. Rather than constant attacks on Catalan, he said, let's hear some policies.

Xavier will unquestionably be aghast to learn that the leadership of the Council of Majorca, one part of which (the presidential part) has compulsive Catalanism, let the Obra Cultural Balear (compulsive Catalanists and compulsive independentists) have the use of the Teatre Principal for free so that it could turn its annual awards ceremony into propaganda for the incarcerated Jordis of Catalonia, with the acting speaker of the Catalan parliament, Carme Forcadell, handing out the gongs.

According to the Council's vice-president for culture, PSOE's Francesc Miralles (not prone to the same compulsion of the president), the Council always lets the OCB have the theatre for nothing. But Francesc declined to comment on what took place and nor has he said anything about the fact that apparently the cost of transmission for this gala occasion was borne by the IB3 broadcaster and the government's culture ministry (run by Més). 

Carme has since resigned as speaker, and when this became knowledge, our good friend Balti of the Balearic parliament (compulsive Republicanism) tweeted a message of support. "Health and Republic," said Balti, adding "strength from the companion islands".

Xavier will not have been impressed. Are any of us with all their various compulsive disorders?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 January 2018

Morning high (8.22am): 8.1C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 January - Cloud, sun, 16C; 16 January - Sun, cloud, 18C; 17 January - Cloud, sun, wind, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 to 5.

Some cloud around. Could be a shower this morning. Don't expect to see too much sun.

Evening update (19.15): Average. A high of 14.3C.

The Missing Link: Independent Travel

When we are fed the constant diet of information regarding holiday bookings, there needs to be a touch of caution with some of the figures. With the likes of, say, Abta, the information is Abta-specific. In other words, it comes from its members - the travel agencies and tour operators. But this is only part of the story. There is that huge market out there for tourists bundling their own holidays together. While agencies have got in on this act, the scale of the independent market means that that bookings information is incomplete or even misleading.

DRV is the German equivalent of Abta. It has reported on how holiday bookings went in 2017. It pointed to the growth in bookings to Egypt and Greece; these destinations were the real "winners". Greece was second only to the Balearics; where the agencies were concerned. The report then goes on to say that the Balearics represented a decrease in revenue; for the agencies. Holidaymakers were looking for alternatives to Mallorca because of an increase in prices and the "over-occupancy". So, curiously enough, the actual demand for Mallorca was acting as some form of deterrence. This was the agencies' experience. But DRV then adds that agency business (for Mallorca) going down was also related to a significant increase in holidays being booked individually, i.e. the independent market. There is a further curiosity in that only Mallorca was mentioned in this regard.

In relative terms, the package holiday - the core of travel agency operations - has been in decline for years. It still of course represents a very major part of the holiday business, and as tourism demand has increased, so the demand for packages also rises. But the independent sector has risen and continues to rise with greater strength.

A more representative source of bookings information is therefore travel reservation data, most obviously airlines. The increase in flights to Mallorca last summer, the creation of bases by airlines in Palma were a reflection of the total demand. But as we head towards the next season, there are some clouds gathering, and one in particular doesn't just affect Mallorca. This is the EU package travel directive.

Member states (and the UK is adopting the directive irrespective of Brexit) now have to transpose the new EU directive into national law. The Spanish government has yet to do so, and it isn't alone. For the moment, it seems that the subject of the directive is only being discussed by the travel industry. It is not one that has made a leap into the wider public consciousness. But it is going to have an impact, and that's because it's going to push prices up.

The directive deals with so-called linked holidays. As an example, if a traveller makes bookings for travel, accommodation, car rental with separate companies and the traveller's information is transferred between these companies, this will constitute the equivalent of a package holiday. And as with the conventional package, there is now a liability if anything goes wrong. This is what the directive is addressing; there previously hasn't been adequate liability.

Typically, these bookings go via airlines. The traveller books flights, then uses the airline's website to reserve other elements of the trip, such as accommodation. If this is all done within 24 hours, which it normally is, then there is a "linked" trip. And there have to be consumer guarantees for all parts of the chain. The basic cost of this will be around 12 or 13 euros per traveller. This is the cost to the organiser of the linked trip, and that organiser will for the most part be the airline, which will have to provide the consumer protection. Either that, or the airline decides to no longer offer the add-on services. And this is unlikely. It is estimated that last year airlines globally took in 82,200 million dollars worth of revenue from "complementary" bookings.

A problem with the directive, and the Spanish competition commission has highlighted this, is a lack of clarity. The commission also believes that the directive may constitute risks to competition because of the guarantees being demanded. And if the Spanish think this, then one can assume other member states will think likewise.

The bottom line is the extent to which the cost of guarantees is passed on. This cost will of course apply across the EU board, but for Mallorca it represents another potential increase for the holidaymaker to go with, for instance, the tourist tax. The cost will no doubt be hidden, but it will be there nevertheless.

So, the cost of independent travel is destined to go up, and this brings us back to what DRV has reported about independent bookings for Mallorca. Was it the case that the abundance of holiday rental accommodation was contributing to the increase? It probably was. But this source is being closed off; or part of it anyway. The rentals legislation is one of the other clouds, and it is very much a cloud that hovers over the independent traveller. One wonders what DRV might have to report about 2018.

Still, there is always the conventional package holiday, and DRV's UK counterpart, Abta, has itself provided a report for 2017. Sales of packages through its members for the Balearics were up by around eleven per cent. So, happy days, but will they continue? Be prepared for ever more information about bookings, however incomplete this may be.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 January 2018

Morning high (7.43am): 3C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 January - Cloud, sun, 15C; 15 January - Cloud, sun, 16C; 16 January - Sun 17C

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

Very cold start. Down to one degree in areas. A mix of cloud and sun to come. Looking ahead to Sant Antoni ... Fine weather forecast for both 16 and 17 January, though the wind is likely to be strong on the 17th.

Evening update (19.45): Ok for a time, then cloud. High of 15.9C.

Sant Antoni 2018

Something of a harking back to the days when I did the Wotzupnorth blog, below is a listing for Sant Antoni.

Tonight (Saturday) there are demons correfocs in Pollensa and Sa Pobla. On Tuesday night it's the turn of Alcudia and Muro. The animals' blessings are as they always are on 17 January (Wednesday, the day of Sant Antoni), which is also the day for all the palaver with getting the pine trees from Formentor and the Ternelles finca. The pine climbs are at the same times as ever, but there's one big difference in Pollensa - there's no actual cockerel. It's been banned.

Choice of image - the Alcudia poster. Seems the most demonic of all.

Wherever and however you choose to celebrate Sant Antoni, enjoy. I know you will. They're the greatest fiestas of the year and, although they are celebrated across Mallorca, we really have the very best of them in the northern area.

Saturday, 13 January

19.30: Procession of pipers followed by lighting of the bonfire.
20.00: Concert by pipers - Xeremiers de Muro Es Reguinyol and Xafigà de Muro (Alicante). Municipal theatre, C. Joan Carles I.
21.15: Barbecue. In front of the town hall.

20.00: Correfoc with Dimonis Ca de Bou children's gang. Joan March Gardens. 20.30: Barbecue.
22.30: Correfoc - Dimonis Ca de Bou, Dimonis Hiachat de Santa Margalida, Fills de Lucifer de Búger. Joan March Gardens.

Sa Pobla
11.00: Procession of children's caparrot (bighead) workshop, plus pipers. C. Rosari to Plaça Major.
20.15: Sa Pobla Choir and the Sant Antoni Choir and the goigs for Sant Antoni. At the church.
24.00: "Redempció" - demons correfoc. Dimonis i Tamborers d'Albopàs and Dimonis de sa Pedrera de Muro. Followed by barbecue. Plaça Major.

Sunday, 14 January

19.30: Glosadors, pipers and others. Club Pollença, Plaça Major. Pay as you wish.

Sa Pobla
17.30: Sant Antoni folk dance, with the group Abenlara. Plaça Alexandre Ballester.

Tuesday, 16 January

16.30: Sant Antoni and the demons (plus pipers) leave the town hall. Procession and the occasional "kidnapping" of a child.
20.00: Bonfire, botifarró, llonganissa, bread and drink (one euro). Plaça Constitució. Bonfire and folk dance in Plaça Carles V.
22.30: Correfoc - Dimonis de sa Cova des Fossar. From the town hall to Plaça Carles V.

19.45: Procession of the demons, Sant Antoni and the Unió Artística Murera Band of Music. From Plaça Convent to Plaça Comte d'Empúries.
20.15: Dance of the demons and Sant Antoni. Plaça Comte d'Empúries.
20.30: Lighting of the bonfires with Dimonis de sa Pedrera, Bruixes de Mallorca, Dimonis Trabukats. Correfoc fire-run and spectacular. Plaça Comte d'Empúries.
23.00: Traditional music - Revetla d'Algebelí and Germans Martorell. Plaça Comte d'Empúries.
24.00: Islanders plus DJ. Plaça Sant Martí.

Pollensa / Puerto Pollensa
21.00: Lighting of the bonfires.

Sa Pobla
14.30: Departure of the demons and Sant Antoni and procession through the streets and squares of the town.
18.45: Ceremony of the historical sanctioning for the start of Sant Antoni Eve. In front of the town hall.
19.45: Departure of the paralympic demons of Grif, the demons d'Albopàs, the demons of the Obreria (Sant Antoni) and of the town hall, plus giants, bigheads, junior bigheads and the Sa Pobla band of music. From the town hall to the church.
20.00: Compline and acclamation of Sant Antoni.
21.15: Dance of the demons and of the gangs of bigheads and junior bigheads, accompanied by the Sa Pobla band of music.
21.30: Pyromusical spectacular. Plaça Major.
22.15: Gathering of singers and ximbomba players. Plaça Major.
00.30: Grand ximbombada and glosada - ximbomba playing and reciting of folk/satirical tales, verses and poems. Plaça Major.

Wednesday, 17 January

16.00: Traditional blessings of the animals, plus performance by Sarau Alcudienc (folk dance). From Passeig Pere Ventayol.

10.30: Firing of rockets and planting of giants in front of the town hall.
11.00: Mass in honour of Sant Antoni with the Miquel Tortell Muro Choir.
15.00: Ringing of bells.
15.30: Traditional blessings and parade of floats.

10.15: Traditional procession and animal blessings.
11.30: Setting off from Plaça Almoina to the Ternelles finca.
12.30: Lunch at Ternelles.
14.00: Departure of the pine.
19.00: Raising of the pine. Plaça Vella.

Puerto Pollensa
09.00: Bus leaves from behind the church to go to Formentor.
11.30: Procession and animal blessings.
12.00: The pine arrives in the port.
13.30: Planting of the pine in Plaça Miquel Capllonch.

Sa Pobla
10.00: Procession with the pipers Germans Aloy.
11.00: Solemn mass plus offering of farm produce and dance with Marjal en Festa.
12.30: Dance of the caparrot bigheads and young caparrots. Plaça Major.
15.30: Blessing of the animals in the church square with the pipers Germans Aloy and Xerebiols and the giants Antoni and Margalida.
16.00: Parade of floats, accompanied by the band of cornets of the Sant Antoni brotherhood and the demons of the Obreria de Sant Antoni.

Friday, 19 January
Sa Pobla (Sant Sebastià)

19.30: Gathering in C. Tresorer Cladera of Dimonis d'Albopàs and departure for Plaça Major and the lighting of the bonfires for Sant Sebastià.

Saturday, 20 January
Pollensa (Sant Sebastià)

19.30: Procession with the image of Saint Sebastian, of the Standard and of the cavallet horse dancers.
21.00: Dance of the cavallets at the bonfire in Plaça Major.

Sa Pobla
18.30: Line and ballroom dance, followed by barbecue (six euros). Plaça Mercat.