Thursday, February 15, 2018

Keeping Quiet About Holiday Rentals

Tomàs Adrover Albertí is Alcudia's councillor for the environment. They hadn't needed to let Tomás take care of the environment. They hadn't needed to even invite him to be part of the ruling administration. But they did. It was all something to do with being inclusive, if my memory serves me correctly.

They are the centre-right El Pi and the socialist PSOE. The last municipal election in Alcudia produced a situation reminiscent to how it had been for many years prior to the 2011 election (which the Partido Popular won). The former Unió Mallorquina, of which El Pi is not a direct descendant but is a descendant nevertheless, and PSOE used to form pacts. And by and large they worked well. The pact since 2015 has also worked reasonably well.

The inclusion of Tomàs slightly changed the dynamics of this pact. Tomàs is a councillor with GxA, Gent per Alcúdia. This "people's" party was in fact a compromise between Més and the Esquerra Unida (United Left). At each other's throats before the election, in Alcudia they were able to create a mini-pact. Tomás was from the Més wing; the PSM Mallorca Socialist Party to be precise.

Between them, El Pi and PSOE ended up with ten councillors after the election. As the required majority was nine, they didn't require anyone else. Tomàs was brought in nevertheless. Very little, to be honest, has been heard of him, and even on an issue as contentious as holiday rentals, Tomàs - environment portfolio and all - has been quiet.

Somehow, Alcudia town hall manages to keep a lid on things. Perhaps it's the sign of a certain maturity that exists within the corridors of that building on the calle Major. The three ruling parties may not have seen eye to eye on everything, but disagreements and dirty linen do not get a general airing in public. Holiday rentals have provided a perfect opportunity for such an airing, but remarkably enough there seems to be an absence of tension or conflict.

Prior to Tomás becoming a councillor, he stated that Alcudia lives from tourism and not from rubbish (this was a reference to the waste that was being imported via the port for incineration). Mayor Toni Mir (El Pi) told me in an interview that Alcudia lives from tourism. Joan Gaspar Vallori (PSOE), the tourism councillor and fifth deputy mayor, told me the same thing in a different interview. Everyone's agreed then, as they are on the type of tourism that Alcudia wishes to live from - quality, aka a tourism that has plenty of money to spend and isn't inclined to stagger along the streets of the municipality vomiting and urinating everywhere.

Alcudia has its share of the non-quality class. This is a reason why holiday sickness compensation claims farming touts descended on certain all-inclusive hotels and why the owners of one complex - Club Mac - set the whole ball rolling which led to the arrests of touts and their boss.

Holiday rentals, although I personally have an issue with them because of the pressure caused in the residential rental market, generally speaking do conform to the "quality" that Alcudia wants. As with all-inclusives, where not all holidaymakers should be tarnished with the same negative and disparaging brush, the holiday rental tourist is not universally "quality". By and large, though, he or she is.

The town hall held a council meeting on Monday. The Partido Popular opposition raised a motion. In essence, it was against the Council of Mallorca and the holiday rentals zoning. El Pi backed the motion. It was passed. PSOE and Tomàs were against. The pact was therefore fractured. So, has there been a rumpus? No. And nor was there much of an air of conflict when the Council of Mallorca worthies - the Més president and the PSOE councillor for land - turned up at the auditorium for a rentals presentation and discussion. Were this other town halls, Pollensa's for example, you wouldn't hear the end of it.

The point is that all parties are agreed on the principle of quality tourism. Where they do have disagreement is the means of achieving this. El Pi wants less restriction on rentals. PSOE and Tomàs follow the party lines as have been set out by the likes of Mercedes Garrido, the PSOE councillor for land, and Miquel Ensenyat, the Més president of the Council.

My own view is that despite the dog's breakfast approach to zoning, I am generally in agreement with the Council of Mallorca and the Balearic tourism ministry. But having a dispassionate and civilised debate about rentals can at times seem nigh on impossible. In Alcudia, at least on the public surface, they appear to manage this impossibility.

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