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Mallorca: The end of party tourism?


Parts of the Spanish island of Mallorca have long been known to attract German and British tourists interested in drinking excessively in the warmer climate. Nowhere else on the island is the past and potential future of the city’s tourism industry more evident than on Pare Bartomeu Salva Street – also known to German tourists as “ham street” or ” Schinkenstrasse” in German. Even in the morning, in some bars, pop music is already blaring and the men in football shirts have already drunk their first beers. A few steps further, things are more dignified. Here, customers can sit comfortably on armchairs covered in white fabric. Instead of bratwurst and fries, restaurants serve the best food.

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Nobody wants to see the transformation of Playa de Palma, one of the most important tourist areas on the island, more than Juan Miguel Ferrer, president of Palma Beach, a group of entrepreneurs. The organization’s goal is to transform the dirty party area, known as “Ballermann”, into an upscale destination. It may not be easy – the name “Ballermann” is actually the combination of two German words: “ballern” – slang for excessive drinking, and “Mann”, a man.

After making some progress recently, there’s been another setback,” says Ferrer, pointing across the boardwalk to the beach where dozens of groups of young men are hanging out in the sun drinking beers. The smell of vomit, urine and sunscreen wafts through the air. The trash cans are overflowing. “Over the past few weeks, Playa de Palma has become what it was before the pandemic,” says Ferrer.

Business as usual on Playa de Palma

Last summer, Ferrer saw signs of positive change that surprised him. Few tourists have come to the island in the last two years of the pandemic, and when things reopened, the strict regulations imposed by the Spanish health authority on entertainment venues resulted in a different type of clientele replacing the usual party tourists. Most were from Germany, says Ferrer. “We had actually set a 2026 target for this change. [in clientele]”, says Ferrer. “But the pandemic acted as a catalyst and brought us this new clientele last summer.” This year, however, is back to square one. “The efforts were in vain. Rowdy tourists are back and they’re scaring everyone.

Politicians, hoteliers and restaurateurs in Mallorca have been trying for some time to put an end to party tourism in Mallorca and promote Playa de Palma as a quality tourist destination, not just for cheap booze and endless parties . While the city of Palma has passed various regulations to prevent excessive drinking in public – the Balearic government has enforced the law by restricting the sale of alcohol in supermarkets, for example – but this has not turned out to be a resounding success. “Police should be monitoring vacationer compliance,” says Ferrer. “And immediately collect fines for violations.”

The police just watch

But that’s easier said than done, as the legal situation only allows fines of up to €750 ($788) to be collected on the spot in exceptional cases, a police spokesperson says. After all, few vacationers would take such a large sum of money with them. As a result, the police in Playa de Palma are essentially limited to monitoring the comings and goings of party-hungry tourists from afar, intervening only in the most dire of circumstances.

In fact, Mallorca is gearing up for a record tourist season. Whether it’s hotel occupancy, airport arrivals or rental car reservations, the figures are expected to exceed those of summer 2019. “After two very complicated years, we can now reap the fruits and are at the forefront of international demand”, says Maria Frontera. , President of the Association of Hoteliers of Mallorca. Andreu Serra, director of tourism for the island council, also expresses his satisfaction: “The start of the season has been very good. The number of tourists is increasing, as well as the amount of money they spend on the island.

Total number of beds to be reduced

Quantity alone, however, should no longer be the only criterion when it comes to tourism in Mallorca. Many on the island hope for higher quality tourism and visitors who stay longer. Recently, a law was introduced that limits the number of beds in tourist accommodation. “We strongly believe that the economy can grow despite the reduction in the number of beds by creating greater added value,” Tourism Minister Iago Negueruela said. For example, incentives are already in place for hotels to upgrade and add stars. Slowly but surely it is working. There are now over 400 four and five star hotels on the island. Ten years ago, there were half as many.

Yet another decision taken in recent weeks aims to ensure greater sustainability on the island. Majorca’s capital, Palma, has become the first Spanish city to limit the number of cruise ships allowed to moor at the same time in its ports, thanks to an agreement reached between the government of the Balearic Islands and the international association of cruise passengers ( CLIA). Previously, there were up to six ships docked at the same time on certain days. This means that more than 10,000 cruise ship passengers flocked to the old town at the same time, leading to increasing numbers of protests from locals.

Hope rests with the United States

Industry experts are also focusing on another group of tourists they hope to attract in the near future: Americans. That’s why the island’s decision makers are happy that United Airlines now offers a direct connection between Palma and New York. They hope the new connection will attract culturally aware and affluent visitors, who will be less interested in getting belligerently drunk in public, as is always the case on Playa de Palma.

There is also another potential change on the way. A group of restaurants on the island have banned clothing linked to what they called “drunken tourism”. Beachgoers will have to stop to change clothes at their hotel before being allowed to enter these establishments. Anyone baring their chest or wearing a bathing suit will not be served, as will anyone wearing a football shirt.

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