Long traffic jams on the access roads to beaches and excursion destinations, parking chaos, lack of taxis and now also drinking water problems: Mallorca, the most visited holiday island in Europe, is reaching its limits. So much so that calls to limit mass tourism are getting louder. “We can not continue to grow,” announces the island government and thinks about steps to counteract the impending collapse.
Vacationers driving around Mallorca in these late summer days often feel like they are in their hometown during rush hour. Instead of romantic solitude on the island’s beautiful coastal roads, they find themselves stuck in traffic. Long tin caravans of rental cars wind their way to the famous natural beach of Es Trenc, to the picturesque towns of Deià and Valldemossa or to popular vantage points such as Cape Formentor in the north of the island.
The convoy ride is then followed by the exhausting search for a parking space. In the absence of sufficient parking spaces, access roads, driveways and emergency exits are blocked. The situation is terrible, complains Lluís Apesteguia, the mayor of the enchanted 700-inhabitant town of Deià, which is literally overrun by avalanches of visitors. Many artists live in Deià, and Hollywood star Michael Douglas owns a luxurious finca nearby.
In the municipality of Deiàs there is also the viewpoint of Sa Foradada, which is visited by crowds of tourists every evening to enjoy the sunset. The access via a winding and narrow panoramic road is fantastically beautiful, but can become a nightmare in heavy traffic with jostling and constant evasive maneuvers. “If we don’t find a solution soon, there will be a disaster at some point,” says Mayor Apesteguia.
Deià is one of those places in Mallorca that is becoming increasingly popular. In the meantime, after months of lack of rain, drinking water has also had to be rationed. The groundwater wells are empty, the place has to be supplied with tankers. The filling of pools has been banned, private gardens can no longer be watered. Soon the water could be turned off completely for hours. Water is also becoming scarce in other island towns such as Campos, Artá, Sóller and Manacor.
In view of the increasing problems on the island, regional environment minister Miquel Mir is calling for tourism to be reined in. And also the construction activity, which means that more and more landscape is being destroyed. “We need moderation, a reduction in vacationer numbers and a reduction in urban growth.” This debate is not new.
The island government already decided in the past a moratorium that limits the number of tourist beds to 430,000. In addition, only three cruise ships per day are now allowed to dock on the island.
But because the number of tourists fell sharply in the two pandemic years 2020 and 2021, the complaints about the excesses of mass tourism also temporarily disappeared. This summer, the holiday crowds returned – and with that came the problems again.
The hotels were almost fully booked in July and August. Neither the Ukraine war, nor the galloping inflation, nor the European flight chaos could slow down the tourist rush. “After the Covid 19 restrictions, there was a lot of desire to go on vacation,” says María Frontera, head of the Mallorcan Hotel Association.
In the first half of 2022, 4.6 million holidaymakers came. Compared to 2019, Mallorca has almost reached the high number of visitors that was registered before the pandemic. According to preliminary information, July and August, traditionally the months with the most visitors, saw even more tourists than in 2019.
According to the bookings, the soaring continues in September. So 2022 could be another record year. Incidentally, the German-speaking holidaymakers make a particular contribution to Mallorca’s tourism success: They make up almost 40 percent of all visitors.
After two lean years, the hoteliers are happy about the ringing tills, but dissatisfaction is growing among the population. The local environmental organization Terraferida launched the “SOS Residentes” campaign to draw attention to the fact that many locals feel overwhelmed by mass tourism.
“The overcrowding is beyond all limits,” explain the environmentalists of Terraferida (“Injured Earth” in English). It is high time to take countermeasures, “otherwise we will be finished”.
Author: Ralph Schulze
The original of this post “Victims of their own success?” comes from Deutsche Welle.