Spain’s Balearics seek ‘quality’ tourism model with hotel building embargo

Balearic authorities on Friday passed a law that will ban the creation of new hotels and other tourist accommodation on the popular holiday islands until at least 2026, as part of a bid to engage a new model of tourism that values quality over quantity. 

balearics tourism sustainable
Spanish media has reported that the Balearics want to become the first circular economy tourism destination in the world. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

The Balearics have long been a favourite holiday getaway for millions of people from across the world.

But a new law passed on the islands this week means no new hotels will be built for the next four years, and the government is trying to recalibrate the sector and make tourism more sustainable.

Balearic authorities have passed a law that will ban the creation of new hotels and other tourist accommodation on the islands until at least 2026 as part of a bid to engage a new model of tourism that values quality over quantity. 

Speaking at a press conference this week, the government boss Francina Armengol explained that the law had been made by decree and comes into force from Friday. She did add, however, that amendments could yet come as it passes through the regional parliament.

With a financial injection of 60 million, the new legislation comes as part of a broader commitment to tourism sustainability, making the most of the resources the islands have, improving working conditions for those in the industry, the modernisation of pre-existing establishments, and the introduction of a new hotel classification system.

The bill also emphasises the tourism industry’s need for sustainability and energy transition. Minister for Energy Transition, Productive Sectors and Democratic Memory, Juan Pedro Yllanes, said in a statement this week that “success will be stopping unlimited consumption of resources. Tourism must be sustainable.”

No new hotels

The freeze on new hotels, but also on any tourist ‘space’ including rental services like Airbnb, is part of an attempt to improve the quality of life of residents and the tourist experience of visitors, and will affect hotels and tourist rental establishments on all the islands.

Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentera’s tourism accommodation now totals more than 18,000 ‘rental units’, of which almost 8,500 are in Mallorca, 7,000 Ibiza, and more than 3,000 in Formentera. Menorca has a considerably lower number of tourism establishments.

Circular economy

Spanish media has reported that the Balearics want to become the first circular economy tourism destination in the world, and tourist establishments will, moving forward, be required to have a ‘Circularity Plan’ that incorporates energy, waste, water and food. 

Non-compliant establishments can be fined up to 100,000 under the new rules, and must be able to demonstrate a  circular evaluation of its carbon footprint and how it generates and recycles waste, and will be subject to regular evaluation and inspection. 

Cracking down on drunkenness 

Not only are the Balearics aiming for a new high quality, lower quantity sustainable tourism sector, but they’re also cracking down on public drunkenness and the phenomenon of ‘balconing’ – a Spanglish word used to describe drunken tourists – usually Brits – falling off balconies when on holiday, often when they’re drunk.

Indeed it is believed that the decree law passed all the way back in January 2020 is aimed particularly at British tourists, one of the largest tourist groups that visit the islands, but was missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As international travel restrictions are now being lifted, many Brits keen to get away are unaware of the new rules in place.

Alcohol consumption in all-inclusive hotels and resorts are now limited to a total of six alcoholic beverages: three at lunchtime and three at dinner. 

The new rules also ban advertising that encourages alcohol overconsumption, such as free bars, happy hours and drinks deals, and alcohol cannot be sold in shops between 9:30 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.

Those tourists who manage to get around the rules and begin ‘balconing’ will be kicked out of their hotel and fined between 6,001 and 60,000.

Big fines for hotels that do not install elevating beds

The bill also includes measures to increase the protection of chambermaids’ wellbeing, as the decree states that from 2023 all establishments must change their infrastructure and install elevating beds. If they do not comply within a period of 6 years, they will be sanctioned with €500 for each bed not installed.

Minister for the Economic Model, Tourism and Work, Iago Negueruela said this week that the legislation seeks not only to improve the quality of product for the tourists, but also for workers in the sector : “A bed can be seen from the point of view of the client but also from the point of view of the person who has to do it,” he said.

By Conor Faulkner.

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Iberia and British Airways to re-route flights to avoid Russian airspace

IAG, owner of British Airways and Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, is re-routing aircraft to avoid flying over Russian airspace and cancelling its flights to Russia, its boss said Friday, amid international outcry over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Iberia and British Airways to re-route flights to avoid Russian airspace

Chief executive Luis Gallego told reporters in a call that IAG was re-routing flights so as not to fly over Russia, and cancelled a Moscow bound flight.

The news came one day after the UK government banned Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot from flying over Britain as part of a series of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of neighbour Ukraine.

Moscow in retaliation on Friday banned all UK-linked planes, including transiting flights, from its airspace.

“We took the decision to cancel the flight… to Moscow today,” Gallego told a conference call for the group’s annual results on Friday.

The airline conglomerate was also re-routing scheduled flights to Singapore and Dubai so that they do “not fly over Russia”, he added.

Separately, IAG revealed Friday that net losses more than halved last year with recovery underway as Covid travel curbs were lifted.

However, it was also monitoring the Ukraine crisis that has shuttered airspace for civilian aircraft in the region.

“The impact of this crisis we are still monitoring,” Gallego noted.

He added that flights to the East were “very reduced” as a result.

“All the flights that we are doing now we can re-route, so we can maintain the schedule.”

There are currently no commercial flights landing in Ukraine after the Ukrainian government decided to close its airspace to them for safety reasons.

A number of European Airlines including Iberia, Vueling, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings have also said they will cancel their flights to Ukraine until at least the end of February. 

‘Strong recovery’

IAG revealed that its loss after tax narrowed sharply to €2.9 billion ($3.3 billion) last year.

That contrasted with a record €6.9 billion in 2020, when the coronavirus emergency paralysed air travel and grounded flights worldwide.

Passenger capacity last year was 36 percent of its pre-pandemic 2019 level, but this reached 58 percent in the fourth quarter.

“The easing of government-imposed travel restrictions as the year progressed resulted in improving travel demand, in particular following the opening of the US border to foreign travellers” in early November, IAG said.

Total revenues climbed eight percent to almost €8.5 billion.

“We are confident that a strong recovery is underway,” said Gallego.

IAG noted also that the Omicron Covid variant, which emerged late last year, only had a “negative short term impact” on its performance.

Yet IAG expected a “significant” operating loss for the current first quarter, and cited seasonally weak demand, ongoing Omicron uncertainty, and rising costs as capacity is ramped back up.

The group then anticipates a return to profitability in the second quarter, but sounded a cautious note over this outlook.

“This assumes no further setbacks related to Covid-19 and government-imposed travel restrictions or material impact from recent geopolitical developments,” it cautioned.

IAG aims this year to return to 85 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity.