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Spain’s Balearics put freeze on new tourists

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A waiter carries drinks on a tray at a beach club in Palma de Mallorca last year. AFP

Spain’s Balearics put freeze on new tourists

The regional government of Spain’s Balearic Islands on Friday suspended the opening of new tourist beds for four years to prevent over-tourism on the Mediterranean archipelago.

The freeze applies to holiday rentals as well as hotel accommodation until 2026 on all four islands – Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera and Mallorca.

When the freeze expires each island can determine the number of tourist places which it can support, said the head of the archipelago’s regional government, Francina Armengol.

The goal is to focus on “quality rather than quantity,” she wrote in a tweet, calling this a “tourism, social and environmental model of the future”.

The government must think “not only of the visitors, but also of the residents and workers – and of the territory,” the Socialist leader added.

The measure was swiftly criticised by the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) which complained that it was adopted by decree and without a “debate” in the regional assembly.

The Balearic Islands, known for their pristine beaches and turquoise coves, are Spain’s second most visited region after Catalonia.

They received a record 16.4 million visitors in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit but the number fell to just 8.7 million last year.

The surge in visitor numbers before the pandemic sparked a backlash on the archipelago, with over-tourism blamed for soaring rent prices, water shortages and air pollution from rental cars.

In December the Balearic Islands moved to restrict the number of cruise ships anchored at Palma de Mallorca, its largest port and the capital of the archipelago, to three a day.

It is the first limit of its kind in Spain, the world’s second most visited country after France.

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