White sand beaches, rows of sun loungers or multicolored umbrellas, turquoise water and tourists packed together like bunches of Spanish grapes. To this postcard decor, we must now add false warning signs, written in English and scattered near several coves or beaches in Majorca, in the Balearic Islands, to scare away foreign tourists.
Posters warn of the presence of “dangerous jellyfish” or “falling rocks”. Others warn English-speaking summer visitors of the closing of the beaches, of prohibited swimming or of several hours of walking before reaching the sea, in reality a few hundred meters away. Only the local inhabitants are informed of the deception by a few lines of Catalan: “The problem is not a landslide, it is mass tourism” or “The beach is open, except for foreigners and jellyfish”.
This campaign, launched in mid-August by the anti-capitalist group Caterva, originally from Manacor, denounces mass tourism on the island of Majorca. In a statement sent to the press, the activists criticize “the usurpation of creeks” and the monopolization of the territory by extreme tourism, encouraged by promoters and the government.
Overtourism threatens the island’s environment
A popular vacation spot, with 3.9 million Germans and 2.1 million Britons in 2022, Mallorca appears to be back to pre-Covid-19 visitor levels. Like all of the Balearic Islands, which had exceeded 16 million visitors last year. With more than 200,000 people employed at the height of summer, the Balearic Islands derive more than 50% of their GDP from the tourism sector and Majorca, more than 80% of its economy.
The cove of Caló des Moro, the most important tourist attraction of the largest island of the archipelago, concentrates in itself all the evils of overtourism. To the lack of available space to put your towel on the sand is now added the degradation of beaches and green spaces. The phenomenon has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years: empty bottles, Kleenex or other waste now dot the vegetation.
Pilar Tous, a resident of the region interviewed by the local newspaper Diario de Mallorca, laments the state of the cove. Ten years ago, “there were only ten or fifteen people on the beach,” she says. In Cala Llombards, another popular cove in Mallorca, the color of the water, once turquoise, is now green because of algae and plankton which proliferate due to the discharge of dirty water from boats and rising temperatures.
“A survival instinct”
Llorenç Galmés, President of the Council of Majorca, regretted in mid-August a form of “tourismophobia” of the islanders. A term taken up by Marga Prohens (Popular Party), elected president of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in July. On the contrary, it intends to put an end to tourist moratoriums, rely on cruise lines, renew infrastructure and repeal laws setting limits in terms of real estate and tourism policy.
Some locals fear a dilution of the island’s socio-cultural identity and an uncontrolled rise in real estate prices. The previous government of the Balearic Islands, led from 2015 to 2023 by the socialist Francina Armengol, had blocked the creation of new hotels and vacation spots and advocated degrowth to reduce the impact of tourism on the environment of the archipelago. But, in Majorca, foreigners represent nearly 40% of buyers in residential property and have caused prices to soar.
“We are becoming increasingly poor and less and less the owners of our own land”, regrets Joan Mas Collet. The former deputy for Més per Mellorca in the Parliament of the Balearic Islands does not speak of “tourismophobia”, but of a “survival instinct” in the face of the archipelago’s dwindling resources. Faced with tourist saturation and its deleterious effects, the former deputy sees only one solution: “Either we decrease, or Majorca sinks. »