There were 170,000 more tourists this July than last. | Miquel À. Cañellas

The latest tourism figures from the National Statistics Institute should have come as no great surprise. After six months of increases in terms of the number of tourists and their spending, it would have been odd if July had bucked the trend. July had not and July, moreover, had registered three million tourists, the first time ever that monthly figures for the Balearics had reached three million. For the record (sic), there were 2,437,549 foreign tourists - 7.2% more than in July 2022 - and 567,787 Spanish, a rise of 0.9%.

There was no surprise, but there had of course been the noises about the negative impact of economic circumstances in the two main foreign markets, Germany in particular. If the Germans had been feeling the pinch, this didn't harm the number of German travellers to the Balearics - up 7.6% to 611,571. Only the Italians (plus 18.3%), Swiss (+11.9%) and 'the rest of the world' (+66.3%) registered higher percentage rises to, respectively, 186,376, 80,075 and 147,197. That the UK figure was higher than the German - up 4.2% to 637,890 - was by the by. It isn't uncommon for there to be some months when there are more UK tourists than German - this was the case, for example, in June (by just around 1,500) and in July last year.

These numbers added to the first six months in giving a cumulative total for January to July of 10.13 million. For the same seven months of 2022, the total was 9.29 million; the start of 2022 was still affected by travel restrictions. In 2019, the total was 9.52 million; 2018, 9.40 million. In order, 2018, 2019 and 2022 are the three years to have registered the highest annual numbers of tourists. If the trend up to July this year continues, the annual record is not only going to be beaten, it is going to be obliterated.

As to spending, the July total spend by tourists was 3,281 million euros, 16.7% more than in July 2022. In pre-pandemic 2018 and 2019, the July spend was 2,841 million and 2,886 million. There have to be caveats - inflation, higher prices and the degree to which the figure is biased towards costs of accommodation and travel - but negative economic circumstances cannot be said to have harmed global spending.

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The Balearics contributed roughly a quarter of all Spain's foreign tourists in July and a quarter of all the country's tourist spending. Since the pandemic, the Balearics have overtaken Catalonia in being the leading summer region. That the islands are responsible for 25% of the nation's tourism economy is mightily impressive. At the same time, it is mightily worrying, as it merely reinforces the dependence that there is on tourism, while the fact that two markets - the UK and Germany - provide 42% of regional tourism once more highlights this reliance.

Talk of records is helpful insofar as the figures indicate performance, but it is less helpful when it can seem as if Mallorca and the Balearics are constantly engaged in some form of competition, mainly with themselves, to register these records. Growth, certainly as identified by the president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, shouldn't be so bound up in this endless and somewhat fatuous desire for ever more bodies passing through the airports - a numbers game. The new councillor for tourism at the Council of Mallorca, Marcial Rodríguez, has averred that the Balearics have not reached the limit of growth. But what does he mean by this? What does Maria Frontera of the hoteliers federation mean when she speaks of growth but also of Mallorca not needing to be interested in attracting a greater volume of tourists?

Exceeding three million tourists in one month is as though the islands have crossed a psychological threshold. This is only because three million stands out. But it is a threshold nonetheless, and one that I cannot accept is wholly beneficial. The new Balearic government, even it fails to acknowledge this, inherited a very strong employment situation - technical full employment, as there was last summer. Did the Balearics really need almost 170,000 more tourists this July than last July?

The answer is surely no, and my guess is that the government and the Council will quietly be admitting this to themselves, if not in public. They aren't stupid. They know that the public has a growing sense of unease with saturation, as do tourists themselves. They also know what the principal causes of this have been - the boom in holiday lets, both legal and illegal. Rodríguez is intimating that he will ensure tough action on the latter. Sure he will, while he has also suggested there won't be an increase in the former or indeed in hotels. The maximum capacity in Mallorca is currently 430,000 accommodation places (registered ones). "We are not going to raise this."

So, there is a limit to growth. He's said as much. What he and Frontera mean is growing the low season and getting ever more dollar from all tourists. But what is the number? It keeps on growing in summer, when in truth it shouldn't be. Let's stop talking about records.