In January this year, the Balearics had 129,000 foreign tourists. | A.B.

Over the course of a whole year, Catalonia attracts more foreign tourists than any other region of Spain. In 2022, there were 14.8 million. Up to July this year, there were 10.2 million. The Balearics have consistently been second behind Catalonia, as confirmed by the cumulative numbers of foreign tourists for 2022 and for the first seven months of 2023 - 13.2 million and 8.2 million respectively.

But this Catalonian supremacy has been diminished and disrupted. The region used to receive getting on for 16 million tourists a year. It used to always be the leader in the summer months. While its total number has fallen, it has also lost its summer leadership to the Balearics. What looked as though it may only have been a temporary trend during the pandemic has persisted.

Maybe one can recall all the talk about safe corridors and what have you. They were more than just talk because the Balearics stole a march on other regions, and the Balearics haven’t looked back. It wasn’t of course the case that Catalonia or other regions were not safe, but the safety messaging played very well, not least among tour operators.

I mention the safety, because apart from the fact that Catalonia (and Valencia) have suffered as a result of the loss of Russian tourism, which was comparatively minor in the Balearics, one does have to look for reasons as to how the Balearics came to disrupt a situation of Catalonian summer supremacy that had existed for years. In July this year, the Balearics once more contributed roughly a quarter of all Spain’s foreign tourism, continuing the trend that was observable from relevant figures during the pandemic.

Yet the Balearics have achieved this status despite all the naysaying - tourist tax (and Catalonia has had one of its own for longer), prices, cost of living, Magalluf’s not the party destination it was, blah, blah, blah. One could I suppose attribute this to an availability of illegal holiday lets, which are generally cited as a reason for tourist overcrowding. But it’s not as if other regions don’t suffer from the same problem - Valencia, for example, is currently examining the use of artificial intelligence in rapidly detecting illegal let advertisements.

A factor maybe, but not a decisive one. I’m more inclined to believe in the messaging. Not official communications, but all those in both mainstream and social media. Sure, there are the occasional Magalluf stories and the rather more frequent exposés of Playa de Palma debauchery, but these can usually serve to reflect the hang-up there is regarding just two parts of Mallorca and the Balearics. A consuming public can be stupid (especially if it draws its intelligence from clickbait sensationalist headlines), but there is a public which is anything but stupid.

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There is a messaging of a far greater sophistication in a variety of ways, be this for accommodation and gastronomy, for instance. And there is also that underlying message of safety, for which one can also read reliability. No one’s saying that everything is perfect. There are always issues of some description. But a Balearics summer domination in Spain has become the norm. And it is a norm, moreover - and one can argue whether this is positive or negative - which at present is continuing to increase tourist numbers.

A headline for July which grabbed the attention pointed to there having been three million tourists in the Balearics for the first time ever (foreign plus Spanish). If one digs a little deeper, one finds that for Mallorca specifically there was growth in both the two main foreign markets - Germany and the UK - and in others. France was up 18.7% compared with 2022, Italy by 17.1%. Germany, about which so much was said because of the state of the German economy, rose 12.1%.

In all, Mallorca’s tourism increased by 4.5%, which included a dip of 9.2% among the Spanish. Ah yes, the Spanish. Mallorca’s become expensive for them, so some tourism industry sources have suggested. But the Spanish in Ibiza and Formentera - more expensive islands than Mallorca - went up by 11.3%. The UK may have gone up by only 1.9% in both Mallorca and Ibiza/Formentera but it increased by 20% in Minorca.

The other islands, too easily ignored, do have to be taken into consideration. Clearly so, as the Balearics are used for comparative purposes, not single islands. And the Balearics reign supreme in a Spanish summer.

There is the catch, though, as there always is. Catalonia was number one for January to July, and the reason was obvious - low-season tourism. This is the same reason why the Canaries weren’t far behind the Balearics. In January this year, the Balearics had 129,000 foreign tourists. Catalonia had 800,000 and the Canaries 1.2 million.

The summer’s star, but not the winter’s.