The Ministry of Tourism in the Balearic islands are considering a ban that prevents tourists from bringing their own cars to the smaller islands in the summer months.
The Islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, which have 1.1 million inhabitants, are expecting 13.5 million visitors this year. Officials in Ibiza and Formentera say that just like the Italian island of Capri, they may be forced to stop tourists from bringing their own cars to avoid traffic chaos. During the high season there are as many as 20,000 cars in Formentera, which is only 19km long. Also in Menorca it may be necessary to ban vehicles.
The traffic congestion is not the only problem. Local officials and environmentalists claim that the islands are close to the point that they neither have enough water nor energy resources to meet the demand. Menorca, for example, was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and environmentalists say Menorca can not sustain more than 200,000 visitors per day, in addition to its 86,000 residents. But that number was exceeded on more than one occasion last year.
An increasing number of cruise ships are also causing trouble on the islands. 22,000 cruise passengers arrived on a single day last week in Palma, Mallorca’s capital. Biel Barceló, vice president of the ministry of tourism in the Balearic islands, said: “We encourage cruise operators to take the passengers on trips to other parts of the island to avoid overcrowding in the old town of Palma.”
The airport in Majorca is also under pressure. It is built to withstand a maximum of 66 aircrafts per hour. Officials say that during high season it can be as many as 100 aircrafts per hour.
Barceló said that bringing in more and more tourists will not necessarily provide economic benefits. “In the 1980s, when the Balearic Islands had 6 million visitors, it was the region with the highest per capita income in Spain. Now, with 13 million tourists, the Balearic islands has fell to seventh place.”
But it is not just the balearic islands which are reaching their limit when it comes to tourism. The same goes for Barcelona. They had more than 9 million tourists last year and they think that this is the limit of what they can handle. Especially since the tourism is concentrated around a small part of the city. Even there the airport has capacity problems during some parts of the year, where 18 million passengers are expected to land this year.
There are several reasons for the increasing tourism. It is not just the fact that Spain is the world’s leading beach resort destination with a record number of beaches with a blue flag status. It is also due to the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, that has driven the tourists back to European destinations.
Last year, Spain was visited by 65 million people, 20 million more than the number of inhabitants – and it’s not going to be any fewer this year.