Since its rise to popularity in the late 1950’s

Since its rise to popularity in the late 1950’s, the island of Mallorca (Spain) has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 10 million tourists visit Mallorca per year (Balearic Islands Tourism Board, 2017) and while such high numbers are responsible for growth within the local economy, they also pose a severe threat to the island’s environmental and social sustainability. This essay will discuss the immense strain that mass tourism puts on the natural resources and social climate of Mallorca and will show that the implementation of better water management strategies in hotels as well as increased cultural tourism marketing is required to reach sustainable solutions. Firstly, a definition of sustainable tourism will be discussed in relation to the current issue of mass tourism in Mallorca and the stakeholders involved. Next, the specific environmental, socio-cultural and economic concerns will be explained. Lastly, a discussion of the solutions mentioned above will be provided.

For a tourism model to be considered sustainable, it must produce quality tourism experiences without impeding on current and future environmental, social and economic resources (World Tourism Organisation, n.d.). In addition to this, sustainable tourism also requires active involvement and cohesive communication between all relevant stakeholders (WTO, n.d.). In regards to the current climate in Mallorca, unless changes are made, a long-term projection of ‘sustainable tourism’ is difficult to envision. As tourist numbers continue to exceed well above that of the local population, with a ratio of 12.1 tourists per resident (Garau-vadell, Diaz-Armas & Gutierrez-Tano, 2013), this puts an immense strain on infrastructure and resources. Naturally, a divide exists amongst stakeholders as groups such as hotel owners and tour operators support further development of tourism while others such as mass tourism protest groups oppose it. Thus, for cohesion and sustainability to be re-established in Mallorca, any proposed solutions must be at once environmentally, socially and economically viable.

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In regards to environmental sustainability, mass tourism significantly contributes to air pollution in Mallorca. Indeed, as tourist numbers rise this puts an increased demand on facilities such as accommodation, restaurants, air-conditioning, local transport and air travel, all of which are contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, a recent study analysing the tropospheric ozone levels in Mallorca revealed that during the peak summer months a 1% rise in tourist numbers was also related to a 0.71% increase in the concentration of the tropospheric ozone (Saenz-de-Miera & Rossello, 2013). These results pose a threat to the biodiversity and ecosystems of Mallorca as this type of lower ozone pollution is known to damage the respiratory systems of animals and harm sensitive plants (Saenz-de-Miera & Rossello, 2013).

Another pressing concern regarding environmental sustainability in Mallorca is the overexploitation of water resources due to mass tourism. A significant contributor is the hotel industry, particularly those that feature golf-courses, swimming pools, spas and other luxury amenities that demand high levels of water-use (Deya Tortella & Tirado, 2011). This is exasperated by the fact that Mallorca has a highly seasonal tourism model which means that the peak tourist season and thus, water demand, falls between the summer months of May to September when Mallorca receives only 10% of its annual rainfall (Deya Tortella & Tirado, 2011). Conversely, Saenz-de-Meira & Rossello (2013) argue that when an individual is adding to environmental issues on holiday, they are not doing so at home. However, in the case of Spain, evidence shows that tourists use double the water than that of locals as they require more water on holiday than when they are at home (UNEP, as cited by Deya Tortella & Tirado, 2011).

Mass tourism is also having a negative impact on the social climate in Mallorca. As discussed above, the environmental strain of mass tourism is immense, leading locals to feel that their homes are being destroyed by tourism. As stated by Diaz and Gutierrez the Mallorcan people have strong connections to their land and cultural identities (as cited in Garau-vadell et al., 2013). Evidence of this is demonstrated by the fact that in the face of economic crisis, Mallorcan residents continue to prioritise the preservation of their environment over proposed tourist developments that could potentially inject more money into the economy (Linares & Rosello, 2014). Similarly, in a study conducted by Garau-vadell et al. (2013) it was revealed that although Mallorcan residents look favourably upon tourism in terms of economic development and employment, they believe it negatively impacts the environment and contributes to pollution problems.

This wariness of mass tourism by Mallorcan locals has amplified in recent years revealing a severe social problem regarding the loss of local identity and way of life. With numerous protest groups forming to speak out against the destruction of their island and culture at the hands of mass tourism the host population’s defiance against tourism is becoming more pronounced. For instance, in July 2018 protestors gathered at the Palma De Mallorca airport to greet incoming tourists with signs reading “tourist go home” and “tourism kills Mallorca.” Their motivation, as stated by protest group Ciutat, was driven by the fact that Mallorca was “suffering from commercialisation of the landscape, environment and heritage” (Morris, 2018). Similarly, another protest group, Tot Inclos, claimed mass tourism was responsible for the “destruction of the social fabric” (Morris, 2018) of Mallorca. Indeed, these views exemplify the negative impacts mass tourism has and will continue to have on Mallorcan society if the issue is not addressed.

The social issues of mass tourism mentioned above also present negative implications for Mallorca’s economic sustainability. Although tourism remains the main driving force for economic growth in Mallorca (Balearic Islands Tourism Board, 2017), the strong dependence of the economy on tourism raises issues if visitor numbers decline. As stated by Garau-Vadell et al. (2013, p. 584) “the development of tourism depends, to a great extent, on the support it receives from the host community.” Thus, the increased demonstration of local resentment toward unwanted visitors and resulting discomfort felt by tourists could lead to a reduction in return visits and, by extension, a decline in the Mallorcan economy.

Similarly, environmental and infrastructure damage caused by mass tourism presents further economic costs for Mallorcan society. In fact, in the case of air pollution, Maibach et al. (2008) states that it should be considered a core external cost due to its destruction of biodiversity, ecosystems, public buildings, crops and human health. Furthermore, these high levels of air pollution also contribute to climate change factors which present further costs regarding potential loss of tourism. In fact, destinations located in southern Europe, including Mallorca, stand to lose considerable amounts of yearly revenue due to the loss of tourism-dependent resources, such as comfortable weather and adequate water supply, as a result of climate change (Amelung & Moreno, 2012).

A possible solution to the issue of inadequate water supply in Mallorca would be the installation of water management devices in hotels such as flow regulators, sub-meters and water-saving taps. For instance, a study conducted by Chan, Wong & Lo (2009) revealed that within the first year of installing flow regulators the JW Marriot Hotel in Hong Kong achieved a 10 % reduction in water consumption. Furthermore, the same study revealed that the installation of sub-meters in hotel kitchens, guestrooms and laundries proved invaluable in alerting hotel management to water loss risks such as flapper leaks (Chan et al., 2009). Moreover, a case study from Zaragoza (Spain) demonstrated that the introduction of water saving taps in hotel bedrooms, public areas and dishwashing stations led to a 21.5% reduction in water consumption (Barberan, Egea, Gracia-de-Renteria & Salvador, 2013).

These water-saving and monitoring devices are a particularly attractive option for Mallorca as, due to high tourist numbers, hotels account for approximately 75.3% of accommodation rooms in Mallorca (Deya Tortella & Torado, 2011). Thus, if the majority of Mallorca’s hotel managers were to install water-saving devices in their hotels, it could lead to a significant reduction in the water waste caused by tourism. On the other hand, a barrier to the widespread implementation of these devices could be the fact that Mallorca is dominated by international hotel chains who experience higher profit margins and have a strong set of standards regarding quality of service, thus have less motivation to implement water saving strategies (Deya Tortella ; Tirado, 2011). While this is a valid point, the water-saving devices mentioned above are low-cost investments and do not cause any inconvenience to guests (Barberian, Egia, Gracia-de-Renteria ; Salvador, 2013) making them socially, environmentally and economically viable and giving them a stronger selling point to Mallorca’s well-established hotel chains.

In addition, another solution that has the potential to benefit all three pillars of sustainability is the increased emphasis on cultural tourism within Mallorca. In a study conducted by Ractitovac & Urosevic (2017) on the effectiveness of cultural tourism in Croatia, it was concluded that cultural tourism has the potential to affirm the cultural identity of the host city, improve quality of life, increase jobs and promote investor interest. This has positive implications for Mallorca as it points to an economically viable source of tourism that also addresses two of the island’s biggest sustainability threats. That is, it does not depend on seasonality which could reduce the demand on water resources during the dry summer months and, it celebrates rather than alienates cultural identity thus has the potential to alleviate local hostilities toward tourism.

Indeed, two examples that demonstrate Mallorca’s potential for a more culture-centric tourism model are the Puig de sa Morisca Archaeological Park and the World Heritage Site of Serra de Tramuntana. At both destinations, the actions taken by Mallorcan policymakers to ‘enhance’ the cultural sites and their surrounding landscapes have proven successful in attracting both local and tourist attention (Trias, Molina, Sanatacreu & Rossello, 2014). However, challenges to sustainable cultural tourism do exist in the ongoing upkeep and environmental protection of these sites but, as Trias et al. (2014) conclude, with the correct management, cultural tourism has the potential to reduce the territorial, social and economic issues associated with seasonal mass tourism.

In all, mass tourism presents numerous sustainability concerns for the island of Mallorca. Indeed, if the over-consumption of water resources and disruption of the local way of life are not addressed soon, then the local economy stands to suffer as well. Fortunately, the installation of water-saving devices in hotels and increased emphasis on cultural tourism offer potential solutions to these problems. Nevertheless, barriers to these solutions do exist including the lack of motivation by hotel managers to install water-saving technology and the need for continued upkeep and protection of cultural sites. Regardless of these barriers, the evidence suggests that with the right management, both solutions are at once economically, socially and environmentally viable and thus, could assist Mallorca in achieving