Balearic Islands: Protests see Spain crack down on Menorca, Majorca tourism as 1000s of holiday lets to close

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Data suggests there may be up to 8,700 illegal holiday lets in the Balearic Islands alone

Spain could soon shut down thousands of holiday rentals as part of a new crackdown on tourist tax evasion, after the Balearic government passed a decree allowing local councils to close illegal holiday lets.

Unregistered tourist apartments and villas, whose landlords are not paying Spain's mandatory tourist tax, will be sealed off, with inspectors given the power to seal properties found to be operating illegally.

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Data suggests there may be up to 8,700 of these illegal lets in the Balearics - Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera - alone. A recent report found there had been a nearly 10% increase in the number of holiday lets in Spain over just the past year.

Tensions between locals and tourists have been rising in parts of Spain for weeks, with residents claiming a surge in tourists has caused rent prices to skyrocket and contributed to a housing shortage.

Tourism is a major economic driver for the islands, contributing about 45% of their revenue, but many residents are calling for a "controlled" tourism strategy that doesn't dominate their lifestyle.

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The Banc de Temps de Sencelles community group, which led the protest, handed a manifesto to local authorities proposing seven measures for more affordable housing for residents.

The organisation says they are not against tourism but believe the tourism model needs to be rethought, and is pushing for legislation to restrict foreign nationals from buying property in the Balearic Islands unless they have resided there for at least five years.

The protests appear to have impacted the number of visitors to the islands. Magaluf is unusually quiet this half-term, with photographs taken earlier this week showing deserted sunbeds and empty tables at bars, reports the Mirror.

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Local business owners are said to be worried about the decline in tourists, and fear that the "wishes of anti-tourism protesters [have been] granted."

The Majorca Daily Bulletin also said that Magaluf seemed "unusually quiet" on Monday (28 May), describing it as "half empty." It also reported unease among business owners about the lack of tourists, although some said it was still busy on weekends.

UK holidaymakers have been driven away from the Spanish islands in recent months. In April, NationalWorld reported that post-Brexit rule shifts had caused many British citizens who own second or holiday home properties in Tenerife to "abandon the island."

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Some holidaymakers who used to spend months in their Canary Island homes are now selling up because new rules limit UK nationals' time in Spain to 90 days.

Because of this, people who own second homes are having to travel between the two countries more frequently, a financial cost that many are finding hard to afford.

UK holidaymakers had also previously threatened to “boycott” Spain over its new “£97 rule” brought in by Spanish lawmakers requiring tourists to prove they have €113.40 (£97) on hand every day if they visit.

It applies to both the mainland, and the Canary and Balearic islands. The new £97 rule means a family of four staying a week in Spain will have to show they have at least £2,716 at hand, according to the Spanish government.

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