Last call: Spain’s Balearic Islands crack down on ‘booze tourism’

The regional government has approved a new law that restricts the sale of alcohol in popular tourist destinations and bans bar crawls

A drunken tourist in the popular party destination Magaluf.
A drunken tourist in the popular party destination Magaluf.TOLO RAMÓN
Hugo Gutiérrez

The regional government of Spain’s Balearic Islands on Friday approved a law that cracks down on so-called “booze tourism,” where visitors are encouraged to binge-drink alcohol. The new regulation aims to put an end to bar crawls, 2x1 parties, happy hours and free drinks that are typically offered in the popular vacation destination, by making it illegal to promote or sell such activities to tourists. The new regulation also bans alcohol from being sold in nighttime stores, which will now have to close between 9.30pm and 8am. The restrictions, however, only apply to the most popular party spots of the islands Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza: Magaluf, Arenal de Palma and Sant Antoni de Portmany.

It is the first law in Europe that restricts the promotion and sale of alcohol in set tourist zones

Balearic regional government

According to a press release from the regional government, “it is the first law in Europe that restricts the promotion and sale of alcohol in set tourist zones.” Spokespersons from the Balearic Islands government agree that “this law could also have great repercussions outside of Spain.”

The law also targets so-called balconing, a term that refers to usually inebriated tourists jumping from balcony to balcony in their hotels, or attempting to launch themselves from great heights into swimming pools. The practice has cost many foreign tourists their lives in Spain. Under the regulation, hotels must remove everyone caught balconing from their facilities. In this case, the rule applies to the entire region. “It will be considered serious misconduct, from both those who practice it and those who allow it,” the law states.

The regional head of tourism, Iago Negueruela, says the law is a positive step forward. “We are going for a model of sustainable tourism and we want to improve relations between tourists and residents,” he said.

The regulation bans drinking tours from being organized or advertised to reduce drunken behavior in Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza. While tourists will not be restricted from arranging their own pub crawl, they will not be able to buy alcohol like before from establishments throughout the night, nor will they be offered free drinks or other similar promotions. What’s more, a set price will be put on alcohol to stop “all kinds of offers,” said Neguerela.

Businesses could face fines of up to €600,000, or be shut down for three years for breaking the new law

The law also cracks down on party boats, which invite guests on cruises involving large amounts of alcohol. Under the new rules, these businesses will be banned from putting up advertising in Magaluf, Arenal de Palma and Sant Antoni de Portmany, and from picking and dropping off clients from these spots. The regional government has also suspended the concession of new alcohol licenses to party boats.

Businesses could face fines of between €1,000 and €600,000, or be shut down for a maximum of three years for breaking the new law. The law was put together following in-depth talks with the tourism sector, as well as the town halls that have highlighted the problems involved with booze tourism. “Attracting a tourism of excess is counterproductive for the whole sector, that’s why there are areas where the hotel owners are changing what they offer to attract a different kind of tourist,” José Luis Zoreda, the vice president of the Spanish tourism lobby Exceltur, said recently.

While the law currently only applies to Magaluf, Arenal de Palma and Sant Antoni de Portmany (with the exception of the balconing rules), Negueruela is open to extending the rules to other areas. More than 13 million foreign tourists visit the Balearic Islands every year.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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