Spain seeks to cool off sex and booze resorts

AFP - [email protected] • 3 Aug, 2014 Updated Sun 3 Aug 2014 10:31 CEST
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Wearing only underwear and angel wings, three young women wiggle their hips to entice customers to enter one of the many nightclubs in Magaluf, a Spanish beach resort notorious for its sex and booze excess.


"We came to get drunk, basically. Everyone knows Magaluf is partying big time," said Bruce Stenning, an 18-year-old from London who came to the Mediterranean island of Majorca with five friends.

"I came for the strippers," added one of his mates, James Pilkington, as he stood outside a bar on the Punta Ballena -- the heart of the resort's nightlife -- which advertised in English "the best lap dance".

Roughly 85 percent of the visitors to Magaluf come from Britain and Ireland, and little Spanish can be seen on bar flyers and billboards offering cheap drinks and theme parties.

Shops sell souvenir T-shirts with the catchphrase "On it 'till we vomit".

But the local authorities -- who would rather attract upmarket tourists -- are calling time on Magaluf, with new rules to rein in the most dangerous and hedonistic antics.

The resort made headlines around the world last month after a video showing a young woman performing oral sex on several men on the dance floor of a nightclub went viral on the Internet.

Local media reported that the nightclub was staging a contest which offered free drinks to women who performed the most fellatio in the least amount of time.

"My family were concerned about me coming here thinking that this was normal," said Sorcha Rafferty, a 19-year-old from Belfast with 13 friends.

"Magaluf has got a reputation that people come on holiday here and have sex everywhere. And it's true!" added her friend Bryony Spence, 20, at a bar offering the vodka cocktail "Sex on the Beach".

Following the scandal local authorities ordered the Playhouse nightclub where the sex-for-drinks game took place to be closed for a year.

They also slapped the nightclub and a firm that offers pub crawls, Carnage Magaluf, which organised the game, with a fine of €55,000 ($73,000).

Magaluf has many such firms where a guide takes large groups of youths from bar to bar to enjoy unlimited drinks for a flat fee, and also take part in games that mix alcohol and eroticism.

Most are organised by British businessmen, and some of them respect the law and some do not, said Montserrat Jaen, the tourism director general of the regional government of the Balearic Islands.

The Balearic Islands are fighting to end this type of "low cost" tourism which is restricted to "a few very small, concrete areas", she added.

Such resorts "are remnants and I think that in the long term they will convert" to the quality tourism that the Balearic Islands offer in many other places, she said.

Just hundreds of metres away from the Punta Ballena strip and its rowdy bars, yachts bob gently in crystal clear waters.

Calvia, the municipality Magaluf belongs to, introduced a bylaw on July 25th to regulate pub crawls which sets limits on the number of participants.

Five days later the municipality closed a second nightclub, this time for breaking the limit on the number of clients, said Joan Feliu, who is in charge of bar licensing at Calvia city hall.

In a region that is dependent on tourism -- the Balearic Islands received 13 million visitors in 2013 who spent €12 billion ($16 billion) -- local authorities traditionally only fine companies not tourists.

"People are never punished even though the law also stipulates a series of obligations for tourists," said Feliu.

Another bylaw was recently introduced banning "balconing" -- jumping from one apartment balcony to another or from a balcony down into a swimming pool.

Several youths have been killed or seriously injured in recent years due to the "balconing" craze.

Hotels also kick out guests who destroy furniture or attack staff.

About 250 hotel guests were asked to leave last year for misbehaving, according to Joan Espina, the vice president of the Association of Hotels of Palmanova-Magaluf.

"This has always happened, it happens now with these kids and it happened with their parents when they came in their day," he said.

Alcohol flows all day in Magaluf, beside swimming pools in the morning, on boat cruises in the afternoon and in bars and nightclubs at night.

By dawn tourists can be seen fighting in the streets, throwing up, passing out, and in the most serious of cases, being stretchered off to hospital.

Despite everything, Sorcha and Bryony plan to return next year.

"Of course!" they said in unison when asked if they would be back.



AFP 2014/08/03 10:31

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