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Majorca ‘sex contests’ not police matter: Spain

The Spanish secretary of state for tourism has weighed into the controversy over an alleged fellatio contest in a nightclub in the Majorca resort of Magaluf, saying that such activities should not be "criminalized".

Majorca 'sex contests' not police matter: Spain
File photo: Pascal/Flickr

Speaking in Palma de Majorca on Tuesday, Isabel Borrego said that while Spain wishes to offer "quality tourism", the response to such lewd behaviour must be to boost awareness of what is and is not acceptable.

"Above all, it is a question of making the business community and the tourists who come to this area conscious; we have to do this together, the online news site Público quoted Borrego as saying.

"Sometimes, imposing a ban does not resolve problems," she added.  

Borrego said that on Tuesday afternoon she would be meeting in Madrid with the Balearic Islands tourism chief, Jaime Martínez, representatives of the British Embassy and UK tour operators to drive forward a joint institutional campaign to prevent such unsavoury incidents in Spain’s reports.  

The secretary of state said that members of the Balearic government and Spain’s tourism office in London were already working on a publicity campaign that would be finalized in the coming days.

The idea is that internet sites and the UK media outlets which have reported on an incident in which a young British woman was filmed performing oral sex on a number of men before being rewarded with free alcohol will be chosen to run the resulting campaign.

The story was met with widespread indignation in Majorca, with the Balearic government appealing to Spain’s national administration and the local authorities in Magaluf to form a common front against what is being described in the media as ‘mamading’, coining from the Spanish word 'mamada', which means fellatio.

The regional government decried what it saw as a “degrading image of women and the Balearics.”

The Balearic branch of the Women’s Institute announced that it would be informing public prosecutors of bars where such “contests” took place. No legal action against any venue has yet come to light, however.

In Palma, the secretary of state for tourism stressed that the Spanish and Balearic governments wish to offer an image of “responsible” tourism, while claiming that the problem was limited to “a few streets” in Magaluf.   

British tourists made up just under a third of the Balearic Islands record international tourism figure for 2013, when 11.1 million non-Spaniards travelled to the archipelago, leaving a combined €10.6 billion ($14.4 billion) behind them.

"For British tourism aimed at young people, sadly this is the best advert you could come up with," one Majorcan resident said to Atlas news agency when asked about the oral sex controversy.

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TOURISM

FOCUS: How Spain’s staff shortages spell trouble for tourism

In normal times, Pablo González would never have considered closing his restaurant at the height of summer. But this year, he's been forced to do just that for one day a week due to a lack of staff.

FOCUS: How Spain's staff shortages spell trouble for tourism

“I advertised online… and I’ve asked everywhere, but until now I haven’t had any success,” says González, who runs the Taberna Andaluza in Benidorm, a hub for mass tourism on Spain’s southeastern coast.

At full capacity, his restaurant can seat 120 people, but he is currently two waiters short among a staff of 16, making it “impossible” to open seven days a week.

“My staff need to rest,” he says with a shrug.

Whether it’s chefs, bar staff or dishwashers, many bars, restaurants and cafes across Benidorm are struggling to recruit workers, generating a new source of tension after two years of pandemic.

“It looks like it’s going to be a great summer,” says Alex Fratini, watching tourists sit down on the terrace of his cafe, one of eight establishments he runs in Benidorm.

“But the lack of staff is really problematic.”

“We’ve always had problems finding people, but we’ve never seen it this bad,” he told AFP.

“Two weeks ago, we’d lined up 10 people for interview, but none of them showed up!”

spain staff shortages

The decreasing interest in jobs in the hospitality sector has affected the entire industry, from the Balearic Islands to the Costa Brava. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

A job with little appeal

Diego Salinas, head of Benidorm’s Abreca association that represents bars, restaurants and cafes, believes there are some 1,200 vacancies in the sector, saying “various factors” were to blame.

Among them were the seasonal nature of employment, the lack of training and the after-effects of the Covid crisis.

“With the pandemic, many staff left and haven’t come back because they found work in other sectors,” he told AFP.

And the situation has been exacerbated by Benidorm’s lack of housing, with many empty flats “turned into tourist apartments with very high rental costs”, Salinas explained.

“So it is very difficult for workers to find housing.”

For Francisco Giner, a union representative who works at a hotel in the town, Covid merely served to put a spotlight on problems that already existed, such as “low salaries” and “somewhat awful working conditions”.

During the lockdown, “many people realised they didn’t want to work in this sector,” where the work is “intense” and “difficult to balance with family life”.

Former waitress Lucia Camilia, who lives in Barcelona, agrees, pointing to the “job insecurity” in the sector.

“You have to work at weekends, you miss birthdays… and you just don’t feel valued.”

READ MORE: Why no one wants to be a waiter in Spain anymore

A widespread problem

Before the pandemic, Spain was the world’s second most popular tourist destination after France, with the sector accounting for 12.4 percent of its economy.

But the decreasing interest in jobs in the sector has affected the entire industry, from the Balearic Islands to the Costa Brava.

Employers’ organisations say there are some 50,000 job positions unfilled, in what is a paradox given Spain’s 13.65 percent unemployment rate — one of the highest levels in the OECD.

The problem is “widespread” and can only be solved through “major reforms”, says Emilio Gallego, secretary-general of the employers’ organisation Hosteleria de Espana, calling for “emergency measures” to be put in place.

Aware of the problem, Spain’s left-wing government announced an easing of the rules for foreign workers at the start of June.

staff shortage spain tourism

There are an estimated 50,000 waiter vacancies that haven’t filled in Spain ahead of the key summer season. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz has also encouraged the sector to raise salaries.

But it’s a message which has angered some restaurant owners in Benidorm, where after talks with unions they have just agreed to implement a 4.5-percent salary hike.

“If the problem was down to salaries, the market would adapt, because those who pay more would have more workers,” which is not the case, says a clearly frustrated Fratini.

“When there are no workers, there are just no workers,” says Angela Cabañas, who told AFP she was now offering “up to €2,000 ($2,139) a month” to find seasonal kitchen staff for her restaurant.

But even that hasn’t worked, and this summer, she will only open the bar.

“It’s a drastic decision, but I’ve no other option,” Cabañas said, admitting the situation has left her feeling very “discouraged”.

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