Menorca residents put chains on streets to keep tourists out

Residents of Binibeca Vell, in Menorca have put up chains to keep visitors out before 11am and after 8pm
Residents of Binibeca Vell, in Menorca have put up chains to keep visitors out before 11am and after 8pm

The ‘Mykonos of Spain’ has chained up its streets as part of a growing campaign across the Balearic Islands to push back against over-tourism.

The 195 homeowners of Binibeca Vell, in Menorca, nicknamed the ‘Spanish Mykonos’ for its narrow winding streets amid whitewashed houses, have put up chains to keep visitors out before 11am and after 8pm. In August residents will take a vote on whether to ban tourists altogether.

Binibeca has a maximum of 500 permanent residents during the summer months but its alleyways are laden with 800,000 visitors annually.

Locals have complained of tourists disrespecting private property by climbing stairs, scaling balconies or entering doorways in search of the perfect photo for social media.

Óscar Monge, president of the residents association, blamed Menorca’s authorities for failing to regulate tourism in the area and leaving locals to take matters into their own hands.

The owners of the 195 houses of Menorcan 'Mykonos' have decided to keep the access to the town
Tourists have been climbing stairs, scaling balconies or entering doorways of the private properties there - MJS

“Binibeca is promoted by the administration and tourism companies, but what benefit do we get out of it?” Mr Monge said.

“We pay dearly for being the most potent tourist attraction in Menorca.”

Local authorities supply the residents’ association with €25,000 a year to touch up the houses’ exterior paintwork and make repairs, but Mr Monge claimed the money is not enough and demanded a plan to manage the area sustainably.

“It’s outrageous that the politicians who run local tourism are telling us that the only alternatives we have to keep the place clean are to close it, privatise it or start charging.”

The Balearic Islands, in which Menorca is the smaller cousin of massive tourism hotpots Majorca and Ibiza, have 1.2 million permanent residents, with tourism arrivals numbering almost 18 million in 2023, a record for the archipelago.

Of this total 14.4 million were foreign tourists, with Germans and British visitors the most numerous.

‘Majorca is not for sale’

Following an unprecedented series of demonstrations in the Canary Islands last month against ‘overtourism’. However, Friday saw around a thousand residents protest in Ibiza’s capital demanding limits on visitor numbers, with a similar protest under the banner “Majorca is not for sale” set for Saturday in Palma.

It is expected to be the largest demonstration against mass tourism since last month’s protest in the Canary Islands.

“We’re being expelled from Majorca and the Balearic Islands and replaced by whoever can afford to live here,” Joan Ribo, one of the organisers of Saturday’s protest, told The Telegraph.

“Families cannot afford to live here anymore, with the rent of a single bedroom costing more than €700 anywhere you go on the island. Basically, unless you inherit a house, you are condemned to leave the island.”

Mr Ribo notes that the Balearic Islands government is one of several regions in Spain run by the conservative Popular Party have refused to apply a rent cap system introduced nationally by Spain’s Left-wing coalition government.

‘Impose limits’

But Balearic premier Marga Prohens surprised many earlier this month when she admitted that “the time has come to impose limits and ask ourselves what tourism model we want”.

Ms Prohens has said her government will prepare “courageous measures” to revert the problem of tourism saturation in the Balearics without yet presenting any specific plans.

Jaume Bauzà, the Balearic Islands’ tourism minister, blames Left-wing predecessor governments for “eight years of inaction”, during which time 115,000 more tourism beds were added and, while he claimed nothing was done to stop the proliferation of unlicensed Airbnb-style rental properties.

Mr Bauzá said the government would listen to all sides of the debate, but would not accept “tourist phobia”.

“What we need to do is to attack illegal tourism offerings, be they taxis, rental homes or commerce. If we can improve the tourism sector and combat the illegal market, we will have gone a long way to solving the problem.”