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TOURISM

The Magaluf “rite of passage”

Attracted by cheap alcohol, thousands of young foreigners flock to the Mallorca resort each year

Three British tourists on Magaluf’s Punta Ballena street. Ampliar foto
Three British tourists on Magaluf’s Punta Ballena street. AFP

“You have to go to Magaluf at least once in your life,” says one of a group of twentysomethings relaxing on the beachfront of the Mallorca resort. It’s mid-afternoon and like his friends, he is clearly the worse for wear. This summer more than 12,000 young Brits will descend on this community of around 4,000 people, lured by the promise of sun, sea, sex, and above all, cheap alcohol.

It’s a heady mix, and one that sometimes leads to poor decision-making: such as attempting balconing – the practice of either clambering from one balcony to another, or launching yourself into the hotel swimming pool from one. Last week, a young Frenchman fell to his death in the town, the sixth person to die doing balconing there this year.

The UK media has singled out two British brothers, Danny and John Daly, for some of the blame for what goes on in Magaluf. They own hotels, bars, and also run the so-called Carnage Tour, which consists of a crawl round the duo’s establishments, where for the modest price of €30, participants are entitled to drink as much as they can. In June footage of a young woman performing sex acts on a large group of men during a Carnage bar crawl was posted on YouTube. Since then, other videos of similar scenes have been posted.

Yesterday I jumped from one balcony to another. I am English and I can do whatever I like”

The Daly brothers have made a fortune from their activities, and now spend their time in Barbados. They were unavailable for comment earlier this month, and their website is currently down.

The epicenter of Magaluf is Punta Ballena street, which is lined with nightclubs and bars, fast-food joints, and more bars, all pumping out music at deafening volume pretty much round the clock. Among the throng is Sunny, a 25-year-old who has paid €400 full board and lodging for a week’s debauchery. For the last two days he has been drinking non-stop. Competition among bar owners is fierce, with cocktails selling for €2.50 in some places. “Yesterday I jumped from one balcony to another,” he says. “I am English and I can do whatever I like.” He is with a group who have just finished their exams, and see the practice as an essential rite of passage, calling it “the initiation.”

A tourist practices balconing in the Balearic Islands. / YOUTUBE

There is no shortage of videos on YouTube of young people leaping into swimming pools from their hotel balcony. In some they fail, breaking their legs or suffering even worse injuries.

In 2011, an 18-year-old from the UK called Jake Evans fractured his skull after falling 27 meters from a hotel balcony in Magaluf. Two years later he took part in a campaign organized by the UK Foreign Office to raise awareness about the dangers of leaping from balconies called “Booze and Balconies Don’t Mix,” and pointing out that in 2013, more than 1,000 British people were hospitalized as a result of mixing the two. Evans says that he fell after trying to borrow a lighter from friends on a balcony two floors below. “I fell head first. This can happen to you. I was lucky: I shouldn’t be alive,” he warns.

I think the alcohol thing is cultural. They come here and go insane”

Calvià police chief José Antonio Navarro

José Antonio Navarro, the chief of police in the nearby town of Calvià, has long experience of the dangers that young foreigners expose themselves to. “I think the alcohol thing is cultural. They come here and go insane,” he says.

Aside from many young people’s apparent obliviousness to danger, balconing has another appeal, says José Antonio Luengo of the Camilo José Cela University in Madrid: “The possibility that thousands of people will see you on YouTube or Facebook means that balconing is now more popular than ever. Getting drunk is simply a way of speeding up a decision that has already been taken,” he says.