Vehicle Limit (2): the Formentera experience

Visits: 108

Regulating the number of vehicles in the summer is a useful tool for combatting overcrowding. It has positive effects on the resident population and on the experience of all tourists to the island. Formentera paved the way in 2019 and obtained good results.

Here is a resumé as well as a video presentation made recently for the cycle of round table discussions “Menorca where are we going?” organised jointly by the Menorca Preservation Foundation, the Ateneo of Mahón and GOB.

A tool for combatting overcrowding and congestion

As in our case, Formentera suffers from an overwhelming influx of tourists in the summer and has experienced a huge increase in the resident population. The feeling of overcrowding was becoming widespread. For these reasons, their Island Governing Council analysed the situation’s data.

What they discovered was that the main road across the island exceeded the capacity for which it had been designed by 20%. Either more roads could be made or overcrowding could be controlled: they decided to take the second option.

An inventory was made to find how many vehicles were owned by residents, how many there were for rental and how many entered the island with tourists by boat. This allowed them to make a precise regulation on vehicles of non-residents.

Implementing an entrance fee on vehicles

From the debates carried out by the public, came the idea to implement a fee for charging the entry of vehicles to the island. Formentera has used this tool with two objectives.

First, it has served to create a specific fund for financing activities to go towards the environmental and tourist sustainability of the island.

The second objective was based on encouraging tourists who bring their own vehicle to extend their stay on the island. This was set as an objective after finding that stays were made shorter but as all the tourists wanted to visit the same emblematic places, road traffic increased.

The entrance fee to the island for vehicles was to cover a minimum of 5 days. The payment was the same for fewer days. This encouraged stays for longer periods going from 3.5 days to 5.1 days.

A law like that of Menorca allowed regulating vehicle entry

The Governing Island Council of Formentera would like to stop the deception to tourists by the usual promotion. The idyllic images given do not correspond at all with the reality of the summer. The lighthouses and the mythical beaches that always appear empty in the photos used in publicity are, in reality, surrounded by vehicles.

To combat this situation, a specific law has been proposed, known as Law 7/2019 for sustainability, environment and the island economy of Formentera using the so called Formentera Eco programme, to put the theory into practice.

From the start, an advance reservation will be required for anyone wanting to travel with his or her own vehicle. Shipping companies warn their clients and rental companies have a maximum limit each year on the number of cars permitted.

Lower the number of private vehicles and increase public transport

In 2022, rental cars decreased in number by some 12% and private tourist cars by 12%. Road traffic reduced by 8.5%. In contrast, the use of taxis increased by 70% and public transport by 40%.

The Island Governing Council has equipped itself with the technology to control this new system. Some cameras read the license plates automatically on all vehicles coming from the port and are able to make a detailed scrutiny of compliance with agreements made.

The number of authorised vehicles is decided each year. The regulations have been implemented progressively. The initial reluctance has disappeared. Only the multinational car rental companies disagree. Locals regard it positively as do all the companies that benefit from reduced road traffic congestion and uncrowded emblematic places.

Menorca has the law and the data

The Menorcan Law of the Reserve of the Biosphere allows regulating the entry to Menorca of all types of motor vehicles. It also permits applying a fee. Vehicles owned by people who reside in Menorca or non-residents who own a home on the island, are exempt.

A technical study commissioned by the Island Governing Council (Consell Insular) has assessed the excess number of vehicles during the summer of 2022. In summary, there is a surplus of 20% in the months of June and September and of 30% in the months of July and August. In this sense, the overcrowding exceeds the initial situation of Formentera.

It is, therefore, important that Menorca also makes use of the legal possibilities available to deal with vehicle regulation. In Formentera, for the first year they simply froze the growth with respect to the year before, but then progressively applied reductions.

The quality of the Menorcan tourist offer and the experience of the resident population would benefit from such a measure. GOB is asking for fast action. It is an island necessity and not for political debate.