Thursday, August 31, 2006

Crime / Pricing / Jazz

The “boom” in holiday bookings in the Balearics - we are led to believe that all records have been smashed - has brought with it an increase in crime. This is explained in exponential terms; the more people, the more crime. QED. Brits get into a fair bit of bother it must be said, but then there are also break-ins. Burglary is not a massive problem in Spain, by comparison with the UK, but it happens, of course it happens. My neighbour’s house is like Fort Knox but he has had uninvited guests in the night on more than one occasion. And then there is theft from hotels. One hotel around here, which I shall not name, seems to have suffered quite a bit from theft from rooms, and others have been affected, too.

There was a “viewpoint” the other day in The Bulletin, the thrust of which argued for price controls as a means of stopping Mallorca - and in particular its bars and restaurants - from pricing itself out of the market. This is a facile argument. Price controls rarely work; indeed they run contrary to the principles of a free market, and can - in certain circumstances - drive up the final cost to the consumer. Fundamentally, the imposition of a price control disturbs the natural price equilibrium which is achieved by the constant movement of supply and demand. At what level can a control be set? Too low or too high - either way the equilibrium is broken. Additional costs come, from other things, the bureaucracy needed to administer controls, which can only be found through the public purse.

Some while ago there was a highly simplistic solution proposed in a German newspaper to the problems of falling demand created by all-inclusives. It was: lower prices, and increase quality. Easier said than done. Inflation has risen here, key costs having gone up significantly over the past year or so - petrol, gas, electricity. The bar/restaurant owner has to contend with all of these in addition to rent, staff costs etc. The squeeze from all-inclusives means that margins can be eroded even more. Lowering prices may lead to increased demand, but it doesn’t lead to increased profit.

The argument that Mallorca is too costly is not necessarily borne out. Researching comments on the Internet, price - and this applies to research into Alcúdia - is not something that many people complain about; indeed some services (buses and taxis) are felt to be good value for money. So, price controls? Nah.

One of the summer’s last music programmes is about to start in Alcúdia. This is Alcúdia Jazz, a series of concerts during September. The performers are exclusively Mallorcan/Spanish. Nothing wrong with that. Spanish jazz, especially the crossover with flamenco, is often pretty damn good. Latin influence in jazz, down the years, has thrown up some of the world’s best jazz musicians. Chick Corea, for instance, even recorded a track called “Spain”, which was simply brilliant.

Corea’s contemporary, Billy Cobham, was one of the artists at this year’s Sa Pobla jazz festival. I mention this as I feel the Sa Pobla event has one over on Alcúdia. Promoting local talent is fine, but internationalising an event - in the same way that the Festival of Pollensa does - can help to attract a wider audience. Promoted correctly, with the right artists, and it could be a different means of bringing in visitors.

For information on the Alcúdia Jazz programme, click on the What’s On Blog in the links on the right side.

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