Monday, May 16, 2011

Sundowners: Who runs tourism?

As the sun goes down over the Antich administration, so various interested parties are toasting its lowering into the political horizon with gin and tonics raised at the yard-arm and celebrating the coming reveille of what we must expect will be dubbed a new dawn of Mallorcan politics. It's always a new dawn, as it is also always the end of an era.

Of these interested parties, one, the Mallorcan hoteliers' federation, has been pushing itself to the front of the queue to get a good look at the beauty parade of the contestants for the tourism ministry in Bauzá's Partido Popular government. Various announcements emanating from the federation have had a political edge and haven't always been veiled, as with the thumbs-down it has given to the idea of Carlos Delgado becoming minister.

The federation's most recent declaration is not quite so manipulative, but it is a warning to the new occupant of the ministry to ensure that it gets its priorities right.

When the current government gasps its final breath, a last post will be sounded for the dead body of the tourism ministry. Rather than it being buried with a stone that says "here lies the Balearics tourism ministry 2007-2011, may its sins be forgiven", it will be taken to a quiet spot in the Tramuntana where no tourists can be bothered to go and dumped in an unmarked grave.

The ministry's legacy will largely be one of it having produced the four riders of the tourism apocalypse - Buils, Nadal, Ferrer and Barceló - but it will also be remembered, if not mourned, for its inability to handle money, either legally or sensibly. And it is this that the federation is warning about.

The target for the federation is an online tourism logistics system that was first spoken about over a year ago and which is up for tender. The federation believes that it's a waste of money, especially when money is so tight and certain spends, such as that for promotion to the Spanish domestic market, have been cut. The tender process itself is costing up to a million euros.

The federation is probably right to be questioning spend on IT projects at a time of shortage, but is there something more to all this?

An information system that is supposed to increase efficiency and hopefully also effectiveness within the chain of tourism business should, you would think, be something that the federation would welcome. However, if you go back to when the concept was first announced, there was the cracking noise of various noses being put out of joint, one of them being the federation's. It wasn't consulted.

If it is the case that the federation wasn't involved, and appears to still not be involved, it is, at best, an example of lack of judgement by the ministry. You don't create this sort of system without stakeholders, the users, being intimately party to its development.

You have to ask, therefore, why it wasn't in the loop. Was it a case of the ministry flexing its muscles and showing who's boss when it comes to tourism?

It is the suspicion that this may well be the reason which makes you wonder whether an inability to work with key sectors of and professional bodies within the islands' tourism industry could be added to the list of sins perpetrated by the ministry over the past four years.

But, you can look at this a very different way. Yes, it may have been high-handedness on behalf of the ministry, but perhaps it wanted, needed, the opportunity to exert its authority. The federation, and it is not alone among bodies within the tourism industry in having its own agenda, can appear as being one which wants to call the shots.

The accusation by the federation that the ministry is mis-spending money could well be the PR spin to disguise the real intention, which is to send out a message to the incoming PP and its tourism minister that the federation expects to have its voice heard. It should have; of course it should. But lurking in all this is an issue as to whose voice is loudest and who it is who actually runs tourism.

The federation will probably have its wishes granted where Delgado is concerned, and if it does it will have proved it can exert its own muscle. And how much more might it wish to if the new minister is just another pale horse of tourism pestilence whose reins, like strings, might be easily pulled?

Any comments to please.

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