Thursday, November 07, 2013

Walking In A Winter Wonted Land

In Colonia Sant Jordi the hoteliers and Ses Salines town hall are undertaking an initiative to promote natural and cultural tourism as part of a drive to reduce the effects of seasonality. They are producing a book which features various walks for looking at flora and fauna and for birdwatching as well as a cycling route. Yep, they're producing a book.

In Calas de Mallorca the promotional effort there goes under a web portal title of the "window on nature". In Puerto Pollensa they may or may not promote birdwatching routes as a way of enticing the winter tourist.

Birdwatching, walking, nature, cycling. How familiar these all are. And to these, one can add other old chestnuts, such as meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism and even a spot of messing-around-on-water nautical tourism in the off-season (though mainly not when the season is off). Calvia town hall, in a burst of activity, has been putting forward its ideas "of MICE and sailing men" and indeed for something known as a "European winter". All good stuff no doubt and all good stuff that hasn't been heard many times before, except, that is, a European winter, whatever this might be.

Go back over the years and you will find similar initiatives. Alcúdia has certainly had its. Walking, cycling, some good nosh, you know the sort of thing I mean by now. And knowing the sort of thing is of course part of the problem. Everyone has similar ideas and everyone seeks to promote similar things. Where's the difference? The answer is that there isn't any.

Take a look around at what other parts of Spain are doing and you will find much of the same. Even Tenerife, winter sun destination that it is, has its walking, culture, nature and all the rest. Sad to report for Mallorca that Tenerife manages to beat Mallorca both in winter sun terms and its natural environment. It has a serious mountain not a piddling one which is no higher than Ben Nevis; it is the volcanic Mount Teide, the tallest summit on Spanish territory.

Mallorca's summer, sun-and-beach tourism is not, in truth, something which demands massive marketing effort. Because Mallorca and sun-and-beach are all but synonymous and because this association has existed for as long as it has, and in such a reliable way, then the island more or less promotes itself. There may not be a great deal of difference, if any, with the sun or the beach in Mallorca compared with all manner of other places, but this doesn't fundamentally matter. All that does matter is the knowledge that there is sun and there is beach. There isn't a need to address tourist perceptions, because their perceptions (of the sun and the beach) are clear enough, except where there may need to be some persuasion to rid tourists of any negative perceptions that are unrelated to the core Mallorcan sun-and-beach brand.

Winter in Mallorca is the complete opposite. Mallorca isn't synonymous with anything in winter; not, that is, in a way which makes it any different to various other destinations. And within Mallorca the various resorts and towns are also not synonymous with anything in winter. If they want to be, then they have to come up with something which sets them apart, and it is an absence of a unique selling point which makes it difficult to do so and which means that they all end up touting essentially the same products.

And it is this range of products which is part of the problem when it comes to the tourism agency or town halls embarking on some marketing initiative designed to combat seasonality and to promote winter in Mallorca. They all opt to present products. When do they ever opt instead to engage in marketing which seeks to alter perceptions and to persuade? When do they ever try and get into the minds of potential winter tourists?

Because there isn't an array of mega theme parks or what have you in Mallorca, the winter tourism offer will always rely on a predictable range of products. It may be a very nice book that has been produced in Colonia Sant Jordi, but is this really going to have much of an impact? One would doubt it.

Good luck to the individual town halls and resorts for making efforts to promote themselves out of season, but what this results in is a fragmented marketing effort of essentially indistinguishable products which are merely presented to the market on a sort of take it or leave it basis. Mallorca in winter has to be marketed as one entity, and a strong identity has to be created, one that is separate to the summer identity and that marks Mallorca out from other winter destinations. Just serving up the same old products is never going to work.

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