Friday, November 28, 2014

Isabel In Quality Land

Isabel Borrego, the Mallorcan who is the national secretary-of-state for tourism, has been suspiciously visible over the past few days. After three years of relative anonymity or of, when becoming visible, a tendency to put her foot in it, she has suddenly taken tourism centre-stage. Something's afoot, or perhaps she's just taking the heat off her boss, Soria, as the flak flies in the Canaries over oil prospecting and is about to fly in the Balearics for the same reason. Whatever the reason for this unexpected activity, Isabel has followed up her grand idea for Shopping Tourism 2015 with the Strategic Plan for Quality, something which has in mind giving Spain the most advanced tourism quality system in the world.

As ever with announcements of such plans, there were precious few details to explain what she meant, other than vague references to perfecting cultures of hospitality and attention to tourists and to attracting tourists with increased purchasing power (the same principle underpins her shopping plan). Asian tourists would appear to be important to all this. Their number has risen by 20% so far this year, and as they spend more than other tourists, Isabel is clearly keen to cash in. Not that Asian tourists are going to mean a great deal for Mallorca at present, save for a few Chinese knocking around on golf courses. Without direct flights, getting a piece of the Asian action will be hard.

Meanwhile, Isabel didn't have good news for hoteliers who have been imploring national government to give them some form of fiscal preference, as in reducing IVA. She didn't believe that this was likely, noting that sectors of the tourism industry (not all but certainly the hotels) do already have preferential treatment in that IVA is charged at a lower rate of 10%.

She has also been speaking about holiday lets, and what she had to say was very little. This is a matter for regional governments, she pointed out, which is something we already knew, the national government having abrogated responsibility (for fear of upsetting the hoteliers) and dressed this up as decentralisation of decision-making, something which has led to the lack of harmony of regulations across Spain.

Figures issued by the Balearics Statistics Institute for October's tourism should be noted by Isabel, by Martínez and by the Mallorcan hoteliers. Though healthy - over one million tourists, which is in fact very healthy for October - the figures point to the importance of non-hotel accommodation in attracting tourists. It can be misleading to refer to a lengthening of the season in respect of October, given that October is part of the summer season, but a lengthening was how these figures were being interpreted in some quarters. The fact that holiday lets were playing a significant role in this lengthening contradicts the frankly stupid comments that have come from Martínez and the hoteliers' federation. They have claimed that holiday lets only intensify seasonality, when it should be obvious that they can play a role in making it less intense and so lengthening the season even further. (When there are so few hotels open, this should be clear.)

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