Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Season 2015: What did we learn?

Resorts can be changed
The naysayers said it couldn't and wouldn't be done. These were naysayers whose beliefs were clouded by self-interest and an inability to see beyond the status quo. A resort, its image, its offer is for all time. Long live the old resort! The naysayers operated, however, from a manual that does not exist. There is no rule which says that a resort has to remain the same. No rule which says that it should have been as it was in the first place. Magalluf changed.

There is still more to be done
But before we get carried away, and one suspects that too many have, we can't overlook what hasn't changed. The glowing tributes for Magalluf's makeover constantly fail to address the cancerous continuance of the mugger-prostitutes. One thing that was learned was that police operations can make a difference. They did so in Playa de Palma, where the National Police broke up a human-trafficking gang and arrested some thirty individuals. A judge issued restraining orders, some women were taken into care, others were detained. The keys to this were police observation and also, crucially, reports by victims. More than anything, this was a lesson that goes beyond the scope of local police forces. It is an international criminal matter, and one for which the National Police and Guardia Civil should be given all resources possible in working with other police forces and agencies to eliminate. A mantra for Magalluf and Mallorca that politicians and the tourism industry chant is that it is a safe destination. Indeed it is, but it could be safer still.

The end of youth tourism?
We became confused by what this meant. The drunken, loutish element was seemingly being shown the door, and this was heralded as a success. Yet why should there not be youth tourism? It frequently has good levels of disposable income. The question became and now is, what type of youth? Perhaps BH Mallorca - and further developments in Magalluf to come next year - point the way, but not everyone is convinced that this represents such a dramatic shift towards a - might one say - more mature youth market.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, there was the problem of the spring-breakers from different countries but not least from the Spanish mainland. This is a youth tourism that is having potentially disastrous consequences in resorts already dominated by all-inclusive where the season is now compacted into three months. Spring breaks of two to three weeks strip away much of what business there might otherwise be. This might not seem a long period, but where the season is so short, then it most definitely is.

Did someone say all-inclusive?
The strength of the pound, the upgrading of hotels were contributing to a lowering of the all-inclusive offer, or so it was said. Yet all-inclusive was being spoken of as never before, partly because - praise be - politicians had woken from a twenty-year-plus slumber and cottoned onto its existence. The change in government brought with it an apparent determination to regulate, and the administration was provided with a cause into which it could sink its teeth: self-service alcohol. This was bizarre, and it demonstrated how out of touch the political class appears to have been. All that was happening was that the means of delivering alcohol was changing, not the principle of as much alcohol as one holidaymaker can stomach. But it did at least hint at tighter control over what is allowable as part of the all-inclusive offer. Regulation should follow in the not too distant future, but it has to be matched with far tighter inspection. There was a lesson from a different source - the campaign against fraudulent work contracts. Deemed a success, it was because of the additional inspectors specially brought in from the mainland. Regulation is meaningless unless there is the inspection capability to enforce it.

Overcrowded Mallorca
Other regulation was in the air, that of private accommodation, but the emphasis shifted this summer. It was no longer a case of whether to permit the commercialisation of private apartments or of how to enable this, but of the sheer availability. The previous government had sat on its hands and flatly refused to consider any meaningful regulation, and this summer highlighted the absence of such regulation. The massive growth in rental accommodation via the internet was identified as the principal reason why the island reached saturation point. But whatever regulation there might eventually be, without the resources to control it, it will prove as toothless as any for all-inclusive standards.

A record-breaking season it proved to be (for some at any rate), but there was no disguising some reasons why - instability elsewhere most notably. The chief lesson was that, for any advances made, they are inextricably linked to the ups and downs of the competition.

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