Tuesday, August 23, 2016

And The Sustainable Tourism Winner Will Be?

The night of 26 September will be "la Noche del Turismo". Yes, the night of tourism. For one night only. It'll be on the eve of World Tourism Day. One day only. They quite like celebrating World Tourism Day in Mallorca. One day only, albeit Alcudia has its own not-the-world tourist day this Thursday (it's a half day in fact).

At least a World Tourism Day at the end of September gives Cala Millor the opportunity to have its tourist fiesta week, a rather longer celebration of tourism than anywhere else indulges in. One day only normally. Oh well, so much for lengthening the tourist season, let's just reduce it to one day (and the preceding night).

This night of tourism is an innovation - yes, there is one - by the tourism ministry. It was being mentioned last week when minister Barceló was making one of his now regular proclamations about sustainability and saturation. Alongside him was the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency, Pere Muñoz, an old mate but also political sparring partner of Barceló's and about whom a certain degree of surprise was expressed when he was given the job. There was something about him having run the car park at Lluc Monastery.

We haven't heard a great deal from Pere since he was appointed in February when the previous incumbent, Miquel Àngel Roig, quit because he was offered something better. Recently, however, Pere has emerged, a brother-in-arms to the sustainable tourism minister. Ostensibly, the agency is the wing of the ministry devoted to promoting the Balearics. This it does by, among other things, flying off to Rutland in order to explain to the twitcher community how a whole load of crappy water ended up covering a vast part of one of the islands' principal birdlife locations, thus rendering it - if only temporarily - unsustainable. Otherwise, it hasn't yet been acquainted with the other part of the sustainable tourism minister's portfolio - innovation and research. We might have expected that another mate of Barceló's having been made director for this would have been able to marry innovation of, say, a social network variety to the promotion of the islands. As yet, nada, but oddly no one seems to be asking what this director is doing.

Pere, meanwhile, seems to have been hard at it developing promotion of an inward variety. Thus, the citizenry is being informed about sustainable tourism. On the principle that you state the word often enough, the public will go along with it, even if the public hasn't a clue what it means. Or rather, it gets to understand what the sustainable tourism minister wants sustainability to mean.

And now we have another type of inward promotion. The glittering night of stars that is to be the night of tourism is designed to cover a multitude of virtues. Here are the five categories of award: knowledge and research applied to tourism; the best social responsibility initiative; the best sustainable tourism initiative; tourism work, effort and professional dedication; the tourist "experience".

These are all to be in recognition of ways in which Balearic tourism and its tourism services are being improved within a framework of corporate social responsibility (both public and private), of innovation in creating new experiences, and of the sustainability of the tourism product in the Balearics. In a nutshell, the awards encapsulate Barceló's brief as minister. The night of tourism could equally be called the Biel night of tourism.

So, who might be among the runners and riders? Nominations close today, suggesting that we will shortly be informed, offering Biel (and Pere) a further opportunity to go public with the incessant sustainability (saturation) theme. Who, one wonders, are on the judging panel (have Podemos been consulted)? Perhaps they will be revealed as well, but whoever they are, one can possibly guess at the type of winner to eventually be announced and at the type of winner that most certainly won't be announced.

Of the latter, we can anticipate that innovators such as Airbnb won't be getting anywhere near an award let alone be invited. But among the winners? Might they, for instance, include Palma 365 or Calvia town hall? Palma 365 would be worthy. Calvia wouldn't be. Where else might get a look-in beyond the political expedience which decrees that Palma and Calvia head the lists? Menorca with its biosphere, roundly criticised for never having been effectively promoted? The Tramuntana, likewise criticised for promotional failure? 

How about the regulatory councils for wine, oil and food products? All sustainable and all supposedly part of the wider concept of gastronomy that will extend the season. Gongs for sobrassada and ensaimadas maybe? The tourism agency seems incapable of seeing beyond a type of sausage and a pastry when it comes to gastronomy promotion, so quite possibly.

We are about to find out.

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