Monday, November 30, 2009

On The Banks Of The River Nile

The Balearics may still be the leader when it comes to Mediterranean holidays, but this position is under threat. Tell us something we didn't know, and "The Diario" did just that yesterday, but it set out quite why this threat exists.

Turkey, Egypt, Croatia - these are the three countries that most exercise the minds of Balearics tourism authorities, or they should be. The competition they represent is now well-understood, but it is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Yet, this very recency has been one of the things that have caught the Balearics on the hop. The catch-up that has been played in these countries has been swift. In the case of Croatia, it has occurred in a short period since the turmoil that was the former Yugoslavia. I went on holiday to Croatia in 1984. I say "Croatia". You didn't refer to it as such back then; it was still Yugoslavia, and it was crap. We stayed on a holiday complex which had some what could only be described as "communist" elements: a vast refectory that served inedible food and a so-called entertainment building which didn't have any - entertainment that is, except for morose local youths looking to pick fights. The beach did not exist. One stretched out on what was like a car park, a series of huge concrete slabs from which one walked down steps into the sea. It was popular with Germans who could drive there, and there were even holidaymakers from the old communist bloc - Hungarians most obviously. The complex was soulless, what there was by way of bars, restaurants and shops was of a poor standard. The best thing about it was that you could buy reasonably good fresh food and have your own barbecues, because you certainly didn't want to be dining out. Oh, and it was incredibly cheap.

But that was 25 years ago. The war intervened, and then Croatia undertook its tourism birth, while Turkey and Egypt began to plan more aggressively for the future.

Though both Turkey and Egypt have experienced slight falls in the number of tourists this year, the decline has not been as great as that in the Balearics. The islands still hold their dominant position, but they are in retreat, faced with the competition of the eastern Med. This competition is founded on new and often superior hotel stock and cheapness. There is also a bit of unfair competitive advantage. Governments can subsidise an industry in a way that the Spanish cannot, unless they wish to bring down the wrath of Brussels on their heads. These governments can also influence exchange rates - to their benefit - in ways that Euroland Spain cannot.

"The Diario" itemises the pros and cons of the Balearics and of its competitors. The paper admits that the so-called "complementary offer" (i.e. bars and restaurants etc.) is costly, but it is also vastly superior to that available in the competitor destinations. However, it is the hotel element that speaks volumes. The current-day holidaymaker seems less interested in that complementary offer. Egypt and Turkey may suffer from inferior infrastructures, but what do these matter when the holidaymaker can stay in relative luxury on an all-inclusive basis? Outside bars and restaurants hold less appeal for a growing number of tourists, and so it also is in Mallorca where the all-inclusive offer has had to increase in response to what is happening elsewhere but where the hotels are not always as good.

There are cons in Egypt and Turkey in terms of, for example, terrorism, but this is a more questionable card to play following the summer bombs in Mallorca. There are cons in terms of low-quality bars and restaurants, but this is a questionable card to play if the holidaymaker isn't interested. There are cons in terms of limited travel possibilities, which constitute one definite pro for Mallorca which is better served by air and sea and which is also closer for northern Europeans. There are pros in terms of government intervention; the Turkish government supported financially an 18% shareholding in Air Berlin by the Turkish airline Pegasus, thus, at a stroke, opening up a wider German market to the Turkish Riviera. There are pros in terms of governmental priority; tourism is the industry in the eastern Med and responsibilities of those at the heads of government reflect this. I suggested a while ago that the Balearics president should also be the tourism minister. Maybe I was right to have done so.

In Mallorca and the Balearics, they continue to bang on about the strength of the brand (Balearics, erroneously), about professionalism, about sustainable environments, blah, blah, but much of it is whistling in the dark. It will continue to be so not only because of the growing competition but also - a point "The Diario" neglects to make - because there are too many competing self-interests in Mallorca, be these in government, within associations or in the tourism sector. The eastern Med countries are far more single-minded, far more focused on an overarching strategy led by government. They, the Turks, the Egyptians, the Croats, have adopted coherent and intelligent strategies of competition, and it is these, more than anything, that they have used to challenge Mallorca and the Balearics, because similar strategies, if they really exist, are obscured from view.

Yesterday's title - Larry Grayson. If you must - Today's title - at the risk of the blog becoming a tribute to Camden's finest, it's them again.


Index for November 2009

Albufereta - 9 November 2009
All-inclusives - 7 November 2009, 16 November 2009
Artà and Manacor rural tourism - 19 November 2009
Being Mallorcan - 24 November 2009
Blogs - 1 November 2009
Cabrera, filming on - 9 November 2009
Café Playero Club demolished - 22 November 2009
Can Picafort in winter - 26 November 2009
Catalonia football team - 3 November 2009
Christmas decorations and illuminations - 28 November 2009
Christopher Columbus - 4 November 2009
Competition from Croatia, Egypt and Turkey - 30 November 2009
Corruption in Spain, political - 20 November 2009
Cultural tourism - 27 November 2009
East German tourists in 1990 - 2 November 2009
English speaking in the Balearics - 14 November 2009
Environment minister - 5 November 2009, 9 November 2009, 21 November 2009
ESRA mediaeval fayre - 23 November 2009
Expats Alcúdia v. Pollensa - 23 November 2009
Expats criminals and drunks? - 10 November 2009
Expats victims of fraud - 16 November 2009, 17 November 2009
Golf course policy - 12 November 2009
Holidays abroad - 5 November 2009
Jaume Matas corruption case - 13 November 2009, 14 November 2009
John Hirst, Gilher Inc - 16 November 2009, 17 November 2009, 24 November 2009
Jolly Roger car boot sale - 23 November 2009
Menorca suspends tourism promotion - 19 November 2009
Mobile phone registration - 10 November 2009
Muro and Muro church - 25 November 2009
Nautical tourism: Club de Producto náutico - 21 November 2009
November in Mallorca - 7 November 2009
Pollensa Fair 2009 - 15 November 2009
Puerto Pollensa: improvement to frontline - 20 November 2009
Puerto Pollensa to Pollensa pavement - 21 November 2009
Real Mallorca - 12 November 2009, 14 November 2009, 18 November 2009, 22 November 2009
Sant Sebastià fiesta, Palma - 14 November 2009, 18 November 2009
Television, Mallorca and - 4 November 2009
Temperatures in bars, Spanish Government's law on - 29 November 2009
Tourism economics - 16 November 2009
Tourism promotion - 8 November 2009, 11 November 2009, 19 November 2009, 21 November 2009
TUI prices - 7 November 2009
Valencia demonstration against corruption - 3 November 2009

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