Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Gulag Balearic Archipelago: National tourism plan

In the glorious days of Stalin and the five-year plans, it is doubtful that Uncle Joe ever came up with a plan for tourism. Had he, it would probably have involved a tour of Gulag camps in Siberia. The five-year plans came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but five-year plans still exist. In Spain, for example. And for tourism specifically.

The Spanish Government has just published its "national and integral plan for tourism", a snappy title for something that is meant to be an instrument of government for improving the competitiveness of the tourism sector, the motor of the Spanish economy. To underline this motor idea, the document in which the five-year plan is set out has a graphic of an arrow disappearing, presumably into the future, with what look like four tyre marks. Very effective it is, I'm sure, though shouldn't it have five tyre marks?

This strategic document begins, as any MBA student can tell you that a strategic document should begin, with an analysis of the current situation. This analysis is in the form of our old friend, the SWOT analysis, which in Spanish isn't SWOT, but FDOA, or OAFD, as they put the opportunities and threats ("oportunidades", "amenzas") before the strengths and weaknesses ("fortalezas", "debilidades"). Either way, you can't actually pronounce the acronym.

Anyway, what does this FDOA or OAFD tell us? (And don't worry, I'm not going through it all.) Among the opportunities, there are the emerging tourist markets (Russia would be one such). Of the threats, there are those from other Mediterranean destinations. When it comes to strengths, there is the reputation of the Spanish tourism brand, while of weaknesses, there are the problems of resort maturity, seasonality and therefore temporariness of employment.

Well, I don't know about you, but this all sounds pretty familiar. I could have come up with this lot myself, and no doubt so could many others. But are there any surprises in the analysis? Surprise isn't perhaps the right word. Realism might be, as, however one defines it, what does one make of the appearance among the strengths of "an increase in residential tourism"?

Residential tourism covers different things. It includes, for example, the purchase of holiday homes by native Spaniards and foreigners. It also includes timeshare. And, in addition, it also includes rental.

Now, am I missing something here, but does this strength not actually conflict with what is generally thought, by the tourism bodies and the hotels in the Balearics, to be a weakness? I don't think I am, but then this is not an analysis of the Balearics, it is an analysis of Spain. Yet, who are the two most important politicians in the Spanish Government when it comes to tourism? The main one is the minister for tourism, José Manuel Soria. The second most important is the secretary-of-state for tourism, Isabel Borrego. And from where do these two important people herald? Respectively, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, the two regions of Spain where there are the strongest policies against residential tourism.

Make of this what you will, but the national analysis doesn't sound like it applies nationally. Not, however, that the plan has anything specific to say about residential tourism. It doesn't really have much to say about anything, other than to say that it comprises six axes, 28 measures and 104 actions, all part of the national tourism strategy road map. Maybe this is to be one of the actions; they'll give every tourist a road map, though given there's some stuff about "technological intensity", they really ought to give each tourist a sat-nav.

Otherwise, it's all pretty much as you might expect. More effort in attracting the private sector, modernising resorts, support to municipalities with tourism resorts, this sort of thing. Other parts of it have already been leaked, such as modification of airport taxes to help overcome seasonality.

It's in the nature of such plans that they do tend to be presented in a somewhat superficial way. The 28 measures are all listed, but the 104 actions aren't. Maybe they're still working on them, but the actions would in fact be the most interesting part of the whole exercise. Doubtless all will be revealed, or not as the case may be, but one thing we do know is that the budget for the five-year plan will rise from 438 million euros in 2012 to 480 million in 2015. As for 2016, the fifth year of the plan, erm, well, they seem to have forgotten to include 2016. Tut, tut, Stalin would never have approved. Off to the Gulag with them all!

Any comments to please.

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