Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Winter tourism

So many are the initiatives, so many are the slogans that they become lost amidst their sheer welter. It's a good word "welter". Not one I have used that often, if at all. But I am making a note to be liberal with it in the future. Welter is, as my trusty OED informs me, "a state of general confusion" or "a disorderly mixture or contrast of beliefs, policies, etc.". It can also be a "big person or thing" (a colloquial use of unknown origin from the nineteenth century, if you must know). As a verb, welter can be "to roll or wallow or be washed about". Yep, it's a very good word indeed.

Because of this welter of initiatives and slogans (welter here meaning either of the first two quoted above), when another initiative or slogan comes along, one has to pause for a moment to wonder if it has in fact come along before. So it was with the announcement of a "sea of experiences", the slogan for an initiative that will, it is said (hoped), increase tourism in the low season, i.e. winter, by 10%. Sea of experiences? Where had I heard that before? Had I heard it before? I had. Last June. I had written about it under the heading "A Sea Of Clichés". Now I remembered. There had been a gathering of worthies, the outcome of which was a meaningless list of "experiences" that were already well known: golf, wine, gastronomy, I'll leave you to add all the rest as you will be familiar with them.

Nine months later, the sea of experiences has been washed up once more. Or is it that it is being washed about? Rolling and wallowing in the shallows of a state of general confusion? A disorderly mixture? The next big thing? Well, hardly the next big thing, unless you consider that experiences for contributing to an increase in off-season tourism which have been spoken about for a good thirty years constitute the next big thing. 

What does appear to be slightly different about the sea of experiences, now that it would seem to have come to the end of a nine-month gestation, is that one set of worthies has been cast adrift, lost in the vast sea of its inexperience around the Balearics. The government worthies. They were there nine months ago. But they were not there when the newly born sea of experiences was revealed to a cooing world: only the director of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation and two important people from Air Berlin.

Why no government representatives though? I'm not sure, but is Carlos on honeymoon, he having tied the knot with the lovely lady of Lourdes last weekend and toasted the occasion at a sushi reception, attended by various acolytes from the PP who wouldn't normally choose to be in the same room as him? Whatever, it isn't necessarily a bad thing that the government is not in attendance. In fact, it is probably quite a good thing when the next big thing is being announced.

And, my goodness, what a big thing it is, too. The sea of experiences has thus far spoken with a few bodegas, five golf courses and two yacht clubs. Phew! The sea is only in its infancy, the experiences troika said. Of course it is, it has only just been born, nine months after its conception last summer. It will grow into a healthy child, though, one trusts. And this growth will be assisted by leaflets to be distributed to hotels this summer and on Air Berlin flights and by information on websites. Tourists, thus far ignorant of anything other than the beach, will now know of the sea of experiences to be had in Mallorca during the winter, most of them on dry land. And those tourists who endure the dark, long days of winter, such as the Scandinavians, will suddenly realise that "the winter in Mallorca is practically like the summer in Scandinavia", says one of the Air Berlin people. So presumably, mostly everything is shut in Scandinavia in summer and everyone disappears for several months.

To be fair, it is worth giving it a go. Hats off. And if it means going it alone minus the government, then so be it. The government hasn't got any money, so let the hoteliers and let the airlines do it all for them. Someone has to. But herein lies the rub: the hub of one airline, Air Berlin.

The other day, a German journalist phoned me to speak about the British cycling "boom" and what it meant for Mallorca. A key issue, I suggested, was that of flights. Air Berlin, despite having cut its winter routes, still flies daily from several German airports to Palma through the winter (and not necessarily just one flight per day). It is an airline with a very strong association with the island. The same cannot be said for British airlines. 'Tis ever thus that flight availability holds the key. Perhaps, therefore, the sea of experience needs to bring the government back on board, but what good has this done in the past? A welter of initiatives. A state of general confusion. Wallowing. The next big thing?

Any comments to please.

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