Friday, March 15, 2013

The People's History Of Mallorca's Tourism

In 1963, the total number of tourists who came to Mallorca was 608,000. 80% of them were foreigners, and the British formed the single largest foreign contingent. The first issue of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" had appeared at the end of 1962. The paper was to catch the wave of this emerging tourism, a wave that turned into a tsunami. By 1973, the number of foreign tourists had risen to 2,565,000, the British still very much to the fore but now joined by German tourists who, in the 1960s, had been released from the shackles of post-war austerity. Behind the British and the Germans, there were French, Scandinavians, Italians, Dutch and others. Tourism had boomed, and Mallorca was transformed.

The statistics form the dry bones of the story of Mallorca's tourism. There are many, many other stories that contribute to the island's tourism history. Many other stories that resonate with nostalgic names: Dan Air, Britannia, Intasun, Horizon, Clarkson, Pontinental. Other stories that tell of the growth of the resorts. From the time, in 1960, when it could be said of the beaches of Magalluf and Palmanova that they were all but deserted in summertime. Stories of a clash of cultures, one that was so extreme that, so said a study in 1971, 90% of mental illness among teenage males, unused to the sight of so much near-naked female flesh, was caused by that flesh. So many stories.

Tourism history has a tendency to deal solely with the factual. Mallorca's tourism history is replete with information about the number of hotels, about when and where they were built and about how many beds they had. It is a history crammed with figures for passenger movement at Palma's Son Sant Joan, the airport itself being its own historical category, as it first opened to commercial airlines in 1960. There are other figures for arrivals at Palma's port. Figures for the costs of this and the costs of that.

Getting the facts right is imperative, but there is one key ingredient which is often overlooked in tourism history. Tourists. Or, more accurately, people. Without people, there are no tourists. Without tourists, there is no tourism. This is a statement of the blindingly obvious, but people - tourists, holidaymakers, vacationers, travellers, call them as you will - can appear to be the least important element of the tourism industry. They are human resources, processed through the airport, channelled to transfer coaches, checked in and marked down at receptions, packaged into hotel rooms. They are the raw material of the tourism industry, one to be counted and converted into a table of data, evaluated by accountants measuring turnover, allocated living space according to a minimum requirement of square metres.

Tourism is nothing without people and nothing without people's feelings for Mallorca, nothing without what people see, hear, do. Nothing without the emotional bonds that they form with the island. Nothing without the collective memory that creates its own history, a history of tourism as experienced by people. The people's history of Mallorca's tourism.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin", a special supplement  is to be published in May. It will also coincide with the official awarding of Pedro Serra's MBE. The supplement will contain a major feature about fifty years of Mallorca's tourism. It was one that I had started to write, when it occurred to me that there was something missing. The people's history of tourism was what was missing.

And so, this is where you come in. While the feature will cover developments over the past fifty years, I want to weave in your own stories. They can be whatever you want to say. They can be about the island as a whole or just a single place or resort. They can be about how things have changed. They can be about what it was like to come to Mallorca for the first time; they can be funny or sad; they can be about characters you have known; about hotels, restaurants, bars, beaches, music, excursions, tour operators, airlines, roads; about, in some cases, why you stayed in Mallorca. There is no limit, except perhaps within reason. And they don't have to be about the sixties. Fifty years are fifty years, so the noughties are as relevant as the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. And if you are not British, please don't think that you are excluded, as you most certainly are not.

It's over to you. Write as much or as little as you want. If you have photos as well, and are happy to give permission for possible publication, then they would also be most welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. Contact: (subject, tourism history). 

* The photo is of Alcúdia beach early 1970s, courtesy of Sheila Nicholls.

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