Tuesday, March 05, 2013

We No Speak Russian (In Pollensa)

Maria Buades, Pollensa's tourism councillor, was recently photographed when she appeared to be on the point of being blown into the bay of Pollensa by a force eight gale, closely followed by plans that she was studying with the mayor and a chap from the Costas Authority. And had these plans flown off, they might by now have been washed up on a French beach.

Doubtless, these plans were not written in French, but stuff in French partly explains why Maria is under fire from the opposition in Pollensa (by which and typically one means the Alternativa party). It would like to know why town hall publications are now to be in French and not in Russian. There are a number of reasons why, says Maria, but before coming to these, perhaps one might ask why it has taken this long for there to be publications in French, as French can often be heard around Pollensa. Heard but not seen, as in town hall literature. Until now.

But to cut to the Russian chase, the Alternativa has been pointing out that other resorts in the area have been adopting measures to meet the demands of the great Russian tourism invasion. What is happening, Russian-wise, in Pollensa? Nada. Rien. Or better still, neesh-toh.

The Alternativa has been doing its tourism homework. Russian tourism to the Balearics is set to increase by 30% this summer, it says, and so Pollensa should be there in the queue with its publicity material, making every effort to attract Russian tourists. It has called on Maria to pull her finger out (the Catalan expression is to put some batteries in) and get cyrillicising all that literature about Puerto Pollensa's pine trees and velvety white sands and Pollensa town's 365 steps.

Maria's explanations for her non-insertion of batteries mainly have to do with the British. There is very little room at the inns this summer on account of the British getting in the way and clogging up hotel places. While it is true that Puerto Pollensa's tourism remains overwhelmingly British, should there not be a touch of forward planning in seeking to attract Russians? And if it is the case that it is British dominance which makes the production of literature in Russian less than a priority, why bother producing it in French? Ce n'est pas logique, capitaine.

Maria has also said that Russian tourists are only interested in sun and beach holidays, though why this should be a reason for not having publications in Russian is not clear. Russian tourists are not unique in this regard; all tourists from wherever they come are predominantly interested in sun and beach. The Alternativa disagrees with this assessment, implying that literature should reflect cultural and shopping opportunities, as the Russians are mad keen on these.

Both Maria and the Alternativa are right while they are both also wrong. They are working on the basis of generalities that are no more than generalities. The key issue, and to be fair to Maria she does seem to have cottoned on to this fact, is that Russian tourism is at present almost exclusively organised through tour operators, and it is what tour operators offer which determines types of holiday, types of accommodation and the holiday resorts.

Russian tour operators, in the style of their marketing, are no different to their British counterparts. Typical promotional images are of sun and beach. It is these which sell in moving tourists en masse; the new Russian family mass tourism. And these tour operators are dictating to this Russian tourism where it will be based and in what type of hotel. Playa de Muro, more so than either Can Picafort or Alcúdia, has cornered the local Russian market because it has a greater ratio of hotel stock that matches what Russian tour operators want and what Russian tourists are said to want: high quality and ultra-modern, to say nothing of an all-inclusive offer.

Puerto Pollensa simply doesn't have either the volume of hotels or the right type of hotel (right in matching what we are led to believe is the Russian tourist's preference), so in fact, Maria may well be correct in not bothering with literature in Russian, as the Russians won't be coming any time soon.

But where Maria may be wrong is in not seeing how this Russian tourism might develop and shift its preferences. It will become more independent, it will look for accommodation and holiday experiences different to hotel luxury alone. It will come into Pollensa even if it is not staying there, and it will see an alternative. Which really, I guess, is what the Alternativa is getting at.  

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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