Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ordinary People: Tourist quality

Touristic quality is imperative in order to be competitive. So has said Spain's minister for tourism, José Manuel Soria. I am not a great fan of the word "touristic". It doesn't sound right. Though it is a legitimate word in English, it isn't one that would generally be used, other than in Spain where "turístico" is common usage and where, therefore, it is a direct translation. The problem with it as a word is knowing what it really refers to. Soria is probably using it in the sense that it means "pertaining to tourism", but it might just as easily mean "pertaining to tourists", and I am even less of a fan of the term "quality tourism" which, by implication, leads on to "quality tourists", a term that is an implied pejorative when one considers that it has an opposite.

When politicians in Spain and Mallorca, and not only politicians by any means, bang on about touristic quality or quality tourism or quality tourists, we all know what and who they are on about and we all know who they are not on about. Let's call quality tourism a spade, shall we. It's one that takes to the beach with a bucket as well, so long as the bucket is stuffed full of notes and isn't overflowing with a highly potent alcoholic mixture and several straws to enable non-quality tourists to get absolutely hammered for next to nothing. Quality is the alpha or beta-plus tourist, not the delta and epsilons.

Actually, imbibing copious amounts of alcohol is of no concern if it means that shedloads of notes are being handed over. Politicians couldn't give a damn about habits or behaviour. Quality, as far as they are concerned, means one thing and one thing alone. Wonga. And lots of it.

In the United Arab Emirates, the politicians would be concerned about "touristic" habits and behaviour. It's not as though alcohol is unobtainable in the UAE, because it is, but I have to assume that the local souks don't sell special drinking buckets and straws to be taken to a nearby beach, as supermarkets in Mallorca have been known to. The UAE may be all about luxury and what have you, but why any sane person would choose to go there for a regular beach-style holiday is frankly beyond me. I have to further assume, therefore, that I do not qualify as a quality tourist.

Sr. Soria was recently in the UAE. Not on holiday, you understand - he's far too busy running Spain's tourism, energy and industry ministry to bother with such frivolity - but to see how its touristic quality stacks up. And stack up it does. Nine million tourists and 85,000 beds at present, these numbers will have doubled by 2020. What is more, the tourists (yes, the tourists) are not just quality tourists, they are tourists of "extraordinary quality". Well, that really does disqualify me.

José Manuel has been to where Premier League football clubs are financed, to where Real Madrid's resort is supposed to be opening some time in the near future and to where a neighbouring emirate, Qatar, can make real that old music video with Kate Bush and Donald Sutherland and ensure rain to prevent footballers from dropping down with heat exhaustion. Or something like that. The Middle East's quality tourists - sorry, extraordinary quality tourists - are presumably all playing in Europe's top soccer leagues, and if not them, then the Russians who own their clubs. Extraordinary quality, no misbehaviour and no bad habits. Here, Luis, have this arm to chew on.

The tourism minister, having seen the extraordinary quality light, would appear to want to turn Spain into something of the Dubai of the western Mediterranean. I'm not sure about you, but I fancy there might be one or two obstacles to doing this. Even if Spain were to suddenly conjure up billions upon billions of dollars of oil money (and it won't), would we really want Mallorca to be transformed into an island sinking into the Med under the weight of Russian bling and into a series of gated palaces from which Rio Ferdinand can tweet his latest indispensable musings?

I quite like Mallorca as it is. I quite like the fact that it is both nice and naff. It attracts all human life, some of which is only vaguely human. But its rich diversity of visitor matches the rich diversity of its natural environment. By all means let's improve or get rid of some of the rubbish hotels and those parts of resorts which are like war-zones, but let's not forget what made Mallorca and the Costas. Ordinary folk, doing ordinary things, with ordinary amounts of money.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

Index for April 2013

Adults-only hotels - 7 April 2013
Artists and Spanish crisis - 29 April 2013
Al Jarreau - 21 April 2013
Balearic languages and Catalan - 16 April 2013
Calvià and climate change - 9 April 2013
Canamunt and Canavall feud - 20 April 2013
City of culture in Santiago de Compostela - 3 April 2013
Consultants and tourism - 17 April 2013
Driving tourism - 18 April 2013
Learning Spanish - 23 April 2013
Package holidays' revival - 11 April 2013
Playa de Muro cycling tourism - 13 April 2013
Price-fixing - 6 April 2013
Princess Cristina subpoena - 5 April 2013
Religious beliefs and Balearics youth - 2 April 2013
Republicanism and regionalism - 15 April 2013
Sant Jordi in Mallorca - 26 April 2013
Seasonal workers and tour reps - 27 April 2013
Seasonality: a plan - 8 April 2013
Spanish football clubs' debts - 28 April 2013
Spantax and charter airlines - 1 April 2013
Taxes and tourism - 25 April 2013
Television and culture - 22 April 2013
Thatcher in 1979 - 10 April 2013
Tourism and morality - 4 April 2013
Tourism quality - 30 April 2013
Tourist resilience and unexpected events - 19 April 2013
Trilingual education in Mallorca - 24 April 2013
Trip Advisor review responses - 14 April 2013
Wisden - 12 April 2013

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