Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Solution For Mallorca: Driving Tourism

For many a long year Mallorca's tourism industry has searched for a solution to the problem posed by seasonality; how to attract tourists during the winter and low seasons. Many ideas have been advanced but not one has adequately addressed the need for Mallorca to receive more than a handful of hardy souls who will happily strap on a backpack and go a-wandering in the Tramuntana mountains and be blown into the Mediterranean by the force of a gale.

These ideas have been little more than piecemeal. A piece of tourism here, a piece of tourism there. Finally, though, an aspect of tourism that has been a feature of attempts to increase off-season tourism since at least the 1980s is really starting to break through. It is, of course, driving tourism.

The regional government tourism ministry's efforts to engage with leading hoteliers on the island and with tour operators are bearing fruit, and it could be fruit for more than just the off-season. Driving cars could be big in summer as well.

It is hard to understand why there hasn't been a stronger focus on driving tourism in the past. As is being pointed out, Mallorca has an excellent and extensive network of wide cycle lanes which connect the whole island and extend into the mountains. Though the government will take the plaudits, really it has required foreign tour operators to give the regional government the push to make driving tourism more of a reality. Among these tour operators is Car Holidays. It is said to be guaranteeing to bring whole plane loads of tourists from Germany, Britain and elsewhere to Mallorca during the low season.

"Mallorca is ideal for driving," a spokesperson has said. "There are whole stretches of flat terrain for the novice and recreational driver and more challenging mountainous terrain for the professional driver. Combine this with the magnificent landscape and the normally good climate in winter, and we think that driving tourism has enormous potential."

Key to the whole driving tourism movement are what are now being referred to as "roads". They would in fact be part of the existing cycle lanes. Indeed, they would occupy rather more of the cycle lanes than the lanes themselves. "To be honest, the cycle lanes have always been wider than necessary. There is plenty of room to accommodate different users, such as drivers," the island's transport ministry has admitted. This ministry has been working closely with a burgeoning new sector on the island - rent-a-car. Agencies who hire cars out to tourists (who therefore don't need to bring their own cars to the island, which has been and still is a problem with airlines) will happily give these tourists maps of the island to show them special routes (the new "roads" will be given numbers).

But not everyone is happy with this potential explosion in driving tourism. Cyclists complain bitterly about drivers who go the wrong way, who don't put lights on when it's dark and who drive two or three abreast and along pavements or pedestrianised promenades, sometimes stopping their cars right outside a bar or on its terrace. Some bar and restaurant businesses argue that driving tourists do not spend. Instead, these tourists head for supermarkets and fill the boots of their "hire cars" with bananas, bottles of water and pasta ready-meals.

Other businesses are more open to this new style of tourism. They say that facilities must be created to allow driving tourists to stop near to restaurants. Some are therefore planning on setting aside land for parks for cars. These parks would be used to leave cars so that tourists can take short walks to restaurants. Indeed, such parks have started to appear and they are commonly being called "car parks". 

As part of the drive (sic) towards driving tourism, particular effort will be given to special events on Mallorca, such as rallies and races. Sporting achievements by Britons such as Louis Hamilton and Germans like Sebastian Vettel are making driving tourism very much more popular than before and are spawning a whole fashion among Mallorca's driving tourists, who are to be seen wearing flame-proof overalls covered in stickers for Vodafone. Again, though, cyclists are complaining about all these events, ones which mean that the "roads" are blocked off for hours on end while cyclists have to wait for the long trains of cars to pass, while the sight of these drivers swaggering around in their overalls has become the subject of jokes.

You can't please everyone, but driving tourism, whether we like it or not, is going to be here to stay.

Any comments to please.

1 comment:

AndersÖ said...

Great fun Andrew!!

Anders O