Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spreading Rumours

A friend of mine from university days was machiavellian and mischievous in starting rumours. He would sidle up to me and mutter in my ear what his latest rumour-mongering involved. He was extremely adept at it; he should have been a political spin doctor or propagandist. The rumour no sooner planted, it swiftly became fact.

Rumours usually have at least some basis in fact but not always. I was inadvertently responsible for starting one about the creation of a large new British bar in Alcúdia. I had been told by a bar owner that there was to be one along The Mile, the implication being that he was going to be involved with it. Once I'd passed on this information, speculation arose as to where the bar would be. I made a suggestion, and it was no more than a suggestion, and in hardly no time at all, this suggestion had become gospel. Not only was the suggestion wrong, the original information was wrong. There was no large new Brit bar.

Any community, be it a university campus, a resort in Mallorca or wherever, lives by rumour, speculation and gossip. I should know better than to be drawn into speculation but then I am not virtuous in disregarding tittle-tattle. There can, after all, be some truth in tittle-tattle or the speculative. But only some. Invented truths are used to disguise and fill in the gaps of the incomplete initial information, and these truths are, in turn, subject to the process of the Chinese whisper. The rumour can end up bearing no resemblance to the truth, assuming there were ever any substance to it in the first place.

It is a common complaint by expats in the resorts that these are breeding-grounds for rumour, some of it malicious, some of it innocent, some of it potty and some of it, every now and then, relatively accurate. It is a common complaint but it doesn't stop participation. To not engage in rumour and gossip is to be somehow alienated from the community. One could argue that rumour is the common bond that the resort communities possess: their only one.

Hotels are regular targets of rumour. In Puerto Alcúdia, the largest hotel complex of all, Bellevue, has for years been a repository packed full of rumour. It has been and still is a gigantic rumour mill, one that regularly gives rise to speculation that there is "trouble at rumour mill". For once, though, Bellevue's rumour mill has ceased to grind out its grains of speculation, if only temporarily. A different hotel has assumed its mantle.

I am not naming the hotel. Oh no, I am most definitely not naming. There are enough people who know as it is. The speculation surrounding this hotel has actually developed from fact, namely a change of ownership that became public knowledge around three months ago. Though the new hotel chain does not as yet list the hotel on its website, the hotel is named as being from this hotel chain on certain sites. Trip Advisor still has it under the previous hotel chain, and Trip Advisor may assume increasingly greater importance in this story.

There is uncertainty regarding the hotel's future policy. One aspect of this is whether it will remain a Thomson hotel for the British market. It is in fact available for booking next year through Thomson's website, though this has not stopped speculation that it will cease to be a Thomson hotel, that it might cater for different nationalities or that it might become all-inclusive.

I'm not about to go into all the speculation for one very good reason - I don't know whether any of it is accurate. The only way one can truly establish accuracy is by getting information from the horse's mouth. Perhaps I'll ask the new hotel chain and see what it has to say. If anything.

It would appear that a definitive decision regarding future policy has not yet been finalised. If so, this is not unreasonable. Any business has the right to take its time in determining its policy, but, and this is where Trip Advisor and the jungle drums of the internet come into the equation, any business has to be aware of the power of speculation and rumour; it was on the internet where another hotel that changed policy suffered something of a PR meltdown because of uncertainty.

The way to prevent rumours and to stop speculation is to remove this uncertainty. And that means making a clear statement as to policy, if indeed there is to be a new one. It's the rule of the game, especially now, as the biggest rumour community is not in local resorts but all over cyberspace.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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