Volvos have long been considered to be very safe and very reliable but terminally boring. In days gone by when perceived lack of safety or reliability dogged other cars, a Volvo's boredom factor was worth accepting as a trade-off against a steering-wheel suddenly coming off in your hands or the ignition flatly refusing ever to ignite. Nowadays, all cars (well, most) are safe and reliable. And most are boring. The regular family car, whatever its make, is like the regular family holiday. The family wants to know that it will be safe, it wants somewhere that is reliable and isn't prone to suffer all manner of breakdowns in service, and it will quite happily go to destinations which, while they may be boring, if only because of familiarity, are chosen as the trade-off against lack of safety or reliability. The Volvo may no longer be pre-eminent as the ultra-safe, ultra-reliable and ultra-boring motor car, but there remains a pre-eminince of similar virtues in the family holiday industry. This industry doesn't have the same homogeneity of attributes across its different makes.
Mallorca is a Volvo. Of course, it isn't boring in the sense of there being nothing to do, because there obviously is, but it is boring because of its familiarity. And this familiarity is proving to be the island's single greatest asset along with its safety and reliability. There's nothing wrong with a Volvo. Indeed, there is a great deal to commend a Volvo, the Volvo of the family holiday industry, because not all other destinations have the same attributes as the Mallorcan Volvo has.
One can understand why the local tourism industry rushes to the island's defence when a report like that in "Bild" the other day suggests that safety may not be guaranteed (if only in one or two resorts). Undermine the safety factor, and the Volvo status is also undermined. One can also understand why everyone gets into a blind panic at the mere mention of strikes affecting transport. Undermine the reliability factor, and that Volvoism is also threatened. One can also understand the pride expressed in new ventures for modernising resorts, but this is modernisation which needs to come with an appreciation of maintaining the familiar. Improve, enhance, make more beautiful, but never lose sight of why the familiarity arose in the first place.
Mallorca can anticipate its third successive bumper tourist crop. Occupancy statistics for hotels show levels to be at least as high as 80% for July and August, and these mean that they will turn out to be very much higher; last-minute will see to that. And last-minute is being aided, as ever, by the less than total presence of the two key factors of safety and reliability. Turkey has unrest, Egypt can never be totally relied upon, and even Croatia, deemed one of Mallorca's greatest competitors, if not the greatest, cannot claim reliability in one very important respect - it doesn't have anything like the hotels to accommodate the numbers which come to Mallorca.
The Volvo is being exported in ever larger numbers not just to the traditional markets but also to the newer ones. More Russians than ever are coming to Mallorca, as we knew they would be, but there are more Brits, more Germans and more Nordic types (especially, no doubt, the Volvo-loving Swedes).
So, everyone will be congratulating themselves on another excellent summer. The hoteliers will be happy and are already happy, and this will make, as always, their attacks on the so-called illegal offer seem more bizarre than ever. The government will be happy. Growth is returning. Jobs are back. But these are the usual back-slapping suspects. It will be the others out there who aren't congratulating themselves, those running on empty caused by lower tourism spends, all-inclusives and the great divergence in terms of the resorts' have and have-nots.
Safe, reliable, familiar. The Mallorcan Volvo attracts its millions, and the hoteliers and the government can laud its attributes and attribute a highly successful season to this consistency of performance. The only trouble is that, for much of the time, the Volvo never leaves the garage.
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