Saturday, June 08, 2013

There's No Such Thing As Unfair Competition

Time was when only scant attention, if any attention at all, was paid to health and safety in Mallorca. There are still examples of this attention being scantily clad but an unsafe and an unhealthy cultural tradition has been replaced by one that bears more resemblance to Anglo-Saxon fastidiousness than the previous Latin-Mediterranean couldn't-care-less-ness. And when it suits certain interested parties to come over all safety-concious-righteous, they will play the H&S card for all it's worth.

Safety, or the perceived absence of safety, is invoked as a means of attacking unfair competition. Go back a couple of years, and you might recall all the fuss about the Mallorca Rocks hotel in Magalluf. Objectors to this dealt the safety card (all those thousands of people packed into a hotel inner square with a swimming-pool slap bang in the middle). But the safety thing was really only a healthily-safely correct smokescreen to disguise the main source of objection - the alleged unfair competition that was being provided by an upstart operator who had allied with a hotel chain to provide music concerts and so threaten the years of dominance of certain clubs in Magalluf. One in particular.

Safety isn't really the issue. It wasn't in Magalluf and it isn't in Alcúdia, where the taxi-drivers, to no one's surprise, have launched their objections against the tourist mini-train. When it was announced some while back that the tourist train was making a comeback, I wondered how it could make a comeback. It was primarily the taxi-drivers that ganged up in order to ensure the demise of the old train. Yes, there was a fair old dose of politics as well, but while these might have changed in the thirteen years since the tourist train hit the buffers, taxi-driver business hasn't. Bringing the train back was always going to prompt objections from the interested party that is the taxi-driver collective of Alcúdia, and it has taken only a few days of the train being operable for the objections to surface.

The taxi-drivers see the train as a competitor. This is the issue. There isn't another one. They append the "unfair" adjective to competitor, because unfair competition is a regular way for interested parties to seek sympathy for their cause. The competition was unfair at Mallorca Rocks (for reasons that were never that clear, given that concerts finished by midnight and that clubs don't get going until midnight), the competition to bars and restaurants from all-inclusive hotels is unfair (when in fact it isn't, as it is competition driven by a free market), the competition to hotels from so-called illegal accommodation is unfair because this accommodation does not adhere to the same standards of safety, quality and tax disclosure (a spurious argument, as it would adhere to these standards if such accommodation could be fully regulated rather than exist in a legal vacuum).

The unfair competition gambit goes only so far, however, in creating sympathy for the cause. It is not as emotional an argument as the safety one; hence, the reason for safety being invoked. In the case of the train, think of all those little tourist kiddies who might be thrown to their deaths from a vehicle with no doors. Or something like this. Yes, there is, in theory, a safety risk. But have there ever been any incidents? There are tourist trains in Playa de Muro, Can Picafort, Cala Bona and elsewhere, but I have never heard of there being any accidents, or any that have been at all serious.

The taxi-drivers simply can't accept any competition. As established operators, they will object to anything that might be. It was similar when the Alcúdia sightseeing bus started. There were objections to this from the taxis and also from the local public-bus operator. In fact, the sightseeing bus was denounced. On what grounds? It was an excursion bus. People couldn't just hop on and off and use it as a means of getting from A to B.

The tourist train is as much an excursion as it is a way of getting from one place to another. It is a pretty inefficient way of, say, travelling from Bellevue to the port. It goes slowly, it stops en route, it doesn't go right into the port. It is also, for a family of four as an example, more expensive than a taxi. If two kids qualify for the kids' rate, the family of four will pay eight euros, forty. A taxi wouldn't cost as much.

The taxi-drivers reckon that the train has already meant that their local business is down by 40%. Perhaps it is, there is no way of being able to dispute or verify this, but it would be a surprise if it were, but not a surprise because such statistics are tossed around as further evidence for building up the case for sympathy. But sympathy is in limited supply. There is none from the town hall and there will be none from tourists. The tourist train is back, and competition or not, unfair or not, tourists like little tourist trains.

Any comments to please.

1 comment:

Andy said...

My family and I are considering our first holiday to Alcudia. Most of us have never been to Alcudia. Our other choice is Argassi, in Zante, somewhere we have been before and know and love. What do we love about Argassi? The mini tourist train. Yes we use taxis too, but a relaxing train ride, with open sides into Zante town means that we see the sea and countryside instead of a blur. Its just nice to do once in a while.

I have specifically Googled mini tourist train in Alcudia to try to tip the balance in a new destination's favour.

To all Alcudia taxi drivers: I promise to take two taxi rides for every train ride whilst I'm visiting. There now, you've just gained a couple of fares and brought extra Euros to shops and businesses that are more than likely your friends.